Introduction to Sociological Research

What you’ll learn to do: describe basic sociological research methods and ethical practices

A woman sits behind a desk in professional attire, talking to a second woman and making notes in her notebook. The second woman is in the foreground and facing away from the camera and looking at the woman behind the desk.
Figure 1. Sociologists rely on systematic scientific processes to collect data and then to evaluate social behavior. Sociologists use different methods of study, including conducting interviews with research participants. (Photo courtesy of Ethan/flickr)

While some results of sociological studies might seem like common sense, hopefully you’ve gathered by now that sociologists rely on systematic scientific processes to collect data and then to evaluate social behavior. Whereas “common sense” relies on myths, traditions, subjective opinion, or amateur observations, social scientists carefully examine and investigate in order to draw accurate conclusions about society as a whole.

The primary aim in this section is to illustrate how sociologists utilize sociological research methods to understand human behavior, groups, and/or aspects of society. Through examples, you will see the difference between common sense understandings and sociological research in trying to explain or understand social phenomena.

Some sociological research centers around groups, as described in the opening vignette, while other sociological research might detail the experiences of specific families or those of individuals. For example, a sociologist may study individuals or families who are facing eviction or who have been evicted from their homes, or they may examine societal conditions that have resulted in increased evictions in the United States (Desmond 2016). Sociologists question and analyze why things happen, always considering larger social, political, and economic forces.

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Introduction to Sociology Lumen/OpenStax Copyright © 2021 by Lumen Learning & OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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