Friday, July 18, 2008

A Career in Social Research

If you have natural curiosity and enjoy studying social behavior and societal trends using logic and empirical observations, a career in social research may be right for you.

Social research is carried out by social scientists predominantly in the fields of social psychology and sociology along with the branches of political science, human geography, education, social anthropology, and social policy. Social scientists understand social life through research methods that are either quantitative, collecting and studying numerical data, or qualitative, examining personal experiences and interpreting them as they relate to social phenomena. Quantitative researchers often use questionnaires, statistical data, and surveys, while qualitative researchers rely on such methods as participant observation, interviews, and focus groups.

According to the Social Research Association, the principal areas of employment for social researchers are in the academic community, government, independent research institutes, and commercial market research organizations.

Many market research organizations have specialist social research divisions and employ graduate trainees along with more experienced social researchers. The Market Research Society, the world’s largest association dealing with market, opinion, and social research, along with market analysis, business intelligence, consultancy, and customer insight, offers much information concerning research news and jobs in research.

''There are various entry points to the industry; however, it is primarily a graduate-led industry, and the majority of applicants for research executive positions will be expected to hold a degree, although the particular degree subject is of less importance. In addition to an educational qualification, a number of personal qualities are essential, e.g. strong interpersonal skills, interest in people and their behavior, analytical ability, and organizational skills,'' according to MRS’s website.

Though the majority of social scientists are anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, geographers, and historians, there are opportunities within research for non-graduates, such as a career as a field manager or research assistant.

One can start out in market research by joining an agency (agencies range from smaller consultancies to large international companies) or ''by working client-side, as a market research specialist within a client organization, where you are likely to be one of a small number of in-house specialists, responsible for conducting a certain amount of your own research and for commissioning external agencies to conduct larger projects,'' according to MRS.

See MRS’s webpage on becoming a market researcher for more information on starting out, training, important personal attributes, and the everyday work associated with being a market researcher.

In terms of conducting social research for academic organizations, researchers often work for large, well-recognized research facilities that have charitable funding or endowment funding. Such research centers typically conduct research for local authorities or the government.

Many trade unions, charities, independent organizations, and lobby groups employ their own researchers for short periods of time to conduct single studies.

According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, ''social scientists need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. Successful social scientists also need intellectual curiosity and creativity because they constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is also essential to analyze complicated issues, such as the relative merits of various forms of government.'' Social researchers also need objectivity, systematic work habits, open minds, patience, and perseverance.

The demand for political science research is increasing due to growing interest in foreign affairs and politics, particularly immigration and environmental and social policy issues. Social researchers may also find work carrying out policy research for nonprofit organizations and consulting firms, and expertise in society and social behavior is also valuable to companies in marketing, advertising, and product development.

Click here for Feedback

No comments:

You can ask your question on Email: