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PSC/SOC 340/JS 504: Social Science Research Methods

Explanation of the parts of a scientific research article, how to read scientific articles, books about the research process, how to do a literature review, forming hypotheses, research design, research instruments, finding statistics & survey results.

Differences in a Nutshell

In the world of research, there are two general approaches to gathering and reporting information: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative research generates non-numerical data while quantitative research generates numerical data or information that can be converted into numbers.

Comparison of the Characteristics of Qualitative & Quantitative Articles

UTA Libraries. Quantitative and Qualitative Research: Distinguishing Article Type. Last Updated: Aug 21, 2018 2:45 PM  URL:

How to determine which type of article you may have found

NOTE: Check to see if the study type is at the top or in the title.

If so, skip to questions 3a & 3b.

1. Does it have Method and Results sections?


a) If not, the article is secondary research (typically a review).

b) If it does have Method and Results sections, continue to step 2.



2. In the Method section, does it talk about a literature search strategy?


a) If you answered yes, it is a systematic review or meta-analysis.

b) If you answered no, and that section describes a research study
(research participants, an intervention, etc.), 
it is original research. Continue to step 3 to determine its type.



STEP 3: Now, let's determine what type of original research this is.


3a. In the Method section, is the study described as an interview, observation, or questionnaire? Does the study involve looking into self-reported beliefs, thoughts, etc.?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a qualitative study.

b) If you answered no, see 3b.

3b. In the Method section, does the study describe the use of already-existing data (for example, reviewing patient admissions from the past 3 months)?

aIf you answered yes, it’s a retrospective study.

b) If you answered no, see 3c.


3c. In the Method or Results sections/areas, does it mention using quantitative analyses or statistical tests (e.g., ANOVA, t-test, p values)?



aIf you answered yes, it’s a quantitative study.

b) If you answered no, it’s qualitative.


BONUS. Are 3a AND 3c both true?  In other words, does the study use BOTH  quantitative and qualitative methods?

If so, it's a mixed methods study.


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