Chapter summary imageResearch Methods are the scientific procedures that sociologists use to conduct research and develop knowledge about a particular topic.

What are Research Methods?

the scientific procedures that sociologists use to conduct research and develop knowledge about a particular topic.

How do Sociologists use Research Methods?

through analysis of quantitative data using cross-sectional studies, comparative studies, longitudinal studies, surveys, and experiments; through analysis of qualitative data using participant observation, case studies, and ethnographies.

How is Research Involved in Social Policy and Community Learning?

through analysis of statistics and by conducting needs assessments.

Key Terms


is a science guided by the basic understanding that “the social matters: our lives are affected, not only by our individual characteristics but by our place in the social world.

Research Methods

are the scientific procedures that sociologists use to conduct research and develop knowledge about a particular topic.


is the ability to conduct research without allowing personal biases or prejudices to influence you.

Independent Variables

are variables that are deliberately manipulated in an experiment.

Dependent Variables

are the response to the manipulated variable.

Control Variables

are variables that are kept constant to accurately test the impact of an independent variable.

Causal Relationship

is a relationship in which one condition leads to a certain consequence.


is the relationship between cause and effect.


is an indication that one factor might be a cause for another factor.

Positive Correlation

includes two variables that move in a parallel direction.

Negative Correlation

occurs when variables move in opposite directions.

Spurious Correlation

occurs when two variables appear to be related, but actually have a different cause.

Social Research

is investigation conducted by social scientists.

Literature Review

is a study of relevant academic articles and information.


is a comprehensive and systematic explanation of events that lead to testable predictions.


involves a suggestion about how variables relate.


are abstract ideas that are impossible to measure.


is turning abstract ideas into something measurable.

Research Design

refers to the process used to find information.


means able to be trusted.


assures that you’re actually measuring the thing you set out to measure in the first place.

Comparative Studies

use data from different sources in order to evaluate them against each other.

Cross-sectional Studies

look at one event at a single point in time.

Longitudinal Studies

include data from observations over time using a cohort.


is a specific group of people used in a study.


is an investigation of the opinions or experience of a group of people by asking them questions.


are target groups from which researchers want to get information.


extreme unwillingness to use resources.


is a subset of a population.


is the extent that what is learned from a sample can be applied to the population from which the sample is taken.

Random Sample

is a group of subjects arbitrarily chosen from a defined population.


is the process of taking a bigger sample if the group you wish to study makes up a small percentage of the whole population.

Sample of Convenience

is a nonrandom sample available to the researcher.

Selection Effects

are the likelihood that a nonrepresentative sample of the population may lead to inaccurate results.

Hawthorne Effect

occurs when people behave differently because they know they are part of an experiment.

Field Research

is research conducted in a natural setting.

Participant Observation

is a type of field research in which the researcher poses as a person who is normally in the environment.

Case Studies

are investigations of one person or event in detail.


is a research method that aims to understand the social perspective and cultural values of a particular group by participating with or getting to know their activities in detail.

Secondary Data

are data that others have already collected and published.

Secondary Data Analysis

is the process of using and analyzing data that others have collected.

Central Tendency

is the numbers in the middle of an array of numbers.


is an average.


refers to the midpoint in a distribution of numbers.


refers to the most common value in a distribution of numbers.


is a system of values or principles that guide one’s behavior.

Quantitative Data

refer to data based on numbers.

Qualitative Data

include words, pictures, photos, or any other type of information that comes to the researcher in a non-numeric form.

Content Analysis

is a type of research in which the sociologist looks for common words or themes in newspapers, books, or structured interviews.


is the process of using multiple approaches to study a phenomenon.

Needs Assessment

is an analysis that studies the needs of a specific group and presents the results in a written statement.


1. How could you argue that Humphreys’ study of the tearoom trade violated ethical standards of sociological study?

2. What caveats should you keep in mind when reading statistical evidence?

Where to Start Your Research Paper