Sociological research is research conducted by sociologists following a systematic plan. Sociological research usually aims to explore social phenomena.

Typical process of sociological research

Choosing research method

Sociologists will need to find a method to gather their data; each method generates different kinds of data.

Case studies
Content analysis

Types of data

The data generated from various sampling methods can be sorted into two categories:

Quantitative data
Qualitative data

Obtaining a representative sample

As in sociological research it is usually impossible and impractical to gather data from every unit within a population, various sampling methods will have to be used. This allows the researcher to gather data from a fraction of the population.

Random sample Systematic random sample Stratified sample
Quota sample Purposeful sample Snowball sample

Terms for evaluating research

Reliability: The effectiveness of the research approach in generating consistent data. if the research method generates similar findings from repetitions, it is said that the method is reliable. Generally methods producing quantitative data such as questionnaires with multiple choice questions would produce more reliable results compared to methods producing qualitative data such as interviews.

Validity: The extent to which a research method measures what it claims to measure. A valid research method would require few implications to reach the findings from the data gathered. Generally methods producing qualitative data such as interviews would be more valid compared to methods producing quantitative data such as questionnaires with multiple choice questions.

Representativeness: Extent to which the characteristics of a sample population accurately reflect those of the target population. A representative research would obtain similar results compared to a similar research conducted on the whole population. It is usually increased by taking accurate samples and/or increasing the sample size.

Ethics: Moral rules guiding the professional codes of conduct of sociological research. An ethical research method usually involves conduct such as obtaining consent of research subjects and keeping research data confidential when requested. An example of ethical guidelines of practicing sociological research in the UK can be found here:

List of research