What Does a Social Researcher Do?

Mary McMahon

A social researcher conducts investigations into the nature and structure of society. Social researchers look at everything from the distribution of political party membership to the role of race in social policy. Their work can include field investigation as well as work in office environments. Some researchers also offer education and may be employed by academic institutions. Governments, nonprofit organizations, and companies of all sizes employ social researchers for a variety of work.

Social researchers look at what factors lead to homelessness.
Social researchers look at what factors lead to homelessness.

Two broad types of research can be conducted by a social researcher. The first is quantitative, where a researcher analyzes hard data to provide insights into social trends. For example, a researcher could review material from a census to generate a set of charts showing income distribution in a nation. The researcher might also explore data subsets like income split by race or gender. The researcher does not necessarily draw conclusions about the information, as her goal is simply to present material in a format that is clear and understandable.

Social researchers may examine how poverty affects children.
Social researchers may examine how poverty affects children.

Other social researchers perform qualitative research. This doesn't involve measurable phenomena. Examples include surveys on social attitudes, observations of certain populations, and interviews with members of the public. A social researcher might want to look at attitudes about class in a given population, for example, or could study the way race influences interaction with political candidates.

Both types of social research provide more insight into a population. This can be valuable for activities ranging from targeting an ad campaign to deciding where to invest government funds dedicated to public health. The social researcher needs to be able to collect data, either by perusing records or generating an original study for data collection. She must also analyze it and find a way to communicate it to others. Communication skills are critical for providing context when reporting the results of research.

Some social researchers are interested in developing fixes for social problems. They apply their research to settings where the goal is to identify a problem and come up with a concrete solution that will be cost effective and efficient. Others are interested in using social research to assist with ad campaigns, political campaigns, and similar events. Research can also be important for understanding shifting demographics and social pressures within a region that might contribute to cultural and political attitudes. For instance, a social researcher might want to conduct a study to find out why many citizens of a nation express anti-immigrant attitudes.

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I want to know the various characteristics of social research.

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