Social research methods

  • This guide is designed for Sociology, Politics and International Relations students to help you find resources and support covering social research methods. It may also be useful for students of other subjects but note that social research methods are often discipline-specific. Always check your module reading list and Moodle course for guidance on recommended resources and contact the relevant Module Leader or tutor for further advice. 

  • The Library holds a wide range of books on social research methods and some selected key titles are listed here. In the JHB Library you’ll find these and other books on social research methods on Level 2. Check LibrarySearch for full details of what’s available. In many cases earlier editions of these key textbooks are also available and there may also be e-book versions.

    Check your module reading lists for titles recommended by your tutors. The module’s online reading list should be available via Moodle or search for it through the Library's Reading lists search .

    SPSS (produced by IBM) is a statistical package designed to present and analyse quantitative data. The software is available on networked computers across Brookes University. The University's SPSS licence also allows you to install the package on your own computer for free. This PDF guide shows you how to install the software and give details of help resources.

    Useful books:

    See this list of books on social research methods which includes titles on ethics in social research. Check your reading list for other recommended titles.

    Examples of ethics guidelines:

    Oxford Brookes University Research ethics

    ESRC ESRC guidance on research ethics

    Social Research Association Ethics guidance

    British Sociological Association (BSA) Guidelines on Ethical Research (2017)

    The following journals publish articles which discuss and debate specific social research methods. They may be particularly useful if you need to do a critical review of the research methods used in a particular study.

    • International journal of qualitative methods - publishes articles that “report methodological advances, innovations, and insights in qualitative or mixed methods studies.”
    • International journal of social research methodology - Focuses on current & emerging methodological debates across a wide range of social science disciplines.
    • Journal of mixed methods research - international journal that “focuses on empirical, methodological, and theoretical articles about mixed methods research across the social, behavioral, health, and human sciences.”
    • Qualitative Research - Features papers with a methodological focus and those raising philosophical, theoretical, historical or ideological debates about qualitative research.
    • Social science research - publishes papers devoted to quantitative social science research and methodology
    • Sociological methods & research - Each issue presents new techniques and innovative approaches to recurring research challenges and clarifies existing methods.
    • Sociological Research Online - an international journal which publishes applied sociology focusing on theoretical, empirical and methodological discussions.

    Statistics and data

    • Statistics - provides access to statistics produced by UK government departments and many other agencies and public bodies.
    • Office for National Statistics (ONS) - UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics, ONS collects and publishes statistics on a wide range of topics. They also conduct the census in England and Wales every 10 years.
    • British Social Attitudes - freely available online, this survey has been carried out annually by NatCen since 1983 and tracks changes in people's social, political and moral attitudes.
    • UK Data Archive - Library database providing access to the UK's largest collection of digital research data in the social sciences and humanities in the UK.
    • UK Data Service - A single point of access to a wide range of secondary data including large-scale government surveys, international and business macro data, qualitative studies and census data.
    • Brookes Library Statistics page provides links to these and other UK and international statistical sources.


    Survey Question Bank (SQB): UK Data Service Discover provides access to the questionnaires, in PDF format, from a range of major UK social surveys conducted, for the most part, since the mid-1990s. These questionnaires - which are fully searchable - are displayed in their original context, allowing users to better understand the context in which a particular question was asked. Other content includes expert commentary on studies and key variables, bibliographies and web links. Actual data files are not available.

    Finding secondary sources

    The Library’s Subject Help pages give you guidance on researching secondary sources in specific subjects, plus links to relevant resources.

    You’ll also find contact details for your Academic Liaison Librarian who will be happy to give you further advice. Contact your Librarian for help with:

    • Finding relevant sources for academic assignments.
    • Using databases to search for journal articles.
    • Evaluating and selecting sources.
    • Referencing sources in your written work.

    For general help, tips and videos on finding information, check the Library’s Teach Yourself pages

    Evaluating web sources

    There’s a huge amount of information freely available on the Internet, but you need to be careful when selecting web sources for your academic work. To help you decide what web sources are appropriate at university level, take a look at our guide to Evaluating Web sources

    Upgrade is the University's study advice service offering help to student on statistics, maths and study skills. They offer: