Social Research Methods

Types of Publications

Your choice among types of publications depend on the uses you have in mind for the publication. For example, if you are looking for a strongly argumentative research article, you'd choose a scholarly journal; and for a broad overview of a topic, you'd choose a reference book.

Comparing Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

This guide provides an overview of quantitative and qualitative social science research methods.  The table below provides an outline of some of the attributes of each.

For more information, see these definitions from The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods (Emich login required):

Quantitative and qualitative methods are the two main categories of empirical research.  




  • experimental
  • statistical
  • positivist
  • naturalistic
  • ethnographic
  • phenomenological
  • anthropological
  • interpretive
  • constructivist
Focus or Goals
  • describe with statistics
  • test theories
  • show relationships
  • predict
  • obtain a single true reality
  • develop understanding and meaning
  • describe naturally occuring behavior
  • describe multiple realities
  • structured
  • predetermined
  • specific
  • contrived
  • emergent
  • evolving
  • flexible
  • natural
  • holistic
  • experiments
  • questionnaires
  • surveys
  • structured observations or interviews
  • observations
  • open-ended interviews
  • field research
  • case studies
Data Analysis
  • deductive
  • statistical
  • interpretive
  • inductive
  • ongoing
  • searching for themes
  • text analysis

Adapted from: McMillan, J. H. (2012). Educational research: Fundamentals for the consumer (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.