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Social Research: Methods

2. Surveys

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about surveys as an important method of data-collection in social research. We focus on: (i) some key characteristics of survey research, such as its basis in the hypothetico-deductive approach and its focus on collecting quantifiable data and statistical analysis; (ii) three key methods for avoiding bias in survey research – standardisation, replicability, and representativeness; (iii) probability and non-probability sampling and their uses; (iv) the key stages of survey construction – defining the survey’s aim, identifying relevant data, formulating the research question, designing survey questions, designing the project, and coding and analysing produced data.


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).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

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

MLA style

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

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