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Explore Sociology: Research Resources

This guide is designed to help students learn more about Sociology programs.

Sociology Research

Your research background in both quantitative and qualitative methods will be one of your most marketable skills as a sociologist.

What is Quantitative and Qualitative Research?

Quantitative Data Analysis

from Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology


Quantitative data are data that have been measured numerically. 

In the natural sciences, advances were often associated with being able to quantify, or measure, aspects of the physical world, for instance temperature, electrical voltage, or the speed of light. Some sociologists (often associated with positivism in the philosophy of science) have assumed that social sciences will also progress most effectively through developing measures of sociological phenomena. For instance, the social capital paradigm has been distinctive in attempting to develop measures of such social investments that would permit one to chart changes in these forms of capital over time, or to compare countries in terms of their levels of social involvement. Similarly, a great deal of effort has gone into developing precise numerical measures of social class and social stratification.

Qualitative Research Techniques

from World of Sociology, Gale


Qualitative research techniques refer to research methodologies used in the analysis of data that is not easily reduced to numbers, i.e. quantified. Qualitative research is concerned with the subjective understanding and interpretation of social behavior. Qualitative researchers seek to understand how social actors use and make sense of their social setting. Some techniques used in qualitative research are historical analysis, interviews, and participant observation. Collectively, these techniques are commonly referred to as field methods. Historical analysis clarifies and interprets archival data, such as birth and death records, minutes of meetings, and newsletters. Personal interviews help researchers to understand the meaning surrounding a social actor’s participation in or perceptions of social phenomena. Interviews may be conducted according to structured or unstructured interview guidelines. Participant observation is used when an intimate knowledge of some social event is sought. Sometimes the researcher enters the setting where the social behavior under study is being acted out. The researcher may choose to participate completely or act more as an observer. Qualitative research stands in contrast to quantitative research which relies on the statistical analysis of data to interpret social behavior.