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Research Methods: Examples

Research Methods: Examples

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize important examples of research methods in practice.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on research method examples. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at some examples of different research methods. And we're going to really focus in on two different types of research methods-- out of the four, that is-- two out of the four. And we're going to look at survey research and participant observation.

And we're going to look at the two best examples of those two different types of research. You can call them exemplars. They really show what that research is all about.

Now the first one is interview research. Lois Benjamin, she was a famous sociologist. She's relatively modern actually. She-- I think it was the 1990s when she first published these results.

She was really looking at the effect of race on highly successful African Americans. Now, this can be a really difficult subject. So she wanted to delicately handle it, and handle it with a real depth of understanding, not just scratch the surface. So what she did is she interviewed subjects on a wide variety of questions about how race and racism has affected them as successful African Americans.

Now, the idea of this interview research, one of the reasons why it works is because you ask open-ended and follow-up questions. So each interview can really go on its own totally different path based on the answers that that individual subject is giving you.

Now, what it does is it makes it a little hard to make it a mathematical equation. And it's almost impossible to make it a mathematical equation. But what it does, it gives you really in-depth research. And it gives you really in-depth, specifically answers. And lets you really see where the participants want to take you based on their own experience.

And so what Benjamin did is when she interviewed these people, she actually just started with some of her colleagues, who-- she was actually a successful African American. And she asked other successful Americans to come in. And she actually ended up going to their houses often and spending two or three hours recording their conversation. And then go back and transcribe what they found out in their interview.

And she slowly expanded this survey, where she started with a small group of people that she knew. And then she had those people that she knew recommend other people for the survey. And so then she could expand on who she was interviewing for this research.

Now, she ended finding that racism, even in the case of highly successful African Africans, really was important and still contributed a lot to the issues facing African American-- successful African Americans in society. But that's a really great example of how this interview research can work.

Now, participant observation is another form of-- way that sociologists conduct research. And William Foote Whyte was really one of the first ones to do this really, really, really well. He was a sociologist from the '50s. And what he wants to do was he wanted to study this neighborhood of Cornerville.

Now, it's not really important to know the details of Cornerville. But it's the kind of place that could be in many urban areas. It's one of the poorer areas. There's a lot of crime. And it's maybe not seen as the most upstanding place to live.

Now, what he did is he went in there and he wanted to really understand what was going on and why they were happening. And really avoid passing judgment and really just first see what's really going on. And he ran into some troubles initially because he's an outsider trying to observe them.

So participant observation really works best when you become a part of that culture. And that method, to observe people in their daily routine, it really works again when you become a part of that culture. So what he did is he started being there all the time. And he became so much a part of that culture he actually ended marrying a local woman from Cornerville. But what it did is it really allowed him to get a really, really rich, detailed information about that neighborhood, stuff that outsiders can't see. And it helped debunk some of the stereotypes about the people living in that neighborhood.

So today's take-away message. Interview research is when you ask subjects a bunch of questions from an interview. And you allow for open-ended and follow-up questions. Lois Benjamin is a real exemplar of that, who studied race and successful African Americans.

Participant observation is another research method, where you're looking at people in their daily routines. And William Foote Whyte was really a person who used that method very, very well, looking at the stereotypes of Cornerville.

So that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Interview Research

A research methodology where subjects respond to the questions of a researcher in interviews, focus groups, or questionnaires.


A research methodology where subjects are observed in-context going about their daily lives.

People to Know
Lois Benjamin

American sociologist who studied "The Black Elite" using interview research methodology.

William Foote White

American sociologist who studied street life among Italian immigrants using participant-observation research methodology.