Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methods

Key Takeaways


Research methods are a systematic process of inquiry applied in such a manner as to learn something about our social world. 

Applied research makes a contribution by shaping social life. 

Basic research makes a contribution to sociological theories for knowledge, without having a specific application as a goal.

Research ideas come from a variety of sources, and usually start with a general question of how or why.

Ontology is concerned with the what is or the nature of reality. There are two main classifications of ontology: objectivism and subjectivism.

Objectivism means that social entities exist externally to the social actors who are concerned with their existence.

Subjectivism means that social phenomena are created from the perceptions and actions of the social actors who are concerned with their existence.

Epistemology has to do with knowledge. Rather than dealing with questions about what is, epistemology deals with questions of how we know what is. In sociology, there are many ways to uncover knowledge.

A paradigm is a way of framing what we know, what we can know, and how we can know it.

Positivism assumes that society can and should be studied empirically and scientifically. It calls for a value- free sociology in which researchers aim to abandon their biases and values in a quest for objective, empirical, and knowable truth.

Interpretivism assumes that what is necessary for researchers to understand the differences amongst humans as social actors. The emphasis is on conducting research among people, as opposed to objects.

Social constructionism posits that “truth” is a varying, socially constructed, and ever-changing notion. Key to the social constructionist perspective is the idea that social context and interaction frame our realities.

Critical paradigm is focused on power, inequality, and social change, and posits that social science can never be truly objective or value-free. This paradigm operates from the perspective that scientific investigation should be conducted with the express goal of seeking social change.

Postmodernism is difficult to define, because to do so would actually violate the postmodernist´s perspective that there is no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truth. A postmodernist would also claim that we can never really know such truth because, in the studying and reporting of others’ truths, researchers put their own truth on the investigation.

Inductive approaches to research begin with observation to look for patterns, from which a tentative hypothesis is developed, to create a theory.

Deductive approaches begin with a theory to develop hypotheses. Observations then lead to confirmation or refutation of the hypotheses.


Michel Foucault is a French philosopher and historian. He is considered one of the most influential and controversial scholars from the Post-World War II era.   See and




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