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The Process of Social Research

Third Edition

Author Jeffrey C. Dixon, Royce A. Singleton, and Bruce C. Straits

Publication Date - 25 February 2022

ISBN: 9780197613733

540 pages
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

An accessible, student-friendly, contemporary methods text that focuses on the process of social research.


Featuring a conversational, engaging, and student-friendly writing style, The Process of Social Research, Third Edition, introduces students to the fundamentals of research. It places a unique emphasis on process with flowcharts in every chapter that provide step-by-step guides for conducting social research and evaluating the research of others. The authors use relatable, everyday examples and carefully selected research examples to make the book accessible to undergraduates. Comprehensive and up-to-date without attempting to be encyclopedic in its coverage, The Process of Social Research provides a balance between qualitative and quantitative research, taking a more integrated approach to describing the relationship between theory and research.

New to this Edition

  • Discussions of how new technologies have been incorporated into social research, including crowdsourcing, online panels, and netnography
  • Coverage of the nascent impact of COVID-19 on social research and ways to challenge misinformation
  • Updated examples throughout that focus on engaging students with research relevant to their daily lives
  • The latest data from the General Social Survey (GSS) and other sources
  • An enhanced eBook, which includes self-assessment quizzes, video clips, matching quizzes, and flashcards


  • Key terms are highlighted and defined in each chapter and also included in the book's comprehensive glossary.
  • Key Points, Review Questions, and Exercises at the end of each chapter reinforce learning objectives.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey C. Dixon is Professor of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

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

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


"The Process of Social Research is one of the most approachable, student-centered social research methods texts that I have found. The authors' ability to connect with an undergraduate audience through relevant examples while maintaining the level of scholarship needed for a course like this is commendable." -- Jessica Grosholz, University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee

"The Process of Social Research not only adopts quantitative and qualitative approaches equally, but lets the students know how important dual methodology is. The authors do an excellent job at explaining the concepts and demonstrating how they apply to real-life research studies. Students will actually want to engage with this material!" -- Sarah Hahn, Mercy College

"The Process of Social Research is very comprehensive. The explanations and examples used in the chapters are very useful and drive home the message of the concept being explained. This is one of the best research methods text that I have read."-- Aramide Kazeem, University of West Georgia

"The Process of Social Research is very informative, well-written, and thorough. I like how the authors use examples of current research, as it helps to connect ideas to real research." David Morris, College of Charleston

Table of Contents

    CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Why Care About Research Methods?
    The Process of Social Research
    Four Social Media Studies
    An Experiment
    A Survey
    A Field Research Study
    An Analysis of Existing Data
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 1.1: Critical Evaluation of Facebook Studies

    CHAPTER 2 Science and Social Research: From Theory to Data and Back
    The Characteristics and Process of Science
    Verifiable Data
    Systematic Observation and Analysis
    Logical Reasoning
    Logics of Inquiry
    Does Contact Change Stereotypes? An Answer from Deductive Inquiry
    How Does Class Matter? An Answer from Inductive Inquiry
    Combining the Logics of Inquiry
    From a Psychological Theory of Suicide to a Sociological One
    Evaluating Science: Possibilities, Cautions, and Limits
    Tentative Knowledge
    The Ideal and Reality of the Scientific Process
    The Sociohistorical Aspect of Science
    The Human Element of Science
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 2.2: Identifying and Analyzing Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 2.3: A Replication or Reproducibility Crisis in Social Science?

    CHAPTER 3 The Ethics and Politics of Research: Doing What's "Right"
    Overview: Ethics
    Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Research Participants
    Potential Harm
    Informed Consent
    Invasion of Privacy
    Federal and Professional Ethical Guidelines
    Evaluating Potential Harm
    Informed Consent Procedures
    Deception Ground Rules
    Privacy Protection: Anonymity and Confidentiality
    The Process of Ethical Decision-Making
    Review Federal Regulations and Professional Ethics Codes
    Assess Costs and Benefits of Proposed Research
    Identify and Address Areas of Ethical Concern
    Prepare and Submit Application for IRB Approval
    Collect Data and Secure Participants' Rights
    Politics and Social Research
    Topic Selection, Political Ideology, and Research Funding
    Data Analysis and Interpretation and Political Ideology
    Dissemination of Research Findings: Science, Politics, and Public Policy
    The Intersection of Ethics and Politics in Social Research
    A Case Study: Research on Same-Sex Parenting
    Conflict of Interest
    Social Responsibility
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 3.1: Privacy Invasion in the Public Identification of Participants
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 3.2: Ethics Practice Questions
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 3.3: Principles and Recommendations for Ethical Data Collection and Analysis

