Methods in Social Research

Definition of Methods In Social Research

Imagine if you wanted to figure out how a big, complicated machine works. Methods in social research are the tools that help us understand the ‘machine’ of human societies. They are a collection of tactics and procedures used by researchers to find out about our behaviors, beliefs, and interactions.

Now, let’s think of social research methods as the steps in a treasure hunt. You have a map (your research plan), you follow clues (collect data), and you put those clues together to find the treasure (your conclusions). If you miss a clue or misread the map, you may end up in the wrong place. Similarly, accuracy in following the research method ensures the ‘treasure’ is valuable and genuine.

Types of Methods in Social Research

Just like there are many instruments in a band, each playing its unique part, there are diverse methods in social research, each with a specific function:

  • Surveys: These are sets of questions given to people to answer. They can be like a show of hands in a classroom; they count opinions and behaviors quickly and from many people at once.
  • Interviews: This process involves asking someone a series of questions in a face-to-face setting. It’s like having a deep conversation with a friend to really understand their thoughts.
  • Observations: Researchers watch individuals in their usual surroundings. It’s like sitting at a park bench and noticing the different ways people enjoy their surroundings.
  • Experiments: These are controlled tests where one or more variables are altered to see the effect on another. It’s like changing the amount of sunlight a plant gets to see how it affects its growth.
  • Longitudinal Studies: They are extended projects observing the same individuals or groups over a period of time. Think of it as keeping a diary of someone’s life to track how things evolve.

Examples of Methods In Social Research

Here are a few instances to help describe these types of methods:

  • Using a survey at your school to learn whether students like science or art better can show trends in interests across different ages or classes. Surveys give us a big picture from a lot of people quickly.
  • Conducting an interview with a local artist provides insight into their inspiration and challenges. Interviews let us dive deep into personal stories and perspectives.
  • An observation method could be applied by watching how people navigate through a museum exhibit. This could reveal the most popular pieces or how visitors interact with the art.
  • In an experiment, providing one set of plants with fertilizer and not the other can demonstrate the effects of fertilizer on plant growth. Experiments isolate specific factors to understand cause and effect.
  • A longitudinal study might track the progress of a group of students from elementary through high school, observing changes in academic performance over time. This can reveal long-term trends and the impact of various developmental stages.

Why is it important?

Understanding methods in social research is incredibly important for a bunch of reasons. Take the example of studying with music. If research finds that music helps with learning, it can influence not just schools, but also how we work and relax. It could also make us think about ways we study or encourage us to try new approaches. In essence, social research methods help us make informed decisions about our society, improve education systems, and even affect our entertainment and innovations.

Related Topics

There are a few subjects that go hand-in-hand with social research methods:

  • Data Analysis: Once you have all your responses or observations, you need to make sense of them. That’s where data analysis comes in, which is like solving a giant puzzle and finding out what the overall picture looks like.
  • Ethics in Research: Researchers have rules to follow to ensure people are treated fairly and respectfully. This is important because it’s like making sure that the rules of a game are followed so that everyone has a fair chance.
  • Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: This is about the difference between collecting stories and opinions (qualitative) versus numbers and statistics (quantitative). It’s like the difference between asking someone to describe their favorite meal versus counting how many people ordered pizza.


The concept of studying society has a rich history. Ancient thinkers were already trying to understand human nature and the working of society. As history moved forward, we began to refine these methods, leading to the comprehensive tools we use today in understanding social phenomena.


Choosing the right method can be contentious, with some arguing that certain approaches don’t always reflect true feelings or can infringe on privacy. There’s also the ever-present danger of bias, which can skew results – it’s essential for the integrity of research that studies are fair and impartial.


Methods in social research are critical for gaining accurate and meaningful insights into what it means to be part of a society. Whether through surveys, interviews, observations, experiments, or longitudinal studies, researchers can peel back the layers of human behavior and social structures. It’s essential that research is done ethically and results are communicated clearly, allowing us all to benefit from the findings. Ultimately, these methods serve as a foundation for creating positive changes in our communities and our lives, giving us the knowledge to build a more informed and better-functioning society.