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Research Methods

Sociological research methodology refers to the research procedures for measuring variables and generating and analyzing data of interest in the field of sociology.

There are two broad categories in sociological methodology:


Research that approaches social phenomena through quantifiable evidence. Researchers use statistical analysis to create valid and reliable general claims. This stream holds the dominant position in American sociology. Sociological positivists tend to prefer quantitative research.

Methods include:

  • Sampling with a census that can draw inferences regarding population as a whole.
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Experimental research
  • Survey research



Research through direct observation, communication with participants or analysis of texts. Qualitative researchers may stress contextual and subjective accuracy.

Methods include:

  • Archival research and the historical method
  • Content analysis with a qualitative data analyzer
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Experimental research
  • Direct observation

A researcher’s choice of method often depends on what they intend to investigate. Do they want to draw statistical generalization or seek contextual understandings of social actions? There is also often a great deal of crossover between social research, market research and other statistical fields.

A current trend in sociological methodology is computational sociology. Methods include computer simulations, artificial intelligence, text mining and social network analysis. Computational sociology tests theories of complex social processes through bottom-up modelling of social interactions. These studies are often related to the field and study of social complexities.

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