Research Methods

About This Page

For the Library and Information Science student and others new to research, this page includes resources about research methods in LIS and the Social Sciences. Included on this page are links to sites that provide information about qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research. A table is included that gives brief descriptions of some research methods, links to more information and links to some examples.

Also see:

Where to Start

Web Center for Social Research Methods - this site includes information and links to resources about applied social research and evaluation.

The HLWIKI International - an open, free-to-use global encyclopedia with ten (10) portals on health librarianship, social media and a range of information technology topics curated by a team of international health librarians.

The Researching Librarian, curated by Beth Ashmore, is a good place to start. Beth states that the “site was created for librarians--new or experienced--who find themselves needing to perform research for purposes of publication, promotion, tenure, or other reasons. I hope that it also might be useful for other audiences and needs.” Thank you, Beth!

Bhattacherjee, Anol, "Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices" (2012). USF Tampa Bay Open Access Textbooks Collection. Book 3.  This Book is brought to you for free and open access by Scholar Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in USF Tampa Bay Open Access Textbooks Collection by an authorized administrator of Scholar Commons.

Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide includes information about case studies, participant observation, interviews and focus groups.

Also see the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Research Methods Library, a large and comprehensive collections of research methods. The resource includes free video and slide lectures on research-related topics.

Research Methods

Some links are about other social science fields or education. For more examples of research studies in LIS search available databases articles in scholarly journals.

Research Method

Brief Description

More information and examples

Action Research

Action research is used by practitioners to attempt to solve problems and improve professional practice in their own classrooms, libraries, etc.

What Is Action Research? | ASCD

A Study of a Three-Dimensional Action Research Training Model for School Library Programs | American Association of School Librarians (AASL)

Example: Action Research in the Library: Method, Experiences, and a Significant Case by Ilaria Moroni


and altmetrics, cybermetrics, or webometrics

Bibliometrics reveal patterns of scholarly communication, the development of a field of study, and impact factors of scholarly publications. 

Bibliometrics | University of Texas at Austin

From bibliometrics to altmetrics | ACRL College & Research Libraries News

What is Bibliometrics and Scientometrics? | TIDSR: Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources

Example: Bibliometrics example | TIDSR: Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources

Case Studies

Case studies are investigations of an individual, event, program, or other phenomena within a real-life context.

Project planning: case studies | Study Guides + Strategies

Guide: Case Studies | Colorado State University

Examples: Library Workflow Redesign: Six Case Studies | Council on Library and Information Resources

Content Analysis

Content Analysis is the study of recorded communications to determine patterns, themes and infer meaning.

Guide: Content Analysis | Colorado State University

Content Analysis | University of Texas at Austin

Content analysis and text analysis resources: bibliographies, research, software, electronic texts | Content Analysis

Example: Content analysis study of librarian blogs: Professional development and other uses | Jackson-Brown | First Monday

Correlational research

Correlational research explores statistical relationships between variables but does not show evidence of causality.

Correlational Research | CSU Fresno

Correlational Research | ApPsychology

Example: Uncovering Meaningful Correlation between Student Academic Performance and Library Material Usage | ACRL College & Research Libraries News

Delphi Study

A Delphi Study is used to generate ideas and form consensus from individual communications with experts.

Delphi Method Definition | Investopedia

Delphi Method | RAND

Delphi Study | Better Evaluation

Example: ProQuest Document View - Information literacy and the 21st century academic librarian: A Delphi study | ProQuest


Participatory research is designed to explore cultural phenomena.

ERIAL Project | Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries

NPS Ethnography: African American Heritage & Ethnography | National Park Service

Example: The Librarian-As-Insider-Ethnographer | Journal of Library Innovation

Example: Students research the library | ACRL College & Research Libraries News


Experimental research explores relationships between variables and attempts to provide evidence of causal relationships. 

Experimental Design | Research Methods Knowledge Base

Experimental Research |

Example: Using Anticipatory Reading Guides to Improve Elementary Students’ Comprehension by Evan Ortlieb

Historical Research

Collecting and analyzing data from the past to test hypotheses and identify causes, effects and trends within the context of historical events.

The Historical Approach to Research | University of Texas at Austin

Historical Methods of Research by Manu Kumar

Example: American Public Libraries in the Great Depression by Charles A. Seavey


Survey Research is used describe the characteristics of, and make predictions about, a population.

Survey Methods | University of Texas at Austin

Survey Research | Research Methods Knowledge Base

Why is Survey Research so Popular? | SAGE

Example: Triennial Survey | UW Libraries