Do you think there’s only one way of conducting research on a topic? If yes, then I’ll have to say that you’re wrong in this aspect. This is because research methods change with the field of study. Engineering, life science, psychology, and social science research have different approaches. Yet today’s article is related to the domain of social science only. This is why we will discuss only those research methods that are employed in social sciences. But before moving on towards the methods, let’s define social science research first.
What is Social Science Research?
Social science research is an activity of gathering, analysing, and interpreting information related to social issues. Social scientists who are keen on mapping changing behaviours of society perform this research. Social science tells us about the world beyond our immediate experience. It also allows the masses to detect the behaviours of society more closely.
Methods of Research
The methods of research regarding social science are majorly categorised into two types. The two major categories are qualitative and quantitative methods. The rest of the research methods are subsidiaries of these two major types. A brief description of all the types and methods used in social science research is as follows as shared by Affordable Dissertation UK;
Quantitative data is information presented in the form of numerical figures. This data can be grouped, ranked, calculated, or classified by a researcher. It is objective data that is simple to analyse. Age, rank, length, and weight are examples of such data questions. This type of data can be presented in both graphical, and chart forms by a researcher.
In social science research, researchers collect data based on the opinions of the people. The techniques for this domain include experiments, and surveys. A brief description of these is as follows;
Surveys or Questionnaires
Surveys and questionnaires are two similar research methods. Social scientists often conduct this research to gather people’s opinions on a particular issue. The questions within a questionnaire are standard questions for everyone involved in the study. Respondents provide the answers according to their understanding of the issue. It collects data about people’s thoughts, preferences, and behaviours within a society as well.
This method is often used in social science research. A survey is also best suited for studies that have individuals as the unit of analysis. In simple words, this is when the research demands individual responses. The individual unit analysis does not mean that social groups can’t be studied. The researchers often conduct this type of research in the setting of large groups. There are also some pros and cons of using surveys as a research method. These are as follows;
- The respondent has enough time for responding to the questions.
- Free from biases of the researcher, but not the respondents.
- Cheaper as compared to other forms of research methods, i.e., interviews.
- High rate of non-response biases.
- Inflexible, and can’t change the response once submitted to the researcher.
- It’s a slow process as many people don’t bother to answer.
The second social science research method is experimentation. Social scientists often perform experiments on large groups of people for concluding a specific issue. Experimentation is also considered as “gold standard” among all research methods. It is the most widely used method in almost all research work. The researcher here tries to understand the causes, and effects of the process. The entire control of the research is in the hands of a researcher when it comes to this method. The researcher determines the subject of an experiment as well. Determination of the issue takes place in the first stage. Thus, it can be said that some actions occur on these subjects. Here the researcher records primary data consisting of both actions, and reactions that relate to the research topic.
For example, the students of MIT performed a social experiment on waking up in the morning. The goal was to identify the best waking up time for the least pain in the body. Sometimes, people wake up and feel pain in their shoulders or heads. So they tried to solve this through the conduction of an experiment. They selected a group of people and let them sleep over and over. The people would wake up at different times. Through this activity, they noted down the time of waking up. This is how experimentation is carried out in the domain of social science research.
Qualitative research consists of words, and descriptions. It is subjective, and very hard to analyse in a research study. It explains taste, experience, texture, or opinion. There will be no numbers in this data, which makes it hard to make a comparison. It is further subdivided into some types, and their descriptions are as follows;
An interview is another social research method that involves one-to-one conversation. An interview is a type of data collection method which involves two persons. One is the interviewer, and the other is the interviewee. The questions and answers during an interview may be verbal or oral, depending on the researcher’s selection. Interviews can take place in two ways. These include in-person and telephonic interviews.
Interviews can be both structured, and unstructured. Structured interviews are the hardest ones because the interviewer can’t change the questions. The questions are developed before the date of the interview. On the other hand, unstructured interviews are the easiest ones. Only the researcher or interviewer knows the questions. The respondent only gives his opinion, or thoughts on the social issue.
Observation is the primary way of finding out about the world around us. As human beings, we can pick up detailed information through our senses. This method of data collection applies in studies that are related to behavioural science. It should be understood that the aspect of observation refers to more than looking, and listening. Collecting data through observation is the primary method in the social science domain.
There are some pros and cons of this research method as well. These are as follows;
- Data can be objective, or subjective.
- Not affected by the researcher’s opinion.
- Not affected by past, or future events.
- Limited information.
- Expensive as the researchers have to move.
Conducting research in the field of social science is very difficult. This is why only a single method can’t be employed for conducting research on a topic. If there is difficulty in terms of selecting the best method, researchers can also use the mixed approach in social science research.