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Social Research: Methods

5. Other Social Research Methods

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In this module, we think about four other methods often used in social research: (i) documentary research – the textual analysis of existing secondary documents, such as diaries; (ii) case studies – research into a single institution or phenomenon thought to be typical of all similar cases; (iii) digital research – research using information gathered from digital technologies, such as analysis of people’s social media profiles; (iv) comparative analysis – the comparison of similar phenomena in different contexts.


In this course, Professor Tim May (University of Sheffield) explores several different methods commonly used in social research and outlines how they are applied in practice. In the first module, we look at official statistics, the ways in which they are important for researchers, and debates around their trustworthiness as factual representations of society. The second introduces surveys and how they are constructed, and the third considers three types of interview – the structured, the semi-structured and the unstructured/focused. In the fourth module, we think about observation, both participant and non-participant, and examine some of the practical and ethical issues associated with it as a method. In the final module, we briefly survey some other important social research methods – documentary research, case studies, digital research, and comparative analysis.


Professor Tim May is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. He has a wide range of expertise relating to research methodologies, sociological theory, and the philosophy of social science. His recent publications include Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2021, co-authored with Beth Perry), Thinking Sociologically (2019, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman), Reflexivity: The Essential Guide (2017, co-authored with Beth Perry).

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APA style

May, T. (2022, January 26). Social Research: Methods - Other Social Research Methods [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, Tim. "Social Research: Methods – Other Social Research Methods." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2022,

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