We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


Approaches to Social Research

Sixth Edition

Royce A. Singleton and Bruce C. Straits

Publication Date - 27 June 2017

ISBN: 9780190614249

672 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

A rigorous yet accessible research methods text for advanced students in the social sciences


Revised and updated in its sixth edition, Approaches to Social Research is a rigorous yet clear and engaging introduction to research methods. Covering all of the fundamentals in a straightforward, student-friendly manner, it is ideal for undergraduate- and graduate-level courses across the social sciences and also serves as an indispensable guide for researchers. Striking a balance between specific techniques and the underlying logic of scientific inquiry, this book provides a lucid treatment of the four major approaches to research: experimentation, survey research, field research, and the use of available data. Richly developed examples of empirical research and an emphasis on the research process enable students to better understand the real-world application of research methods. The authors also offer a unique chapter (13) advocating a multiple-methods strategy.

New to this Edition

  • 184 new references, twenty-two new research examples, and eleven new key terms
  • Updated data in tables and figures
  • Improved clarity and flow of chapters
  • New sections and sub-sections on topics including "Big Data" and "Publishing a Research Paper"
  • Many new interesting and rigorous examples of social research

About the Author(s)

Royce A. Singleton, Jr., is Professor of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

Bruce C. Straits is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


"I love the approach of this book. It puts methods at the center of sociology."--Erin Ruel, Georgia State University

"Approaches to Social Research views research as a process, breaking it down into a series of stages and decision points. I find this approach one of its greatest strengths. I regularly recommend this book to colleagues teaching graduate research methods courses, citing its comprehensiveness, clarity, and key strengths."--Zachary Neal, Michigan State University

"I have consistently used Approaches to Social Research in my graduate quantitative methods course. It stands out as one of the best, offering well-rounded approaches to social scientific research. In addition, the book provides the real-world examples that my students crave. It presents the material in an unintimidating and highly comprehensible manner."--Lindsey A. Harvell, James Madison University

"The major strength of this book is its comprehensive character. It was written by sociologists but is comprehensive enough and written so that it can be useful to psychology, political science, and other disciplines across the social sciences. This is a very good methods textbook."--Jason Rodriquez, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1. Introduction

    Why Study Research Methods?
    Consuming Research Evidence
    Producing Research Evidence

    Methodological Approaches to the Social World
    Some Preliminary Research Questions
    An Experimental Answer
    An Answer from Survey Research
    An Answer from Field Research
    An Answer from Available Data
    An Overview of the Book


    Chapter 2. The Nature of Science

    The Aim of Science
    Science as Product
    Scientific versus Nonscientific Questions
    Knowledge as Description
    Knowledge as Explanation and Prediction
    Knowledge as Understanding
    Tentative Knowledge

    Science as Process
    Durkheim's Study of Suicide
    Logical Reasoning

    Critiques of Scientific Inquiry
    The Ideal and the Reality of Scientific Inquiry
    Alternative Models of Social "Science"


    Chapter 3. Research Ethics
    Data Collection and Analysis
    Treatment of Human Subjects
    Informed Consent

    Making Ethical Decisions
    Values in Social Research: Science and Society
    The Issue of Value Neutrality
    Managing Personal Values
    The Application of Research Findings



    Chapter 4. Elements of Research Design

    Origins of Research Topics
    Units of Analysis
    Aggregate Data
    Ecological Fallacy

    Types of Variables
    Relationships among Qualitative Variables
    Relationships among Quantitative Variables
    Relationships between a Qualitative and a Quantitative Variable
    Statistically Significant Relationships
    The Nature of Causal Relationships
    Formulating Questions and Hypotheses
    Research Purposes and Research Design
    Stages of Social Research
    Stage 1: Formulation of the Research Question
    Stage 2: Preparation of the Research Design
    Stage 3: Measurement
    Stage 4: Sampling
    Stage 5: Data Collection
    Stage 6: Data Processing
    Stage 7: Data Analysis and Interpretation