    CHAPTER 4 Research Designs: It Depends on the Question
    Initial Steps in the Research Process
    Select Research Topic
    Review the Literature/Consider Theory
    Formulate Research Question
    Prepare Research Design
    Designing Research to Answer Quantitative Questions
    Select a Research Strategy
    Identify and Select Units of Analysis
    Measure Variables
    Gather Data and Analyze the Relationships Among Variables
    Designing Research to Answer Qualitative Questions
    Select Research Strategy
    Select Field Setting, Social Group, and/or Archival Records
    Gain Access and Establish Relationships
    Decide Whom to Observe or Interview or What to Read
    Gather and Analyze Data
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 4.1: How to Search the Literature
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 4.2: The Ecological Fallacy
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 4.3: Quantitative Research Questions, Units of Analysis, and Variables
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 4.4: How to Interpret Correlations and Tests of Statistical Significance

    CHAPTER 5 Measurement: Linking Theory to Research
    Overview: The Measurement Process
    Conceptualization and Operationalization
    Variations in Operational Definitions: Data Sources
    Manipulated Versus Measured Operations
    Sources of Measured Operational Definitions
    Variations in Operational Definitions: Levels of Measurement
    Nominal Measurement
    Ordinal Measurement
    Interval Measurement
    Ratio Measurement
    Select and Apply Operational Definitions to Produce Data
    Assess the Quality of Operational Definitions
    Forms of Reliability Assessment
    Forms of Validity Assessment
    The Feedback Loop: From Data Back to Concepts and Measurement
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.1: Improving Measurement with Composite Measures
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 5.2: Inferring Level of Measurement from Operational Definitions
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.3: Indexes, Scales, and Scaling Techniques
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.4: Measurement Error and the Social Desirability Effect

    CHAPTER 6 Sampling: Case Selection as a Basis for Inference
    Overview: The Sampling Process
    Principles of Probability Sampling
    Probability and Random Selection
    Probability Distribution and Sampling Error
    Sampling Distributions
    Statistical Inference
    Steps in Probability Sampling
    Define Target Population
    Construct Sampling Frame
    Devise Sampling Design
    Determine Sample Size
    Draw Sample
    Nonprobability Sampling
    Overview of Nonprobability Sampling
    Steps in Nonprobability Sampling
    Making Inferences from Nonprobability Samples
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.1: How to Select Things Randomly
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 6.2: The Principles of Probability Sampling as Applied to the 2020 Pre-election Polls
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.3: Assessing Nonresponse Bias and
    Overall Sample Quality
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.4: Methodological Issues Related to Sampling via Crowdsourcing and Online Panels

    CHAPTER 7 Experiments: What Causes What?
    Introductory Example: Misconduct in Criminal Prosecution
    The Logic of Experimentation
    Variations on the Experimental Method
    Variations in Experimental Design
    Variations in Experimental Context
    The Process of Conducting Experiments
    Participant Recruitment and Informed Consent
    Introduction to the Experiment
    Experimental Manipulation and Random Assignment
    Manipulation Checks
    Measurement of the Dependent Variable
    Strengths and Weaknesses of Experiments
    Internal Validity
    External Validity
    Reactive Measurement Effects
    Content Restrictions
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 7.1: The Difference Between Random Sampling and Random Assignment
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 7.2: Informed Consent Form for an Experiment
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 7.3: Thinking Critically About Research Designs and Threats to Internal Validity

    CHAPTER 8 Surveys: Questioning and Sampling
    Introductory Example: The Constructing the Family Survey
    General Features of Survey Research
    Large-Scale Probability Sampling
    Structured Interviews or Questionnaires
    Quantitative Data Analysis
    Variations in Survey Designs and Modes
    Survey Research Designs
    Data-Collection Modes
    The Process of Planning and Conducting a Survey
    Choose Mode of Data Collection
    Construct and Pretest Questionnaire
    Choose Sampling Frame/Design and Select Sample
    Recruit Sample and Collect Data
    Code and Edit Data
    Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys
    Generalization to Populations
    Establishing Causal Relationships
    Measurement Issues
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.1: Open-Ended Versus Closed-Ended Questions in Survey Research
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.2: Writing Survey Questions
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.3: Informed Consent Statement in the Constructing the Family Survey

