Sociological Research Methods- Qualitative and quantitative

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  • Presented by,

    Sameena M.SUGC Junior Research Fellow,Dept. of SociologySree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit,Kalady, Kerala, India

  • Research- systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources to establish facts and reach valid conclusionsThis systematic investigation progresses through a method or logic of enquiry

  • Method that has been adoptedCompetency of methodIn what way it has contributed to theoretical understandingTherefore, success of any research is greatly influenced by the methods adopted

  • Methods- tools of data generation and analysisChosen on the basis of criteria dictated by the major elements of the methodology in which they are embeddedMethodology- the science of methodsContains standards and principles employed to guide the choice, structure, process and use of methods as directed by the underlying paradigm

  • Methods refer to particular procedures and tools of research (e.g. interview) whilst methodology is about theory of how research is carried out or the broad principles of how to conduct research and how theory is applied (e.g. Survey research methodology or experimental methodology)


  • 1830s- modern social science beganApplied scientific method to study human thought and behaviourBy 1930s- social sciences dividedFormed separate departments in UniversitiesDivisions on the basis of research methodsLater there was a shift away from seeing scientific method (quantitative) as the only valid way of gaining data but also a realization that both methods are needed

  • consist of the process of seeking answers to questions about the social worldTo answer these questions, social scientists employ wide range of methods

    QuantitativeSocial research methodsQualitative

  • The term quantitative method refers in large part to the adoption of natural science experiment as the model for scientific research , its key features being quantitative measurement of the phenomena studied and systematic control of the theoretical variables influencing those phenomena


  • PositivisticCollect data using standardized approaches on a range of variablesTest given theory by confirming or denying precise hypothesisConceptualizes reality in terms of variables and relationships between them

  • It rests on measurement Prestructures data, research questions, conceptual framework, design etc.Larger sample and generalization through sampleWell developed n codified methods for data analysisCommon quantitative methods- surveys and experiments

  • most commonly usedBased on using statistical sampling methodsTakes representative sample from a given population, apply standardized and structured instrument Enables descriptive and explanatory generalization.

  • Used to study the causal relationships between variablesStudying the effect of an independent variable on a dependent variable by keeping the other independent variable constant through some type of control

  • Produces data which is clear, powerful and easily verifiableConclusions reached are scientific, objective, reliable and validGeneralization possibleClear data analysis strategy Easily replicable

  • Do not pay attention to social meaningsNo place for participantsVery artificialClosed method, strictly plannedInstrument chosen before the study begins and no option for correction or adjustmentCant be so precise, people change Social situation is too complex for numerical description

  • Methods that are associated with a variety of theoretical perspectives and uses a range of tools which focus on the meanings and interpretation of social phenomena & social processes in the particular contexts in which they occur

    -SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods

  • Interpretative, Tries to explore subjective meaning through which people interpret the worldDeals with cases and researcher gets closer to what is being studiedAims at in-depth holistic understandingLess formalized methodsGreater flexibilitySampling- theoretical not probabilistic

  • Open ended to explore interpretationsAllow collection of detailed informationCommonly used qualitative methods-

    interviewing, ethnography, observations, focus groups, case studies and content analysis

  • a two way systematic conversation between an investigator and an informant, initiated for obtaining information relevant to particular studyInvolves conversation, learning from respondents gestures, facial expressions and pauses and his environment

  • A method of enquiry through observation of institutions, cultures and customsHelps the researcher to understand systematically about the world people see and to develop theories about the social world, irrespective of his preconception

  • systematic viewing of a specific phenomenon in its proper setting, for the specific purpose of gathering data for a particular studyIncludes seeing, hearing and perceiving

  • Held with a group of participants to stimulate discussion among people and bring to the surface responses that otherwise might lay dormant.

  • an in-depth comprehensive study of a person, a social group, an episode, a process, a situation, a programme, a community, an institution or any other social unitMost common qualitative method

  • A method for making inference by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of contents of documentsGathers data from archival records, documents, newspapers, diaries, letters etc.

  • Presenting a more realistic view of the worldStressing interpretations and meaningsAchieving a deeper understanding of the respondents worldHumanizing research process by raising the role of the researchedResearching people in natural settings Allowing higher flexibility

  • Problem of reliability caused by extreme subjectivityRisk of collecting meaningless & useless informationVery time consumingProblem of representativeness & generalisability of findingsProblem of objectivity & detachmentProblem of ethics (entering the personal sphere of subjects)

  • theres no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0

    -Fred Kerlingerall research ultimately has a qualitative grounding

    -D.T Campbell

  • Comparison dimensionQualitative methodQuantitative method

    ObjectiveTo understand underlying reasonsQuantify data & generalize resultsperspectiveinterpretativepositivisticsampleSmall no, non-representative casesLarge no, representing the populationType of research exploratorydescriptiveData collectionUnstructured/semi structuredstructuredadministrationRequires interviewer with special skillsFewer special skills requiredanalysisSubjective, interpretiveStatistical, summarization

  • Ability to replicateLow highHardwareTape recorders, projection devices, videos..Questionnaires, computers, printouts..DataInvolves wordsInvolves numbersRole of the researcherObjective observerSubjectively immersed in the subject mattergeneralizationinductiveDeductive, time and context specificFlexibility of designFlexible, can be changedNot flexible, Standardized and fixed designtheoryBuilds theoryTests theory

  • Combing qualitative and quantitative methodsTo capitalize strengths, to compensate weaknesses

  • Success of any research is greatly influenced by the method adoptedQualitative and quantitative methods present only a choice of alternative methods according to the appropriateness of research problemSound mix of both is always advisablewhether we use words or number, we might as well use them right

    -Lewis Beck

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