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Methodological Thinking

Methodological Thinking
Basic Principles of Social Research Design

Second Edition
Additional resources:

February 2016 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Focused on the underlying logic behind social research, Methodological Thinking: Basic Principles of Social Research Design encourages readers to understand research methods as a way of thinking. The book provides a concise overview of the basic principles of social research, including the characteristics of research questions, the importance of literature reviews, variations in data generation techniques, and sampling. The Second Edition includes a revised chapter on research foundations, with focus on the philosophy of science and ethics; an emphasis on critical thinking; additional attention to evaluating research; and a new selection of briefer, multidisciplinary journal articles designed to be accessible to a wide variety of readers.

1. Exploring the World of Social Research Design
Defining Social Research  
The Study of Social Research Design  
Evaluating Social Research  
Methodological Thinking  
Studying Research Design as Methodological Thinking  
Methods in Theory and in Practice  
2. Foundations
Foundation I: Data, Concepts, and Theory  
Foundation II: The Logic of Relationships Between Data and Concepts/Theory  
Foundation III: Philosophies of Science  
The Qualitative Versus Quantitative Debate  
Foundations and Research Design  
3. Research Questions
Characteristics of Appropriate Research Questions  
Identifying Research Questions in Published Research  
Creating Research Questions  
Thinking Ahead: Developing Questions That Will Be Ethical and Practical to Study  
Revising Research Questions  
Evaluating Research Questions  
Research Questions and Research Design  
4. Literature Reviews
Defining "The Literature"  
Existing Knowledge as Tools for Research Design  
Defining the Relevant Literature  
Thinking About the Review Task  
The Contents and Form of Literature Reviews  
Evaluating Literature Reviews  
Literature Reviews and Research Design  
Examples of Social Research Article Databases  
5. Measurement
Conceptualization and Conceptual Definitions  
Operationalization and Operational Definitions  
Conceptualization and Operationalization in Research Led by Inductive Reasoning  
Measurement Problems in Social Research  
Evaluating Measurement  
Measurement and Research Design  
6. Data Generation Techniques
Research Questions and Data  
Data Generation Techniques  
Planning Ahead  
Data Generation Techniques and Research Design  
7. Samples
Populations and Samples in Social Research  
The Importance of Samples in Social Research  
Probability Samples  
Non-probability Samples  
Evaluating Samples in Published Research  
Samples and Research Design  
8. Summary: Thinking About Social Research Design
Foundations of Research Design and Evaluation: Methodological Thinking  
Evaluating Research Design: Variations  
Assessing Research Quality  
Characteristics of High-Quality Reports of Research Design  
Ending and Beginnings  
Appendix: Suggestions for Further Reading
Appendix: Articles Used as Examples


Student Study Site
EXCLUSIVE! Access to the full-text SAGE journal articles used as examples in the book.

Methodological Thinking is a highly accessible, practical guide to the often-intimidating process of designing a research project. An excellent starting point for an undergraduate course in social research fundamentals, full of useful examples and uncomplicated explanations of the starting stages of the research process.

Adam Driscoll
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

This concise, approachable book with clear examples from published articles is a useful supplement to long, detailed, technical methodology texts that students sometimes find overwhelming and inaccessible.

Tracy L. Johns
University of Florida

The second edition of Methodological Thinking has only improved upon the first edition, by focusing more attention on critical issues related to sampling and ethics, along with a broader examination of the epistemology underlying social science research. This book is useful as a “go-to” reference on designing social science research and is excellent as a primary text at all levels of college.

Todd L. Matthews
Cabrini College

Methodological Thinking helps students move past their preconceptions of research to critically engage in research design while enhancing skills that will help them evaluate information in their daily lives.

Joseph V. Ross
Florida Gulf Coast University
Key features


  • Discussion of the philosophy of science as the underlying foundation of methodological thinking includes naturalism and constructionism.
  • Expanded focus on research ethics and the importance of samples in social research helps researchers produce higher quality research that adheres to common standards.
  • Explicit attention is given to both designing research and evaluating the research of others.


  • An interdisciplinary approach with examples in criminology/criminal justice, sociology, political science/international relations, and social work gives readers a range of ways to comprehend the material.
  • A balanced account of theoretical perspectives provides students with an unbiased and informed presentation of the material.
  • An emphasis on conveying the logic and general principles of social research design is reflected in minimal technical details for maximum clarity.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 4

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