    Chapter 5. Measurement
    The Measurement Process

    Operational Definitions in Social Research
    Verbal Reports
    Archival Records
    Selection of Operational Definitions

    Levels of Measurement
    Nominal Measurement
    Ordinal Measurement
    Interval Measurement
    Ratio Measurement
    Reliability and Validity
    Sources of Error
    Reliability Assessment
    Test-Retest Reliability
    Split-Half and Internal Consistency Reliability
    Intercoder Reliability
    Improving Reliability
    Validity Assessment
    Subjective Validation
    Criterion-Related Validation
    Construct Validation
    A Final Note on Reliability and Validity

    Chapter 6. Sampling
    Why Sample?
    Population Definition
    Sampling Designs
    Probability Sampling
    Random Selection
    Simple Random Sampling
    Stratified Random Sampling
    Cluster Sampling
    Systematic Sampling
    Nonprobability Sampling
    Convenience Sampling
    Purposive Sampling
    Quota Sampling
    Other Sampling Designs
    Combined Probability and Nonprobability Sampling
    Referral Sampling
    Factors Affecting Choice of Sampling Design
    Stage of Research and Data Use
    Available Resources
    Method of Data Collection
    Factors Determining Sample Size
    Population Heterogeneity
    Desired Precision
    Sampling Design
    Available Resources
    Number of Breakdowns Planned
    Final Notes on Sampling Errors and Generalizability


    Chapter 7. Experimentation

    The Logic of Experimentation
    Testing Causal Relations
    Matching and Random Assignment
    Internal and External Validity
    Sampling in Experiments

    Staging Experiments
    An Example: Who Will Intervene?
    Subject Recruitment and Acquisition of Informed Consent
    Introduction to the Experiment
    The Experimental Manipulation
    Manipulation Checks
    Measurement of the Dependent Variable
    Experimental and Mundane Realism

    The Experiment as a Social Occasion
    Demand Characteristics
    Evaluation Apprehension
    Other Motives of Experimental Subjects
    Experimenter Effects
    Minimizing Bias Due to the Social Nature of Experimentation
    Experimentation Outside the Laboratory
    Field Experiments
    Experimental Designs in Survey Research
    Units of Analysis Other than Individuals

    Chapter 8. Experimental Designs
    Threats to Internal Validity
    Pre-experimental Designs
    Design 1: The One-Shot Case Study
    Design 2: The One-Group Pretest-Posttest Design
    Design 3: The Static Group Comparison

    True Experimental Designs
    Design 4: The Pretest-Posttest Control Group Design
    Design 5: The Posttest-Only Control Group Design
    Design 6: The Solomon Four-Group Design
    Within-Subjects Designs
    Overview of True Experimental Designs

    Factorial Experimental Designs
    Interaction Effects
    Quasi-experimental Designs
    Example 1: Interracial Attitudes and Behavior at a Summer Camp
    Example 2: The Connecticut
    Crackdown on Speeding

    Chapter 9. Survey Research
    General Features of Survey Research
    Large-Scale Probability Sampling
    Systematic Procedures: Interviews and Questionnaires
    Quantitative Data Analysis
    Secondary Analysis of Surveys
    Survey Research Designs
    Cross-Sectional Designs
    Longitudinal Designs
    Steps in Survey Research: Planning
    Face-to-Face and Telephone Interviewing
    Face-to-Face Interviewing
    Telephone Interviewing
    Paper-and-Pencil Questionnaires
    Computer-Assisted Self-Interviews
    Mixed-Mode Surveys
    Field Administration
    Interviewer Selection
    Interviewer Training
    Gaining Access

    Supervision and Quality Control
    Follow-Up Efforts

    Strengths and Limitations of Surveys

    Chapter 10. Survey Instrumentation
    The Survey as a Social Occasion
    Materials Available to the Survey Designer
    Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions
    Direct and Indirect Questions
    Response Formats
    Visual and Media Aids
    Existing Questions
    "Sketches" or Preliminaries
    The Opening
    The Placement of Sensitive and Routine Questions
    Order, Flow, and Transition

