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Research Methods in the Social Sciences

Social Research Methods

Research methods are a group of methodologies or formalized instructions on how to conduct research. Research methods provide a set of recipes for the scientist. In the social sciences, research methods are used to “tell about society” (Howard Becker, 1986). As a whole, research methods are designed so that scientists can identify patterns and relationships, test and redefine theories, make predictions, interpret culturally or historically significant events, explore diversity, give voice, and advance new theories. All research methods use a specialized language consisting of statements that explore relationships between variables.

There are two main families of research methods:

The first are qualitative methods, those based on descriptions or words and are often referred to as data enhancers. Qualitative methods usually study single subjects or small groups of people in great detail.

Quantitative methods use numeric data and are often referred to as data condensers since they may examine many subjects. Statistical inferences require quantitative methods.

From "Research Methods." World of Sociology, Gale. Farmington: Gale, 2001. Credo Reference. Web. 07 December 2012.

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