Select Page

Part 2 – The Research Methods

This is a short presentation of the main research methods, as they apply to social science.

1 – Survey

Why Should I Care?

Surveys are very common. However, many are not done well. There are many traps most people don’t know about that reduce their scientific validity.


Survey: the act of measuring objects.

Social survey: a research technique that obtains information from a sample of individuals by asking questions and analyzing the responses

Questionnaire: a written set of questions organized in a sequence appropriate to the purpose of a survey, or psychological test.

Interview: a loose set of questions, mostly designed to produce an open-ended conversation.


Allows for a “real-time” expression of opinions and attitudes on a particular topic.

In politics, allows to identify shifts in opinions, and relate them to a particular event (speech, riot, etc.)

Business people need them to prepare marketing strategies, advertising campaigns, etc.

Objects of Measurement


Hopefully _random_________ and _large__________.

Possible using phonebooks as lists of population, but not so much through _email and internet_ .

With interviews, samples are non-random and tiny.

Types of Surveys

  1. Cross-sectional compare many independent variables to a dependent variable
  2. Longitudinal compare a few variables over time
    1. Trend similar samples taken at different time points
    2. Panel same sample followed through time


  1. Questionnaire (116) set question list, closed-ended questions, larger sample
    1. In-person
    2. Telephone
    3. Internet
    4. Group
  2. Interview starting question list, open-ended questions, smaller sample
    1. Field interview
    2. Formal Face-to-face interview

Scientific Power

Exploratory: possible but not likely if the topic is taboo or difficult to discuss.

Mostly descriptive studies, which focus on who, where, how and what.

But may also be used for explanatory studies which validate hypotheses and their causal relationships (why).

Warning – “Surveys” are also used as a commercial ploy to build email mailing lists for advertising.

Related Course Content

Quantitative Methods – Samie Ly

Quantitative Methods – Samie Ly

An advanced version of this course is available for University Level Business Statistics.Chapter 3.2 - Percentiles and Box Plots This chapter explains how to calculate percentiles and illustrates how to build a box plot. Chapter 4.3 - Computing Probabilities This...

Research Methods Part 3.6 – MLA Style

Research Methods Part 3.6 – MLA Style

Part 2 – The Research Methods This is a short presentation of the main research methods, as they apply to social science. 6 – MLA Style - Why Should I Care? Some journals (and academics in that same field) use the MLA style, which is useful to know. The Basics MLA...

EnglishFrenchSpanishChinese (Simplified)Greek