Sociological Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

Research methods and analysis of sociology dealt with techniques to obtain information in a vivid form.


Research is carefully observing patterns for searching for new facts or terms in any kind of subject. For example, there are several research centers for obtaining new results for better performance, say Bhabha Atomic Research center which specializes in nuclear fission and fusion reactions.

Sociologists Redman and Mory explained research work as a systematic way to earn new knowledge or say angle towards anything. For example, after a research work, various developments can be seen.

Research methods are categorized into Qualitative and Quantitative methods.

Quantitative methods included data structures, mathematical formulas, postulates, analysis by pie charts, graphical representations, Co-relation, Regression, etc. The methods used in Quantitative research will be studied in detail below.

  1. Statistical data

Positivists majorly depend upon this method because they think it is the most convenient and efficient way to see society and its problems.  For example, the rate of sex ratio or the number of rape happening in a particular area makes sociologists see the present scenario of the society.

  1. Comparative Method

It can be easily guessed from the name itself that the method includes comparing different values. For example, in the science laboratory, there are comparators which compare different values of resistance and thus a mean value is written. Same is the case with sociology, different societies are compared by sociologist and after observing each and every factor they develop some theories under their research work. Marx, Durkheim, and Weber are said to be the inventor of this method which profoundly deals with the logic. The three of them compared many societies with each other to give some of the wonderful research work. Marx studied the phenomenon of difference and thus agreed that societies transform via many changes.

Durkheim observed the basis of division of labour and Weber tried to link the relation between capitalist and exploited countries. This method is still used by many sociologists for letting the world know about differences. For example, Michael Mann compared how every country differs when it comes to power and dominance. Devine showed the condition of workers in different time periods.

  1. Field Methods

Science experiments are generally done in respective laboratories. But sociology experiments are performed in a natural arrangement outside the labs. For example, sociologists can carry out experiments in which they can observe people interaction ability thus categorizing them into introverts, ambivert, and extroverts. The advantage of this method is that it allows the expansion of areas where the experiment can be performed and better results are obtained as compared to other methods. But likewise, its biggest disadvantage is the variance can cause experiment results to differ unlike experiments performed in a science laboratory. This error is also termed as a Hawthorne effect. The experiments do not account for generalizing any theory as a particular amount of people can be tested.

Qualitative Methods are those methods which depend on the theories of Interactionism Theories. For example people way of talking under different circumstances studied by a researcher. The result will be completely based on the way the researcher perceives everything. The various methods of a Qualitative method are studied below.

  1. Participant Observation

It can be seen as a modification of Field methods as this method involves the researcher too. The researcher has to keep a mindset as an observant which will decrease the chances of a biased opinion as the perception will not be compressed. The field researchers, data or any theory is studied comprehensively as a researcher and participant point of view.

  1. Direct Observation

This method was one step up-gradation to field methods and Participant Observation. This observation also included a third party involvement whose perception cannot fall into the claws of a biased nature. For example, even if a researcher tries to complete experiment, he will not totally drench himself into the perception of the participant, thus a third person who will see the whole activity without any judgment will yield better results. For example in cricket matches, apart from umpires, a proper video is taken to see whether the player is out or not. This makes the judgment fair enough for everybody. In simple words, participant and researchers are not aware of the fact that they are being observed which accounts for natural reactions.

  1. Unstructured Interviewing
  • These interviews are completely in contrast to conventionally structured interviews. They differ in various aspects. In unstructured interviewing, there are no set of standardized questions. The discussion can travel in any direction depending on the interviewer. Due to lack of patter, these interviews are hard to crack.
  1. Case Studies

Case studies do not go along with a single method. There are various methods which are being used for observing even the minute details. It can be called as the summation of the direct method, unstructured interviews etc. The quantitative and qualitative approaches a given situation in an entirely different way. For example, quantitative methods are based on mathematical numbers, graphs, and statistics. But because of this method, much information is lost accounting for little information as compared to the qualitative method. Quantitative analysis is fact-driven but the facts can change anytime but they are mostly copied from earlier records, whereas qualitative analysis is observation-driven, its data can be changed accordingly which is its biggest advantage over the other.


Data collection is mainly stored in two ways, primary resources, and secondary resources.

Primary Resources are the data which are obtained by researchers, for example through personal or telephonic interviews, participant behaviour by keenly observing them or asking them a set of questions.

Secondary resources are the data which are mainly records in any form. For example, any old book can provide much information about the time period comes under secondary resources. There is no direct information but mainly statistics, graphs, old research works, or historical books.


research methods art gallery

  1. Participant and Quasi-Participant Observation

It has been proved for a long time that observation helps in collecting data as well as result in accurate analysis. Observation contains two major functions viz. causes and effects. The observation is categorized in two ways viz. controlled and uncontrolled, active and passive.

Inactive observation, the researcher is also a part of an analysis. For example, he will take part in a game and will play fairly at his part.

In passive observation, the researcher observes everything from a distant place without getting noticed. For example mother-son duo small gestures can be easily noticed by him/her.

Controlled observations are those matter of solicitation in which things can be brought under control anytime. For example, knowing that someone is observing me I can easily change my reactions.

Uncontrolled observations are those observations in which neither researcher nor the people under observation stop the process of analysis. They are being adaptive to any situation no matter what results can be obtained.

There is another type called a Mixed Observation type. In these methods, extremities are found. Either the researcher is totally drenching in the activity or will be observing every bit in solitude. It is also known as Quasi Participant Observation.

  1. Interview

This method involves a panel of interviewers and applicants. For example, in any placement drive, a panel is set up and they took a massive amount of information about the applicants by asking them many questions. Much information about their personality, IQ, confidence, abilities is judged in a matter of some minutes. The interviews can be of many types viz. formal, informal, solo or group.

Informal interviews are not much in trend but the other three are practised at a rapid rate.

  1. Questionnaire

A questionnaire is a set of questions designed in a format which can be solved by only those who can read and write. Thus the biggest disadvantage of this method is that it cannot be fulfilled by everybody. The sole purpose of this method is storing answers and due to same questions, best answers manage to secure the position.

  1. Schedule

The schedule is entirely based on the way an interviewer seek things. The questionnaire set is solved by a person in front of the researchers. Thus the question does not affect much, but the perspective of the researcher does. There are many types of schedule:-

  1. Rating Schedules– This kind of schedules generally come under the HR department. The opinions, ways of accepting or rejecting things, or habits are observed keenly.
  2. Document Schedules– As the name suggests, it generally involves the paperwork. For example in criminology, criminal’s history is studied. Case studies are also popular, for example how to transform a city into the smart city.
  3. Evaluation Schedules– Quantitative analysis for example data collection is a primary objective of this schedule. For example, if a company arrives at placement, the students collect every data, for example, the company position, job profile, CTC etc.
  4. Observation Schedules– The researcher will observe everybody’s intention, either by involving in any activity or by being aloof.
  5. Interview Schedules– The researcher freely asks respondents any question and after deciding their confidence, time to think, IQ etc is judged.

Continue Reading → Variable,Sampling,Hypothesis,Reliability & Validity

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