Can social science research be done informally outside a university

research Dec 25, 2023
Man writing with computer next to him

Yes, social science research can be conducted informally outside of a university setting. While universities often provide a structured environment and resources for conducting social science research, there are various opportunities to engage in informal research outside of academia.

Here are a few ways to conduct informal social science research outside of a university:

  1. Surveys and interviews: Informal research in social sciences can involve conducting surveys or interviews to gather data and insights. You can design your own questionnaires or interview guides and reach out to individuals who are relevant to your research topic. This could be done through personal connections, social media platforms, or online communities.
  2. Participant observation: Participant observation is a method commonly used in social science research. You can immerse yourself in a particular social setting or community and observe and interact with individuals to gain insights into their behavior, attitudes, and experiences. This can be done in informal settings such as community events, public spaces, or online platforms.
  3. Document analysis: Informal social science research can involve analyzing existing documents, such as books, articles, reports, or online content. By reviewing and critically examining relevant literature, you can gain insights and perspectives on your research topic. This can be done through libraries, online databases, or by accessing publicly available information.
  4. Focus groups and discussions: Organizing focus groups or informal discussions with individuals who have relevant knowledge or experiences can be a valuable method for gathering insights in social science research. These group settings allow for interactive and dynamic conversations that can generate rich qualitative data.
  5. Secondary data analysis: Informal social science research can also involve analyzing existing datasets that are publicly available. This could include government reports, surveys, or datasets shared by research organizations or non-profit entities. By exploring and analyzing these secondary data sources, you can generate new insights or validate existing findings.

While informal research in social sciences outside of a university may not adhere to the same level of rigor and ethical considerations as formal research, it can still contribute to knowledge and provide valuable insights. However, it is important to be mindful of potential biases, limitations, and ethical considerations when conducting informal research. 

Though publication of these findings may be difficult due to the lack of appropriate consideration of rigour and validity of methods, informal approaches can help us quickly gather information. Telemarketing, product testing, polling are just some of the everyday use of research methods.