I hope that by this point you’re convinced to read on a little further. Let me take an optimistic stance and give you an idea about what to expect for the next few hundred pages. As mentioned previously, three main goals shape the choices made about which materials are provided in the text and how those materials are presented. The first of those goals is for the materials presented in this text to have clear relevance to you whether you choose to pursue a career in research or not. In addition, you’ll find that equal time and attention has been given to qualitative and quantitative research methods. Because sociological researchers use both types of methodology, it is important that sociology students gain an understanding of both approaches to research. Finally, I hope that you will find this text engaging and readable. Conducting research is a rewarding and exciting activity. Reading about research should be rewarding as well and, if not always exciting, it certainly shouldn’t put you to sleep.
A quick glance at the table of contents will tell you that there are 15 chapters in all, each contained within some overarching subject group. After we spend the next couple of chapters introducing some general points and concerns about social research, we’ll gradually get more specific.
Chapter 4 "Beginning a Research Project" through Chapter 7 "Sampling" outline the procedures involved in planning a research project. We’ll consider how to begin a research project, how to design a project, and some issues related to measurement and sampling. Next we’ll move on to the most exciting part of the research process: collecting data. In Chapter 8 "Survey Research: A Quantitative Technique" through Chapter 12 "Other Methods of Data Collection and Analysis", we’ll grant equal time to qualitative and quantitative research methods and examine the methods most commonly used in sociological research.
The final set of chapters focuses on the social context of research. In this section, we’ll revisit some of the points introduced here in Chapter 1 "Introduction" by reminding ourselves of why any of what you’ve read matters. We’ll take a look at some of the principles and practices involved in sharing one’s work; consider some tips for being responsible consumers of social scientific research; and review some of the ways that knowledge in research methods comes in handy for those interested in jobs, social change, or simply being engaged members of society.
What will be the payoff to you for reading all this material? Hopefully you will feel you’ve gained a real understanding of research methods, how and why they are relevant to you, and the importance of methods to sociological understanding about our world.