METHODOLOGY (Social Science) (2022)

The term methodology may be defined in at least three ways: (1) a body of rules and postulates that are employed by researchers in a discipline of study; (2) a particular procedure or set of procedures; and (3) the analysis of the principles of procedures of inquiry that are followed by researchers in a discipline of study. This entry will first discuss each of these definitions. It will then cover the debate among philosophers of science about general methodological assumptions. Finally, the entry will review some of the issues pertaining to the quantitative versus qualitative debate about methods.


Methodology refers to the behavior of scientists and scholars when examining phenomena relevant to their specific disciplines. The American Heritage Dictionary offers the following formal definition for methodology: "the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge" (Pickett 2000, p. 2074). Methodology in the social sciences is usually characterized by the following: (1) it defines the information to be analyzed; (2) it provides the conceptual tools and procedures necessary to perform an analysis; and (3) it sets forth the limits of the analysis. Methodology necessarily encompasses the three facets of exploration, description, and explanation (Babbie 2001, p. 91).

When scholars undertake research projects, they usually follow a well-defined procedure known as the research process. The research process begins when a researcher determines his or her research topic and formulates the research question or questions. For example, the research question of a social scientist could be: Are minority children in the United States more profoundly effected by poverty than their white counterparts? Once the research question has been determined, it is necessary to construct a study design. This is where the researcher decides the type of research to be undertaken. In the social sciences, there are two broad types of research: quantitative and qualitative. The former relies on numerical and statistical techniques and data garnered through the analysis of large groups of subjects. The latter often involves in-depth interviews that are designed to probe and produce extensive information about small numbers of subjects. Inductive and deductive reasoning also come into play when the researcher decides to follow a predetermined framework for the duration of the project (deduction), or instead formulates the research question and allows the remainder of the research to unfold as it may (induction). Once the researcher has decided which method to use, the next step is to collect the data. Finally, the data are analyzed, interpreted, and put into a format accessible to others.

Many of the social science subfields (e.g., economics, psychology, sociology, etc.) have developed specific models for the collection and organization of knowledge. Economics and psychology were the first to develop mathematical models of inquiry. Many subfields have borrowed heavily from one another. Beginning around 1970, a general system of models for all the social sciences was developed following guidelines proposed by the Social Science Research Council (Hekman 1980). The social sciences have also borrowed heavily from statistics, as is evident in the quantification of information obtained in the research process.

(Video) Understanding Social Science Research: Research Methods


The social sciences use an assortment of research methods. These include, but are not limited to, experiments, surveys, field research, content analysis, analysis of existing data, comparative research, and evaluative research (Mouton and Marais 1988). Each of these types of analysis needs to be systematized.

The first and most important step in any methodology is the formulation of the research question. It is with this step that the researcher determines the direction and approach of analysis. This step involves exploration, is crucial to understanding the topic, gives an idea of the feasibility of the research, and identifies the methods to be used (Babbie 2001, p. 92).

Once the researcher determines what the research will entail, it is then necessary to address the study design. During this step, the unit of analysis is determined. The unit of analysis is often an individual or group of individuals that is sampled from the larger population to which the researcher wishes to generalize his or her findings. For example, if one’s research were to focus on the above question concerning whether American minority children are more profoundly effected by poverty than white children, the appropriate unit of analysis would be the child, and a sample of children would be drawn from the larger population of minority and white children. In this example, the use of quantitative methods would be most appropriate and would enable the researcher to develop generalizations about the general population.

However, even if the researcher chooses to use inductive methods, it would still be necessary to address many of the above issues. The study design portion of the process would involve determining sample size, who or what should be studied, and how the study would be conducted. Researchers must create a framework for their study for a number of reasons, including the need to coordinate the activities of more than one researcher and to obtain funding, among other things.

(Video) Lec 7 : Methodology of the Social Sciences

The next step in the research process is the collection of the data. This is accomplished according to the framework that has already been prescribed. In a quantitative study, researchers will most likely use a survey or some other type of questionnaire. In qualitative research, a list of questions would probably be employed, along with less-structured interviews. An important function of scientific inquiry is description. Qualitative studies in particular enable the researcher to describe situations and events in detail.

