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Research Methods - English 101 - Writing and Research


Created for the fields of anthropology, sociology and psychology, qualitative studies attempt to reveal deep meaning in social phenomena. They are documentary in nature and marked by a social interaction with the subject.  


Observational Studies 


Focus Groups

Case Studies (Can be "longitudinal")

Phenomenological (observing "lived experiences" and sensations, study of judgment, perception & emotion of a group of people)

Ethnography (description of the culture of a group of people)

Materials Field notes, recordings, audio/video

Uses Inductive Reasoning 

Open-ended; Seeks exploration

Sometimes lacks a clear hypothesis

Less structured

More individualistic


Flexible, can change mid-stream depending on findings



Quantitative research methods focus on gathering numerical data to explain a particular phenomenon or existing hypothesis.


Polls, Surveys, Questionnaires (Can be less controlled than experiments)

Questionnaire Example

Controlled Experiments and Tests (Such as medical trials or psych tests. Control the environment and introduce something "new") 

Using Existing Data and Manipulating it using Statistical Instruments (often post facto)

  • Comparison/Causal Research (True comparison = 1 variable)
  • Correlational Design (plotting separate sets data. Problem: too many variables, not causal)
Materials Computer modeling software; spreadsheets; data sets; tables of raw data and figures to represent effects

Uses Deductive Reasoning

Structured with a set of variables 

Seeks to prove a supposed hypothesis

Larger, random selection of participants

Uses mathematical formulas to validate findings

To prevent bias, can be "randomized" and "Double blind" (researcher and participants don't know about each other or where variable has been introduced)

Findings can be generalized to greater populations and manipulated for other studies or purposes



Multi-methods combines "story" with data. 

There is also the Idea of "triangulation" of data, which is often a mixed method, but not necessarily. 

Using multiple methods of Data can strengthen a study. These can draw from both Quantitative and Qualitative methods. Triangulation can take the following forms: 

  • Use of multiple methods to research a problem. 
  • Presentation of data from different sources. 
  • Use of different researchers or evaluators investigating the same problem. 
  • Introduction of a theory (conceptual framework specific to the discipline).
  • Conducting the same type of research in multiple locations. 


Glassman, Danny. "QUAL 9400 - Advanced Seminar in Qualitative Research." The University of Georgia, Fall 2014. YouTube. 15 October 2015. 

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources



  Humanities Sciences
Primary Source
  • Original, first-hand account of an event or time period
  • Usually written or made during or close to the event or time period
  • Original, creative writing or works of art
  • Factual, not interpretive
  • Report of scientific discoveries
  • Results of experiments
  • Results of clinical trials
  • Social and political science research results
  • Factual, not interpretive
Secondary Source
  • Analyzes and interprets primary sources
  • Second-hand account of an historical event
  • Interprets creative work
  • Analyzes and interprets research results
  • Analyzes and interprets scientific discoveries



  Humanities Sciences
Primary Sources
  • Diaries, journals, and letters
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (factual accounts)
  • Government records (census, marriage, military)
  • Photographs, maps, postcards, posters
  • Recorded or transcribed speeches
  • Interviews with participants or witnesses (e.g., The Civil Right Movement)
  • Interviews with people who lived during a particular time (e.g., genocide in Rwanda)
  • Songs, Plays, novels, stories
  • Paintings, drawings, and sculptures
  • Published results of research studies
  • Published results of scientific experiments
  • Published results of clinical trials
  • Proceedings of conferences and meetings
Secondary Sources
  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Literary Criticism
  • Book, Art, and Theater Reviews
  • Newspaper articles that interpret
  • Publications about the significance of research or experiments
  • Analysis of a clinical trial
  • Review of the results of several experiments or trials


Specific Examples

  Primary Source Secondary Source
Literature “Song of Myself” (Poem) Journal article about the poem’s historical importance
Psychology Results of clinical trial to treat ADD by modifying diet Book about ways to treat childhood ADD without drugs
Politics and Government U.S. Census Statistics Book about suburban population changes in U.S.
History Recorded interview with Choctaw American Indian Journal article about Native Americans who served in WWII
Social Science Diary of Anne Frank Book about diaries kept during the Holocaust
Art Photographs by Diane Arbus Magazine article about 20th century female photographers

From Thomas, Susan. "Primary versus Secondary Sources,"  Borough of Manhattan Community College Library Website. 28 April, 2015. Web. 

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