The logic of science is clearly expressed in the experiment - a method that seeks to specify a cause-and-effect relationship among variables. Experimental research, in other words, is explanatory in character, attempting to show what factors in the social world cause change to occur in other factors. Experiments are typically based on the text of a specific hypothesis - a theoretical statement of a relationship between independent and dependent variables. The goal of an experiment is to find out whether or not the hypothesis is supported by empirical evidence. Thus an experiment involves three steps: (1) the dependent variable is measured; (2) the dependent variable is exposed to the effects of the independent variable; (3) the dependent variable is measured again to see what (if any) change has taken place.
A survey is a method of contacting individuals in order to obtain responses to a series of items or questions; it is the most widely used of all research methods in sociology. Surveys are particularly useful when we are seeking answers to specific questions, especially when what we want to know cannot be observed directly, such as the political preferences and religious beliefs of individuals, patterns of sexual attraction, or the private lives of married couples. Because surveys typically involve the number of different variables, they (like experiments) are appropriate for conducting explanatory research, in which we attempt to specify the relationship among several variables, seeking correlations or even causal links among them. Surveys are also commonly used in descriptive research, in which a sociologist attempts to describe some category of people with regard to oneor more variables of interest.
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