After the research data have been collected and organized, it is necessary to undertake the analysis. This may include statistical analyses of data gathered via quantitative methods, or more straightforward descriptive analyses of data obtained via qualitative methods. The data are then interpreted and summarized so the results of the research will be more accessible and available to others. Explanation is the natural by-product of research, and researchers hope that their projects provide information that answers the original research question.


All methodologies include a system of analysis that is used as a backdrop for organizing, collecting, and interpreting data. Data are usually systematized through either inductive and deductive reasoning. In most research projects, the system of analysis is determined in the first step of the research process because the researcher must at that point choose how he or she intends to collect data. Deductive reasoning begins with the idea that the researcher has a predetermined framework and uses it as a model to guide the research (Mouton and Marais 1988; Babbie 2001). Inductive reasoning, on the other hand, allows the researcher to begin a project with a general question but without a clear outline or framework.


One of the major issues when conducting social science research is validity. Some argue that the social sciences do not deal in empirical fact and as such are not as valid as the so-called hard sciences. It is believed that researchers are human and can therefore never be fully objective. Max Weber (1864-1920) argued for value-free sociology and urged researchers to contribute information free from subjective opinions (Mouton and Marais 1988; Weber 1962). This is a central debate in social science research. Many researchers strive to separate research from value judgments, and the idea behind quantification within the social sciences is a nod toward value-free judgments. In fact, the idea of creating a methodology with clear procedures and principles is the embodiment of the necessity to make the social sciences more objective in the eyes of the public.

(Video) Ontology epistemology methodology and methods I ontology and epistemology in research examples

Approaches to methodology in the social sciences generally fall into three categories: positivist, interpretive, and critical social science. William Neumann writes that the positivist approach is the most widespread and is based on the methods of the natural sciences. In the social sciences, this approach was first used by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and was later expanded by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) (Neumann 2003; Smith 1983). The posi-tivist approach is most strongly linked to the quantitative realm of social science research and strives for objectivity. It is argued that only when the social sciences follow the models prescribed by the natural sciences can the findings be valid and reliable. According to Neumann, positivism as it relates to social science can be defined as "an organized method for combining deductive logic with precise empirical observations of individual behavior in order to discover and confirm a set of probabilistic causal laws that can be used to predict general patterns of human activity" (2003, p. 71).

Interpretive social science originated with Max Weber and is focused on discovering the meaning behind social action. There are many facets of interpretivism, including hermeneutics, constructionism, ethnomethodology, and qualitative sociology. This school of thought argues that the social sciences cannot be analyzed using the methods of the natural sciences because they are inadequate for studying the meaning behind human behavior (Lee 1991). As stated previously, this approach focuses on meaning. As such, qualitative work is often considered an interpretive method. Neumann defines the interpretive approach as "the systematic analysis of socially meaningful action through the direct detailed observation of people in natural settings in order to arrive at understandings and interpretations of how people create and maintain their social worlds" (2003, p. 77).

Critical social science is associated with Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Practitioners of this approach criticize the positivist approach for its inability to focus on meaning in the human context, and the interpretive approach for "being too subjective and relativist"(Neumann 2003, p. 81). Neumann defines this approach as "a critical process of inquiry that goes beyond surface illusions to uncover the real structures in the material world in order to help people change conditions and build a better world for themselves" (2003, p. 81).


Quantitative researchers are mostly concerned with measurement and sampling and often use deductive reasoning. In addition, it is important to identify facts and laws that can be used as predictive tools. In contrast, qualitative researchers tend to be more interested in content and use induction with more frequency (Neumann 2003). In this case, the meanings associated with human behavior are taken into consideration. Though quantitative and qualitative research differ in many ways, both types of research make important contributions that benefit the other. Quantitative research provides data in numerical form and allows for the manipulation of the data using statistical procedures. That information can then be combined with the descriptive data provided through qualitative research to provide more meaningful results.