    Filling in the Sketch: Writing the Items
    Using Language Effectively
    The "Frame of Reference" Problem
    Reason Analysis
    Memory Problems
    Response Bias Problems
    Format Considerations
    Mixed-Mode Instrument Designs
    Cognitive Laboratory Interviews
    Field Pretesting


    Chapter 11. Field Research
    General Features of Field Research
    Rudimentary, Emergent Research Design
    Direct Observation in Natural Settings
    Unstructured and Semi-structured Interviewing
    Qualitative Data Analysis
    Stages of Field Research
    A Field Study of the Homeless
    Selecting a Research Setting
    Gaining Access
    Presenting Oneself
    Gathering Information
    Analyzing the Data
    Strengths and Limitations of Field Research

    Chapter 12. Research Using Available Data
    Sources of Available Data
    Public Documents and Official Records
    Private Documents
    Mass Media
    Physical, Nonverbal Evidence
    Social Science Data Archives
    Big Data
    General Methodological Issues in Available-Data Research
    Searching for and Procuring Available Data
    Measurement of Key Concepts
    Data Evaluation and Adjustment
    Assessment of Data Completeness
    Historical Analysis
    Descriptive and Analytical History
    Handling Documentary Evidence
    Historical Interpretation
    Content Analysis
    Selecting and Defining Content Categories
    Defining the Unit of Analysis
    Deciding on a System of Enumeration
    Carrying Out the Analysis
    Strengths and Limitations of Research Using Available Data

    Chapter 13. Multiple Methods
    Multiple Measures of Concepts within the Same Study
    Composite Measures: Indexes and Scales
    Structural Equation Modeling
    Multiple Tests of Hypotheses across Different Studies
    Replications Using the Same Research Strategy: Social Exclusion and Helping
    Replications Using Different Research Strategies
    A Comparison of the Four Basic Approaches to Social Research
    Problem Formulation
    Data Collection
    Data Evaluation
    Analysis and Interpretation
    Public Presentation


    Chapter 14. Evaluation Research
    Framework and Sample Studies
    Example 1: Aid to Released Prisoners
    Example 2: Curbing Drunk Driving
    Example 3:Immunizing against Gang Membership and Delinquency
    Types of Evaluation Research
    Problem Identification: Conceptualization and Diagnosis
    Policy Planning: Needs and Social Impact Assessments
    Program Development: Formative Evaluation

    Program Implementation: Process Evaluation
    Program Evaluation: Effect and Efficiency Assessment

    Methodological Issues in Evaluation Research
    Theory as a Guide to Research
    Research Design and Internal Validity
    Measurement Validity
    External Validity
    The Social and Political Context of Evaluation Research


    Chapter 15. Data Processing and Elementary Data Analysis

    Preview of Analysis Steps
    Data Processing
    Entering the Data
    Data Matrices and Documentation
    The Functions of Statistics in Social Research
    Inspecting and Modifying the Data
    Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    Interval- and
    Ratio-Scale Variables
    Preliminary Hypothesis Testing
    Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables


    Chapter 16. Multivariate Analysis
    Modeling Relationships
    Arrow Diagrams
    Stochastic and Systematic Components
    The Process of Modeling
    Elaboration: Tables and Beyond
    Multiple-Regression Analysis
    Example 1: The Moral Integration of American Cities
    Example 2: Interscholastic Sports and Academic Achievement
    Example 3: Alcohol Consumption, Sleep, and Academic Performance
    Other Modeling Techniques

    Chapter 17. Writing Research Reports
    Searching the Literature
    Using the Internet
    Using the library

    Outlining and Preparing to Write
    Major Headings
    The Abstract
    Literature Review

    Revision and Other Considerations
    Avoiding Plagiarism

    Publishing a Research Paper

    Name Index
    Subject Index

Related Titles