The Social Sciences



Research methods commonly used in social sciences are appropriate for studies of how people deal with “risk” and for studies of risk communication. These approaches can be applied to understanding and appraising risk communications about medicines. This chapter reviews appropriateness and potential of social science research methods for this purpose, focusing on:
  • qualitative studies (e.g. of experiences of a risk communication, or to create a theoretical conceptualisation or model of a risk communication);

  • surveys for studying prevalence (e.g. of health behaviours or attitudes) and correlations (e.g. between communication types and health behaviours);

  • (quasi-)experimental studies and intervention trials (for measuring effects of planned risk communication interventions); and

  • mixed-method studies (combining features of the above designs).

The chapter explains the main features of these methods; discusses their strengths and limitations; considers examples; and makes suggestions for applying the methods effectively to improve the evidence base on risk communication about medicines. The chapter emphasises the distinctly different types of research question that are appropriate for each of these research designs.



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Mrs. Joanne Knox and Miss Janice McQuilkin, Assistant Subject Librarians; Dr. Patricia Carlisle, Associate Lecturer; and Miss Mabel Stevenson, Research Assistant, all of Ulster University, Northern Ireland, who assisted with the literature review that underpins this chapter.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ulster UniversityNewtownabbeyUK

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