Many social science researchers use both methods to provide fuller and more complete explanations. Indeed, since the 1980s, there has been a convergence of the two approaches, and many analyses use both methods (for examples in demography, see Massey 1987, 1990; and Knodel et al. 1987). The argument here is that qualitative research enriches purely quantitative research by filling in gaps created by the sole use of straightforward statistical methods. On the other hand, quantitative research can enhance qualitative work by providing validity in the form of numbers. And qualitative work can enhance quantitative work by providing detail in the explanation of certain trends that is not possible through a strict analysis of the numerical data.

Qualitative methods examine social data without quantifying the data. Qualitative researchers often examine the links between theory and analysis and seek to discover general patterns among and between their variables. Some of the methods involved in qualitative research include grounded theory, semiotics, and conversation analysis (Mouton and Marais 1988). Qualitative researchers more frequently use an interpretive or critical approach and are interested in allowing the meaning of their work to develop as they conduct more research. They are further interested in using their research to explain and predict. Their data usually take the form of words, rather than numbers, and such researchers most often reason via induction (Neumann 2003).

In contrast, researchers using quantitative methods seek to transform the collected data numerically so the data can then be analyzed using statistical methods. Quantitative researchers most often use a positivist approach because accuracy is an important requirement. The data are first described using measures of central tendency, such as the mean, median, and mode. In most cases, the quantitative researcher next moves to multivari-ate analyses that examine several variables simultaneously. Quantitative research begins with the formulation of a research question and then a hypothesis or hypotheses. The researcher then identifies and operationalizes the desired variables, creates a standardized data set, defines procedures with which to analyze the data, and finally undertakes analysis using the statistical methods described above.


Why methodology is the most difficult to do? ›

Answer and Explanation: Research methodology is a difficult area of study because research itself is unpredictable and somewhat indefinable.

What methodology is used to answer the research question? ›

Research design is a plan to answer your research question. A research method is a strategy used to implement that plan. Research design and methods are different but closely related, because good research design ensures that the data you obtain will help you answer your research question more effectively.

Can you copy a methodology? ›

Yes, it's okay to reuse other people's methodology to address an original research question. It is not okay to copy the methods section of their publication. You must write your own, in addition to citing them.

What is methodology with example? ›

Research Methodology Example
Primary researchResearchers themselves gather data that is specific to their study and is more reliable since it is first-hand information. Secondary researchA researcher decides to study the Covid variant that has very few cases in the country
15 more rows
17 Dec 2021

What makes a strong methodology? ›

A good research methodology should give a description of the process that will convert your idea into a study. Additionally, the outcomes of your process must provide valid and reliable results resonant with the aims and objectives of your research.

Is writing methodology hard? ›

The methodology section of a long piece of academic writing can be very tricky. Researchers often have an intuitive, gut feel about what they want to find out and how they intend to do so. Having to define this in the technical terms of what often seems a very abstruse field of inquiry can present challenges.

Why methodology is very important? ›

A methodology will give you that path. And choosing a wholly suitable and sound method that is right for your research project will give you the path to help you succeed. A methodology will give you the guidelines to make your project manageable, smooth and effective.

How do you write a methodology example? ›

How to write a methodology
  1. Restate your thesis or research problem. ...
  2. Explain the approach you chose. ...
  3. Explain any uncommon methodology you use. ...
  4. Describe how you collected the data you used. ...
  5. Explain the methods you used to analyze the data you collected. ...
  6. Evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made.

Which methodology is best for research? ›

You should select a quantitative research methodology because:
  • It uses a deductive approach and objective approach. ...
  • Quantitative research tests theories.
  • Numeric data can be collected via surveys or laboratory instrumentational experiments.
  • It draws on large sample sizes and uses statistical data analysis techniques.

What are the 4 types of research methodology? ›

Data may be grouped into four main types based on methods for collection: observational, experimental, simulation, and derived.

Can you put pictures in methodology? ›

You can add non-textual elements such as pictures, charts, vectors, and graphs in your research paper provided they're relevant to the research question. Such elements are useful because they can make your work not only visually appealing but also more descriptive.

