Sociological Methods

We can distinguish between: (1) ''methodology'' as the theoretical understanding of basic principles, and (2) ''method'' as research techniques (Abbot 2001). The topics discussed under methods often include both. A classical experimental design (CED), with random assignment to an experimental group and a control group, is a basic aspect of methodology. In most sociological research there is a multivariant approach. It would be very difficult to actually carry out an experiment on such multivariable models, hence we rely on ''path analysis'' to simulate the logic of CED. The term methods is often used to primarily represent specific techniques of research, both quantitative and qualitative. All of the inferential statistics, parametric and nonparametric, may be studied as aspects of quantitative methods. Similarly, all aspects of ethnographic fieldwork, open-ended interviewing, and observation may be considered in the context of qualitative methods. There is also an interest in moving beyond the quantitative-qualitative distinction. There is a very vibrant literature on statistical techniques.

ANOVA (Analysis of Variance)

Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) is a statistical technique for detecting differences among the means of groups within a sample. It is one of several techniques of the ”general linear model.” In the basic case, a sample is divided into groups based on values of one discrete independent variable with a small number of categories. Within […]

Computer-Aided Analysis

Software for qualitative data analysis (QDA) allows the analyst to systematically index and organize the data and then to retrieve the data reliably and flexibly in many different ways. For example, it can facilitate finding all the data the analyst has previously identified as indicating a particular theme or conceptual category, and it can facilitate […]

Content Analysis

Content analysis is a method of research that examines cultural artifacts by observing and analyzing these objects in systematic ways. Researchers seek to understand messages within texts while also searching for the meanings being produced and interpreted by the audience and producer of the text. Anything that is in or can be converted to printed […]

Convenience Sample

A convenience sample refers to a subset of a research population that is utilized because of ease of access. Sampling is a practical solution to the fact that research populations are often too large or expensive to be studied in their entirety. (A research population is the largest collection of elements, people, artifacts, or other […]

Conversation Analysis

Conversation analysis (CA) is a method for investigating the structure and process of social interaction between humans. It focuses primarily on talk, but integrates also the nonverbal aspects of interaction in its research design. As their data, CA studies use video or audio recordings made from naturally occurring interaction. As their results, CA studies yield […]


Correlation refers to the relationship between two or more variables. Many different forms of correlation exist, but they all reflect a quantitative, statistical means for describing relationships. A correlation statistic is inherently bivariate (i.e., two variables) in nature. Correlation speaks to whether or not variables are systematically related in some predictable fashion. For example, assuming […]

Descriptive Statistics

Descriptive statistics are used to illustrate the distribution of a variable or variables in a sample. Their purpose is to summarize data in a simple and understandable way. They are typically used only for describing the data rather than testing for significance and describe the central tendency and the dispersion of data. Measures of central […]


”Emic” and ”etic” have become shorthand terms, especially in anthropology, for an ”insider” versus an ”outsider” view of a particular social world. For example, an outsider view of an economic exchange might hold that a seller’s goal is to maximize profit. An insider view from people actually involved in the exchange might show that profit […]


The term empiricism refers to both a philosophical approach toward understanding the world and the principles and methods that ground modern scientific practices. The philosophy of empiricism, which was first stated by Aristotle and other classical philosophers, came to fruition in the writings of Enlightenment-era scholars including David Hume and John Locke. A key philosophical […]


The Greek words for knowledge and explanation are episteme and logos, respectively. Epistemology is the study of the nature (theory) of knowledge and justification. Epistemology is the kind of philosophy (or the primary role assigned to philosophy) valued in the scientific view of the world. In such a world, significant emphasis is placed on providing […]

Fieldwork Ethics

Ethics in fieldwork draws on the perspectives of philosophy, law, and psychology to guide moral decisions. Consciously or otherwise, field researchers make ethical decisions whenever they gather, interpret, or present their data. However, ethical practice in fieldwork cannot simply rely on the guidelines for laboratory research. Notorious abuses of human participants in twentieth-century biomedical studies […]

Research Ethics

There has been very little consideration of the context in which discussion of ethics occurs; societal ”frames” and sets of such frames are often unstated assumptions which do not have conceptual or operational definitions outside of very specific times and places. Generally, humanist, neo-Kantian, pragmatist, or other secular ethical systems are most common. The principle […]


Ethnography was initially developed in anthropology in the early twentieth century. Here it generally involved the researcher living with a group of people for an extended period, perhaps a year or several years, in order to document their distinctive way of life, beliefs and values. Within sociology today, the term is normally used in a […]

Experimental Design

An experimental design is a plan for assigning experimental units to treatment levels and the statistical analysis associated with the plan (Kirk 1995: 1). An experimental design identifies the: (1) independent and dependent variables, (2) extraneous conditions that must be controlled (nuisance variables), and (3) indicates the way in which the randomization and statistical analysis […]

Experimental Methods

An experiment is a research method for which an investigator plans, builds or otherwise controls the conditions under which phenomena are observed. Experiments are used rarely in sociology where they are concentrated in the subfields of group processes and social psychology. There are two distinct types of experiments – empiricist and theory-driven experiments (Willer and […]

Factor Analysis

Factor analysis, a statistical technique introduced by British psychologist Charles Spearman, belongs to the general linear model (GLM) set of procedures, hence requiring many of the same assumptions as multiple regressions. The two types of factor analysis are exploratory factor analysis (EFA) that is most commonly used and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Often, direct measurement […]

General Linear Model

In the social and behavioral sciences, traditionally, techniques involving categorical independent variables (e.g., t-test, ANOVA) and those involving continuous variables (e.g., correlation, regression) used to be treated as distinctly different data analysis systems ”intended for types of research that differed fundamentally in design, goals, and types of variables” (Cohen et al. 2003: xxv). Despite the […]

Gini Coefficient

The Gini coefficient is the most commonly used measure of inequality. The coefficient is named after the Italian statistician and demographer Corrado Gini (1884-1965), who invented the measure in 1912. While the Gini coefficient is often used to measure income and wealth inequality, it is also widely employed to indicate uneven distribution in other social […]

Grounded Theory

The term grounded theory refers to systematic guidelines for data gathering, coding, synthesizing, categorizing, and integrating concepts to generate middle-range theory. Data collection and analysis proceed simultaneously and each informs the other. In their cutting-edge book, The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1967), Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss proposed that: (1) qualitative inquiry could […]

Historical and Comparative Methods

Among the classical figures, Max Weber stands out from the others in his devotion to comparative historical sociology. His lifelong quest was to find through the study of ”rationalization processes” what sets the west off from the non-western civilizations. Concretely, the concern was with modern, rational or bourgeois capitalism, its origins and development. Weber’s series […]