Social research is research conducted by social scientists following a systematic plan. Social research methodologies can be classified along a quantitative/qualitative dimension.
- 2.1: Introduction to Sociological Research
- People commonly try to understand the happenings in their world by finding or creating an explanation for an occurrence. Social scientists may develop a hypothesis for the same reason. A hypothesis is a testable educated guess about predicted outcomes between two or more variables; it’s a possible explanation for specific happenings in the social world and allows for testing to determine whether the explanation holds true in many instances, as well as among various groups or in different places.
- 2.2: Approaches to Sociological Research
- Sociologists often begin the research process by asking a question about how or why things happen in this world. It might be a unique question about a new trend or an old question about a common aspect of life. Once the sociologist forms the question, he or she proceeds through an in-depth process to answer it. In deciding how to design that process, the researcher may adopt a scientific approach or an interpretive framework. The following sections describe these approaches to knowledge.
- 2.3: Research Methods
- Sociologists use research methods to design a study—perhaps a detailed, systematic, scientific method for conducting research and obtaining data, or perhaps an ethnographic study utilizing an interpretive framework. Planning the research design is a key step in any sociological study. All studies shape the research design, while research design simultaneously shapes the study. Researchers choose methods that best suit their study topics and that fit with their overall approaches to research.
- 2.4: Ethical Concerns
- Many sociologists believe it is impossible to set aside personal values and retain complete objectivity. They caution readers, rather, to understand that sociological studies may, by necessity, contain a certain amount of value bias. It does not discredit the results but allows readers to view them as one form of truth rather than a singular fact. Some sociologists attempt to remain uncritical and as objective as possible when studying cultural institutions.