How do I copy and paste without plagiarizing? ›

Avoid Copy and Paste Plagiarism
  1. You can avoid Copy and Paste plagiarism by using quotes.
  2. There are two ways to quote: You can put quotation marks around a sentence in the text. OR. If your quote takes up more than four typed lines, you can use block quotations. Block quotations are indented from the main body of the page.

Do you need references for methodology? ›

Just as the literature review section of your paper provides an overview of sources you have examined while researching a particular topic, the methodology section should cite any sources that informed your choice and application of a particular method [i.e., the choice of a survey should include any citations to the ...

How long should a methodology be? ›

Methodology (1,500 to 2,000 words) Research (800 to 1,000 words) Data analysis (2,000 to 2,200 words) Research findings (1,000 to 1,200 words)

What are the 5 parts of methodology? ›

5 Key Elements of Methodology Section of a Research Paper
  • Logic of Inquiry (Qualitative or Quantitative) ...
  • Research Setting and participants. ...
  • Methods and Procedure of Data Collection. ...
  • Methods and Procedure of Data Analysis. ...
  • Ethical Issues.
1 Feb 2021

What is methodology of the study? ›

What is Research Methodology? Research methodology is the specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information about a topic. In a research paper, the methodology section allows the reader to critically evaluate a study's overall validity and reliability.

What is a methodology in a research paper? ›

The methodology section of your paper describes how your research was conducted. This information allows readers to check whether your approach is accurate and dependable. A good methodology can help increase the reader's trust in your findings.

What does methodology mean? ›

/ˌmeθ.əˈdɑː.lə.dʒi/ a system of ways of doing, teaching, or studying something: The methodology and findings of the research team have been criticized. Ways of achieving things. actively.

How do you start a methodology? ›

The methodology chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the research design choices you made. For example, the type of research you conducted (e.g. qualitative or quantitative), how you collected your data, how you analysed your data and who or where you collected data from (sampling).

What is the quality of methodology? ›

Quality includes internal and external validity, while methodological quality usually refers to internal validity [8, 9]. Internal validity is also recommended as “risk of bias (RoB)” by the Cochrane Collaboration [9]. There are three types of tools: scales, checklists, and items [10, 11].

What are the 3 methodologies? ›

The three types of methodology used by researchers are qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.

How many pages is a methodology? ›

Dissertation methodology chapter length

The expected length is about 10 pages.

How long does a methodology take to write? ›

Regardless of where you start, 3-4 months is a good estimate. Chapter 3 requires an in-depth explanation of your methodology.

What is the hardest part in research? ›

The Hardest Part of Doing Research: Formulating a Research Question.

What is the importance of research methodology in social science research? ›

Research Methodology for Social Sciences provides guidelines for designing and conducting evidence-based research in social sciences and interdisciplinary studies using both qualitative and quantitative data.

What is an example of research methodology? ›

Interviews (which can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured) Focus groups and group interviews. Surveys (online or physical surveys) Observations.

What are main methodologies of research? ›

Examples of data collection methods
Research methodPrimary or secondary?Qualitative or quantitative?
Interview/focus groupPrimaryQualitative
2 more rows

How do you write a chapter 4 research methodology? ›

For you to achieve this, your chapter four should be aligned to the purpose of the study, the research questions, why the study was important, how it connects to the underlying theories, literature review and reflective of the conceptual framework.

What is methodology in research PDF? ›

ABSTRACT. Research methodology is a way to systematically solve the research problem. It may be understood as a science of studying how research is done scientifically. In it we study the various steps that are generally adopted by a researcher in studying his research problem along with the logic behind them.

What are the two main types of research methodologies? ›

There are two main categories of research methods: qualitative research methods and quantitative research methods. Quantitative research methods involve using numbers to measure data.

Can you use we in methodology? ›

Indeed, “I” and “we” are acceptable in most scientific fields to compare an author's works with other researchers' publications. The APA encourages using personal pronouns for this context.

