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Social research methods

Explore our work in social research methods, one of our 4 areas of expertise in Sociology

In our social research methods work, we're investigating the different methods, tools, and techniques for studying social phenomena and generating information and data about all aspects of social life.

The distinction needs to be drawn between qualitative and quantitative social research methods. It is the nature or character of the research – the questions to be explored, the phenomena or processes to be studied – that determines the research design and which methods will be most appropriate.

We use a range of research methods to investigate empirical phenomena and social processes relating to a range of social science topics – including social class, taste, identity, race and racism, postcolonialism, gender inequality, the night-time economy, social values, inequalities, food consumption, consumerism, work and employment, happiness and well-being, and ageing and embodiment.

Our research covers the following topics


  • Interviewing/interviews, including life history/oral history and focus groups
  • Ethnographic approaches such as observation and participant observation
  • Surveys and questionnaire design
  • Case studies, archival research and historical method(s)
  • Content analysis, textual analysis and semiotics
  • Discourse analysis, discursive psychology, and conversation analysis
  • Arts-based methods and photo-elicitation
  • Social network analysis
  • Epistemology and the philosophy of social science
  • Ethical issues in social research
  • Social criticism and critique


We have partnerships with:

  • International Sociological Association (ISA)
  • European Sociological Association (ESA)
  • British Sociological Association (BSA)
  • Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU)
  • University and College Union (UCU)
  • Vegan Society
  • Research Advisory Committee of the Vegan Society
  • All Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism
  • Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Social research methods is one of 4 areas of expertise in our Sociology research area. Explore the others below.

Sociology of culture

We're probing the link between culture and power, confronting societal issues, and looking at the ideological function of culture in naturalising them.
Man wearing Gucci trainers in London
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Identities and inequalities

We're asking questions around who we are, who is different from us, and who we want to be, to challenge structural violence and reduce inequality.
Boy in Delhi, India, collecting rubbish
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Social theory

We're drawing on classical and contemporary social thought, philosophy, political economy, social anthropology and history to explain and analyse social processes, issues, and concerns.
Young child holding sign at a climate change protest
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Research groups

Citizenship, Race and Belonging

We're researching issues around citizenship and why people are considered to belong within certain nation-states.


Interested in a PhD in Sociology?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Sociology & Gender Studies postgraduate research degrees page.