    CHAPTER 9 Field Research and In-Depth Interviews: Systematic People-Watching and Listening
    Introductory Field Research Example: Mexican New York
    Introductory In-Depth Interview Example: Mexican Americans Across Generations
    General Features of Qualitative Research
    Supplementary Archival and Other Data
    Nonprobability Sampling
    Qualitative Data Analysis
    Variations in Qualitative Research Methods
    Degrees of Participation and Observation
    Overt Versus Covert Observation
    Interview Structure
    Individual Versus Group Interviews
    Technological Developments Crosscutting Observations and Interviews
    The Process of Conducting Field Research
    Select Setting/Group
    Gain Access
    Establish Roles and Relationships
    Decide What to Observe/Whom to Interview
    Gather and Analyze Data
    Leave the Field
    Write the Report
    The Process of Conducting In-Depth Interviews
    Select and Recruit Interviewees
    Develop Interview Guide
    Gather Data
    Analyze Data
    Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research
    Naturalistic Approach
    Subjective and Contextual Understanding
    Flexible Research Design
    Reliability and Validity
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 9.1: The "Nacirema" and Reflexivity
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 9.2: Getting an Insider's View of Students by Passing as One
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 9.3: Preparing for an In-Depth Interview

    CHAPTER 10 Existing Data Analysis: Using Data from Secondhand Sources
    Sources and Examples of Existing Data
    Public Documents and Official Records
    Private Documents
    Mass Media
    Physical, Nonverbal Evidence
    Social Science Data Archives
    Analysis of Existing Statistical Data
    Existing Statistics Example: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing
    The Process of Analyzing Existing Statistics
    Content Analysis
    Content Analysis Example: Journalistic Accounts of the Iraq War
    The Process of Content Analysis
    Comparative Historical Analysis
    An Example of Comparative Historical Analysis: The Emergence of Mass Imprisonment
    The Process of Comparative Historical Analysis
    Strengths and Limitations of Existing Data Analysis
    Studying Social Structure, History, and Social Change
    Nonreactive Measurement
    Cost Efficiency
    Data Limitations
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 10.1: The Big Data Revolution
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 10.2: Identifying Units of Analysis
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 10.3: Analyzing the Content of Cell Phone Use

    CHAPTER 11 Multiple Methods: Two or More Approaches Are Better Than One
    A Comparison of Four Basic Approaches to Social Research
    Examples of Mixed Methods Research
    Effect of Abuse on Marriage and Cohabitation
    What Employers Say Versus What They Do
    Explaining Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market
    Unpredictability and Unequal Control of Work Schedules and Time
    Purposes of Mixed Methods Research
    Mixed-Methods Research Designs
    Sequential Designs
    Concurrent Designs
    Component Designs
    Integrated Designs
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 11.1: Limitations and Guidelines for Doing Mixed Methods Research

    CHAPTER 12 Quantitative Data Analysis: Using Statistics for Description and Inference
    Introductory Example of Survey Data Analysis: Drinking and Grades
    Introductory Overview: The Process of Quantitative Analysis
    Prepare Data for Computerized Analysis: Data Processing
    Entering the Data
    Inspect and Modify Data
    Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables
    Carry Out Preliminary Hypothesis Testing
    Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables
    Conduct Multivariate Testing
    Elaboration of Contingency Tables
    Multiple Regression
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 12.1: Codebook Documentation
    CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 12.2: The Meaning of Statistical Significance and Strength of Association
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 12.3: The Impact of Statistical Assumptions in Quantitative Data Analysis

    CHAPTER 13 Qualitative Data Analysis: Searching for Meaning
    Introductory Example: Homelessness in Austin, Texas
    Overview: A Process of Analyzing Qualitative Data
    Prepare Data
    Transform the Data to Readable Text
    Check for and Resolve Errors
    Manage the Data
    Identify Concepts, Patterns, and Relationships
    Data Displays
    Draw and Evaluate Conclusions
    Variations in Qualitative Data Analysis
    Grounded Theory Methods
    Narrative Analysis
    Conversation Analysis
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 13.1: Coding Textual Data
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 13.2: From Displays Back to Data

    CHAPTER 14 Reading and Writing in Social Research: It's All About Communication
    Read, Take Notes, and Write Research Proposal
    Locate Relevant Research Literature
    Read and Evaluate Prior Research
    Formulate Research Question
    Design Research and Prepare Proposal
    Write Research Report
    Outline and Prepare to Write
    Write First Draft
    Revision and Other Writing Considerations
    READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 14.1: Questions to Ask in Evaluating a Research Report
    DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 14.2: ASA Guidelines for In-Text Citations and References

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