Where does methodology go in paper? ›

In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results, discussion and conclusion. The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation, or research proposal.

How do you write a research paper sample? ›

How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide
  1. Understand the assignment.
  2. Choose a research paper topic.
  3. Conduct preliminary research.
  4. Develop a thesis statement.
  5. Create a research paper outline.
  6. Write a first draft of the research paper.
  7. Write the introduction.
  8. Write a compelling body of text.

Will I get caught plagiarizing? ›

Nowadays, online plagiarism checkers are so easy to access and quick to use that it is safe to assume that if you have plagiarised in your work, you will get caught. Sometimes essays and dissertations are automatically checked for plagiarism, even if there is no suspicion!

Is it plagiarizing if you copy yourself? ›

A lesser known form of plagiarism is self-plagiarism. It's good to be aware of what this means, especially if you are repeating subjects or doing multiple subjects that might have similar topics for assignments.

Is plagiarizing illegal? ›

Plagiarism is the act of taking a person's original work and presenting it as if it was one's own. Plagiarism is not illegal in the United States in most situations. Instead it is considered a violation of honor or ethics codes and can result in disciplinary action from a person's school or workplace.

How long should a methodology be in a 10000 word dissertation? ›

In 10,000 words dissertation, the research methodology chapter of a dissertation should consist of 1500 words.

How do you write a chapter 3 research methodology? ›

Chapter 3 consists of three parts: (1) Purpose of the study and research design, (2) Methods, and (3) Statistical Data analysis procedure. Part one, Purpose of the study and Research Design, relates the purpose of the study and describe the research design and the variables used in this study.

How do you write a methodology section of a research paper? ›

Therefore, the methods section structure should: describe the materials used in the study, explain how the materials were prepared for the study, describe the research protocol, explain how measurements were made and what calculations were performed, and state which statistical tests were done to analyze the data.

What are the 3 parts of methodology? ›

Abstract. Chapter 3 consists of three parts: (1) Purpose of the study and research design, (2) Methods, and (3) Statistical Data analysis procedure.

What is methodology format? ›

The methodology section of your paper describes how your research was conducted. This information allows readers to check whether your approach is accurate and dependable. A good methodology can help increase the reader's trust in your findings.

What is a methodology paragraph? ›

The methodology section of your paper should clearly articulate the reasons why you have chosen a particular procedure or technique. The reader wants to know that the data was collected or generated in a way that is consistent with accepted practice in the field of study.

What is process methodology? ›

Process is a step-by-step structure, with milestones and stages, while methodology is a way of interacting with the customer to move them from stage to stage. Process as the “what” and methodology as the “how.” A third category of “skills and activities” is separate from the methodology.

What is a research methodology? ›

What is Research Methodology? Research methodology is the specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information about a topic. In a research paper, the methodology section allows the reader to critically evaluate a study's overall validity and reliability.

How do you write a methodology paragraph? ›

How to write a methodology
  1. Restate your thesis or research problem. ...
  2. Explain the approach you chose. ...
  3. Explain any uncommon methodology you use. ...
  4. Describe how you collected the data you used. ...
  5. Explain the methods you used to analyze the data you collected. ...
  6. Evaluate and justify the methodological choices you made.

How many steps are in a methodology? ›

The Ten Steps methodology can be used in any situation where the quality of data and information affect high priority business needs—the strategies, goals, issues, and opportunities that must be addressed to satisfy customers and provide products and services. The Ten Steps Process was designed to be flexible.

How do you find the methodology of a research paper? ›

In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results, discussion and conclusion. The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation, or research proposal.


1. Social Science Methodology by Brandon Olszewski, ISTE
(Issues in Education)
2. Weber’s Methodology of the Social Sciences
3. What is Research Methodology In Social Sciences ( An Introduction)
(Discourse With Dr. Shah)
4. Introduction to research methods and methodologies
(University of Liverpool Online Centre for Student Success)
5. B A Sociology- Paper.1 - Methodology and Perspective of Social Science
(Easy Points)
6. How to Write a Research Methodology in 4 Steps | Scribbr 🎓

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