What is Quantitative Research in Sociology? - Definition, Methods & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is Social Science Research? - Definition, Methods & Topics

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 What is Quantitative Research?
  • 0:53 Quantitative Research Methods
  • 8:22 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister

Jessica has a Doctorate degree in Social Work

The following lesson provides an overview of quantitative research including discussion of surveys, pre/post designs, pre-existing data, pilot studies, and experiments as well as examples of how each can be used in sociology.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of data that is quantifiable. What does this mean? For data to be quantifiable, the data must be able to be counted or mathematically calculated. Also, quantitative research provides a means for researchers to be able to generate statistics with the data that is collected.

The general idea of quantitative research is to get information that can be inferred (or generalized) to large populations of people. This concept is referred to as generalizability. For example, if you wanted to know the differences between neighboring states in terms of attitude towards state government, a quantitative research design would offer comparison and statistics to demonstrate the differences between both states.

Quantitative Research Methods

There are many methods of quantitative research in the field of sociology. The following provides an overview of most of the popular methods.


One of the more popular methods of quantitative research uses surveys to collect data. Surveys can be used in many different ways including asking people to complete a survey in front of a busy retail store, dropping off surveys at local businesses or agencies, or sending surveys out to people through the mail system. Regardless of how it's distributed, the result is that the survey can be given to large populations of people.

One of the downfalls to using surveys to collect data is that not everyone you give the survey to will complete it or send it back to you. However, the benefit is that you can collect a lot of data in a short amount of time!

Examples of Survey Research in Sociology:

  • Create a 10-question survey focusing on satisfaction of services provided by your agency
  • Create a questionnaire seeking information related to political preferences
  • Create a short survey as part of an intake session for your local social service provider

Pre/Post Designs

A lot of quantitative research involves the use of pre/post designs. A pre/post design would be used when you want to look at data toward the beginning of a sociological intervention and then again after the intervention has occurred. In this type of design, you would provide a survey or questionnaire to someone or a group of people and then have them participate in something, such as a treatment group or an activity (an intervention), then give them the same survey or questionnaire after they completed the intervention. The idea of a pre/post design is to compare the surveys or questionnaire to determine if the intervention has impacted or improved their situation.

Example of Pre/Post Designs in Sociology:

  • You might create a simple survey asking about alcohol consumption and daily activities. Then, the person completing the survey would participate in a treatment program for 12 weeks. Finally, you would give them the same survey you gave them before the treatment and compare the first and second survey to each other to see if the treatment encouraged change or improvement in the alcohol consumption and daily activities.

Pre-Existing Data

Sometimes it's beneficial to use pre-existing data (also referred to as secondary data) to inform an inquiry or research question. Pre-existing data can include information from the National Census Bureau, state or federal data sheets from the Center for Disease Control, or could be from a study that has already been completed where you might want to expand on or collect additional information. Popular quantitative studies using pre-existing data are often conducted in both state and federal child welfare programs where databases store foster care and adoptive statistics.

Using pre-existing data is generally a quicker method. However, the downfall is that you do not have any control over how the data was collected, what questions were asked, and you are often left sifting through large piles of information that may not be applicable to your project.

Example of Using Pre-Existing Data in Sociology:

  • Many sociologists are interested in exploring human behavior and childhood disorders. Another example of using pre-existing data would be to access the National Database for Autism Spectrum Disorders. This website is affiliated with the National Institute of Health (NIH) located in Maryland. The NIH is a federally-funded program conducting research in just about every topic imaginable in the social sciences. They also provide data files that can be directly downloaded in statistical packaging programs to use and analyze directly.

Pilot Studies

Another method of quantitative research can include a pilot study. Often, researchers are interested in exploring or describing a concept or phenomenon. Maybe the researcher is interested in creating a new intervention or studying an issue that has not been fully studied before. In this case, you would use a pilot study. Often, pre/post surveys are used in pilot studies as a way to determine the effectiveness of interventions. In general, pilot studies focus on adding more depth and breadth to a topic not yet fully explored.

Examples of Using Pilot Studies in Sociology:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account