SOCIAL RESEARCH METHODS An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

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Rhodes University, Department of Sociology


An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

Second Term, General Sociology 2

Lecturer: Tarryn Alexander


The second-year Research Methodology course will run from Monday 11 April – Friday 27 May. This foundation course takes place over seven weeks and covers eight major sections of work geared towards developing your basic understanding of the concepts, terminology, designs, processes and problems which ground the world of social research.

At first glance Research Methods may look like a technical course alongside the more abstract sociological subjects you have encountered thus far. In some sense, this is true –being able to do research is indeed a practical skill! However, an introduction to research methods must encompass more than practical know-how. This is because the domain of social research speaks to key issues around the production of truth. In fact methodology speaks to the heart of academic life, looking at the systems which scholars have come up with over time to gather information about people and social organisation. As you will come to see –methodology is itself a very complex field with many abstract questions which arise

from the diverse ways in which new knowledge is produced. Research is an integral part of what C. Wright Mills called our

“intellectual craftsmanship”. It is in this spirit that social research methods will be introduced!

This course will introduce you to research techniques as well as some philosophical and political issues around social research.


Course Diary:

Theme One: The world of social research: Learning the Language

What is research? ; Starting points for research; The Research process; The history of applying scientific methods to questions of society; The philosophy of science; The Qualitative and Quantitative Paradigms; Inductive and Deductive Research Designs; Ontologies and Epistemologies

Hand-in Assignment no.1 due 29 April

Theme Two: “The Qualitative Thing”- Doing Qualitative Research/Getting to grips with the “emic” building blocks

Interviews; Focus Groups; Ethnography; Qualitative Analysis and Grounded Theory

Guest presentations on qualitative research carried out by a social researcher 25 April

Theme Three: “The Quantitative Thing”: Quantitative Orientations/Analysing social relationships using variables and numbers

Quantitative research designs; Empirical questions; Independent and Dependent variables; Operationalization; Elementary statistics

Theme Four: Sampling


Theme Five: A Review of Methodological trends in South African Sociology

Critically reviewing the dominant methodological approaches in South African sociological research.

*Rhodes Library Workshop *

You will be assigned to one of the four sessions:

Friday 06 May * 7th & 8th Periods * (First half of the class)

Friday 13 May * 7th & 8th Periods* (Second half of the class)

The class will be divided into four groups, and each group will attend only one of the four workshop sessions.

Theme Six: Mixed Methods Research

The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Guest presentations on mixed methods research carried out by a social researcher 09 May

Theme Seven: Two challenges facing methodology in the social sciences: Institutional limits to creativity & the politics of representation

Cautioning against ‘methodolatry’; The complex power relations between researcher and subject communities ; Speaking on behalf of others ; Alternative epistemes ; Use-oriented research ; Understanding the potential role of research in contributing to social justice issues ; The tradition of androcentrism and representing women’s subjectivities in and through research.


Hand-in Assignment no.2 due 13 May

Theme Eight: Politics and Legalities: Understanding Ethical Guidelines

Understanding the rules which govern ethical research as enshrined formally by research institutions ; Understanding ‘deception’ in research ; Protecting the research participant in the practice of data gathering.

*Class Test: 20 May *** Exam Revision


Course Objectives

To use the prescribed literature in the syllabus as well as the research textbooks on short loan to understand the themes introduced in lectures.

To use the various journal articles and academic papers loaded on to RUConnected on a daily basis to deepen your discussion and illustration of course themes.


Course Structure and Reading Requirements


Daily lectures are here to set the framework for what is important and to give you an opportunity to engage with the lecturer and other students on the material. Lectures will therefore cover main points but cannot in themselves prepare you for exams. Constant individual reading and revision is required.

Lectures for this course will be given on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays in the Arts Major venue. It is

important to note that three periods are set aside for this course every Friday. There is a formal lecture in

the morning (10:30 – 11:15am) and there is a double period (2:15-3:55pm) set aside for this class on Friday afternoons. The double periods on a Friday afternoon can be used for guest lectures, formal lectures, class tests, tutorials and library workshops. Each Monday the full plan for the week ahead will be set out in class.


Preparing for topics ahead of time will make lectures so much more valuable – it allows you to listen more meaningfully to what is being said in class. A passive attitude to reading and class participation limits critical engagement, and ultimately your learning. So do preparatory reading. Even better, form study groups and discuss ideas amongst yourselves before they’re introduced in lectures!


The themes covered in this course can be found in all introductory social research textbooks. There are hundreds of social research books stocked in the library. It is important for you to study the course’s main themes (qualitative,


quantitive designs, sampling, and ethics etcetera) from as many different books as possible. More specific literature will be posted on RU Connected for different sections. Class slides will also indicate the core areas of work you need to study from textbooks. Below are a list of recommended readings that are on short loan, and articles which are available on the library’s e-journal database.

Short Loan:

Babbie, E. and Mouton, J. 2001. The Practice of Social Research. Cape Town: Oxford Press Bryman, A. 2012. Social Research Methods. 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sarantakos, S. 2012. Social Research. Palgrave Macmillan. Articles:

Basson, I. and Prozesky, H.E. 2015. A Review of Methodological Trends in South African Sociology, 1990-2009.

South African Review of Sociology. 46(3): 4-27

Emke, I. 1996. Methodology and Methodolatry: Creativity and the impoverishment of the Imagination in Sociology. The Canadian Journal of Sociology. 21 (1): 77-90

Golafshani, N. 2003. Understanding Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report 8 (4): 597-607

Kura, S.Y.B. 2012. Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches to the Study of Poverty: Taming the Tensions and Appreciating the Complementarities .The Qualitative Report17 (34): 1 – 19.


Marks, M. Researching Police Transformation: The Ethnographic Imperative. British Journal of Criminology

44: 866-888

Modavela, M., Simon, van Stadec, D and Buchbinder, M. 2005. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) in South Africa: Engaging multiple constituents to shape the research question. Social Science & Medicine 61: 2577-2587

Pillay, V. 2010. White women speak, black women write: the politics of locution and location in the other researching the not other. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 24(6): 657-672

Sale, E, Lohfeld, L and Brazil, K. 2002. Revisiting the Quantitative-Qualitative Debate: Implications for Mixed-Methods Research. Quality and Quantity 36: 45-53

Seekings, J. 2001. The uneven development of quantitative social science in South Africa. Social Dynamics


Soble, A. 1978. Deception in Social Science Research: Is Informed Consent Possible? The Hasting Center Report.

8 (5): 40 – 46

Winslow, S., Hobbs, D., Lister, S. and Hadfield, P. 2001 . Get ready to duck: Bouncers and the Realities of Ethnographic Research on Violent Groups. British Journal of Criminology 41 : 536-548

PowerPoint slides will be made available on RUConnected. These slides are there mainly to indicate important concepts and prescribed readings.


Basic research methodology textbooks in the university library are to be consulted by students.

Methods of Assessment

 2 Hand-in assignments

 A class test (20 May)

 An exam

Your class mark will comprise 40% of your course mark. This mark will be made up of your results in the class test as well as 3 assignment submissions that you will make during the term. Only students with a valid LOA will be allowed to submit assignments beyond due dates.


In the mid-year examination Research Methodology will comprise half of the Sociology paper and 60% of your total course mark.

Library Workshops

06 and 13 May 2015

The class will be divided into groups for a compulsory library workshop on this day.


Appointments for consultations can be arranged via e-mail or telephone. You are encouraged to seek assistance with course material throughout the term, and not simply to approach the lecturer for last minute help before an exam or assessment.

Tarryn Alexander

Department of Sociology 046-603-8930 / 046-603-8361