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Research Guides

Interdisciplinary Social Science Research Methods

Study Designs

Search by Methodology

When searching databases, try adding one or several of these terms  to your searches

  • Evidence-based
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis
  • control group
  • pretest
  • posttest
  • Practice guidelines

If you're looking for qualitative research, add one or more of these terms

  • meta-synthesis
  • grounded theory
  • phenomenolog* 
  • ethnograph*
  • lived experience
  • narrative

Searching for Evidence of Effectiveness

The sources below will help you answer the questions: What helps? What harms? Under what conditions? At what costs?

Anyone considering the implementation of a program designed to create a desired change (increasing reading skills, reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders, a mindfulness based stress reduction program for the elderly, policy intervention) needs evidence to justify a proposal for doing so. This means becoming familiar with the terms randomized controlled trials  (the gold standard for determining cause and effect), systematic reviews, and meta-analyses, which provide the highest levels of evidence about specific interventions.

Systematic review:  This is a methodical and thorough literature review focused on a particular research question.  It's aim is to identify and synthesize all of the scholarly research on a particular topic in an unbiased, reproducible way.  It may involve a meta-analysis (see below). 

Meta-analysis:  This is a type of research study that combines or contrasts data from different independent studies in a new analysis in order to strengthen the understanding of a particular topic.  There are many methods, some complex, applied to performing this type of analysis.


Search the TRIP Database

Social Science Research Evidence

Qualitative Studies: Evidence Hierarchy

·Qualitative research is usually placed near the bottom of hierarchies of evidence.·However, it is important in regard to questions that address human responses and meaning.

“The goal of qualitative research is the development of concepts which help us to understand social phenomena in natural settings, giving due emphasis to the meanings, experiences and views of all the participants” Pope and Mays, BMJ 1995; 311; 42-45