American Sociological Association

Research Methods

Sociological knowledge has a strong empirical core, meaning that sociologists’ statements from research are based on data or evidence. Sociologists employ a variety of research methods that may follow the scientific method to evaluate formal hypotheses, or be more humanistic and focus on ways people themselves understand and describe their social worlds. Sociological research follows established ethical guidelines that protect participants and ensure integrity in research.

Sociological research methods fall into broad categories of quantitative and qualitative approaches, but studies frequently use “mixed methods” incorporating both. Quantitative methods include measurement by sample surveys, statistical modeling, social networks, and demography. Qualitative methods include interviews, focus groups, observation, and textual analysis.

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