Methodology in sociology refers to the scientific way that a researcher chooses to test a social theory or concept. Sociological methods include the same methods used in other social science disciplines, such as experimentation, observation, surveys, quasi-experiments, content analysis and focus groups. Sociological researchers use both quantitative and qualitative methods to test hypotheses.
Experiments allow sociologists to test hypotheses in real-world environments or laboratory settings. Sociologists derive causation from experimentation, as it uses controls and a treatment to remove bias. Observations do not permit manipulation of subjects. Sociologists simply observe and record, such as when watching the interaction between children in a peer group. Researchers employ surveys and interviews to connect opinions to social behavior through asking for responses to specific questions. Quasi-experiments tend to employ secondary data methods that eliminate the need and expense of the collection of original data. These methods produce quantitative data. However, qualitative methods seek to explain social theory or behavior that is not easy for researchers to quantify. Content analysis involves grouping transcripts or media into themes to note frequency, while focus groups create a dialogue of viewpoints.
Though qualitative methods do not include data for statistical analysis, these methods still follow the scientific method. Qualitative methods in sociology often focus on unrepresented groups.