Quantitative and Qualitative Methods of Social Science Research Explained

Social Science research is fueled by the desire to find out what makes people tick. There are several diverse fields that comprise the Social Sciences, including anthropology, economics, sociology, and psychology.

Social scientists use a range of methods in order to examine the phenomena that relate to their field, and the different methods of carrying out social science research often form the foundation for research in other linked disciplines as well, such as political science, market research, and media studies. LetΓÇÖs have a look at the variety of different methods and see how they can be best applied.

There are two broad primary categories that comprise social science research. These are the Quantitative and Qualitative Design Methods.

The methods used in the Quantitative Design category most often rely on statistical analysis, such as the analysis of numerical data to establish a hypothesis that is provable by mathematical or statistical means. Experiments use a standard format to generate a hypothesis, provable by mathematical and statistical methods.

Methods used in Qualitative Design rely on direct observation or communication with the participants or the analysis of words, objects, or artifacts. These are methods to study the behavior and habits of the participants.

Quantitative Design Methods

Experimental ΓÇô This can be understood as the manipulation of independent variables in each experiment, in order to generate statistically analyzable data which can be easily understood, such as interpreting a census or an FBI national crime report. The analysis of this type of statistical study can be best applied when social scientists attempt to explain the voting habits of citizens in high crime areas, for example.

Sampling ΓÇô This is information gathering such as through surveys, opinion polling, questionnaires, or focus groups. These types of research methods can provide the information sought by corporations to help them decide how to structure advertising campaigns to sell their products or to help politicians to understand the desires of their constituencies so they can incorporate the information into election campaigns or policy-making strategies.

Qualitative Design Methods

Observational ΓÇô This is the observation of phenomena with a minimum of interference, such as case studies or key informant interviews.

Historical ΓÇô This includes the researching of historical records such as birth certificates and death certificates or the collection of data through documentation of primary sources, secondary sources, running records, and recollections.

Photographs, videos, sound recordings ΓÇô This is the collection and assembling of visual and audible artifacts, such as old family photos, videos, films of war scenes, or audio memoirs and testaments.

Report Your Findings

When your research is complete, itΓÇÖs time to write your paper. Social science research papers follow a specific format:

  • the abstract
  • an introduction
  • declare your methods
  • declare your results
  • discuss the results
  • conclusion

Additionally, you will write surprisingly short, unremarkable, well-crafted sentences focusing on evidence, not creative phrases, and in the passive voice to reduce any impression of subjectivity. Plus, you will be required to use the APA formatting style.

The last step is to edit your paper. While the word processing programs can help point out some of the grammatical and punctuation errors, you can use formatting software that will guarantee your work follows the proper APA formatting style guidelines.


For more information about APA or MLA formats, contact us today.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy.

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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