AQA A-Level Sociology: Quantitative Research Methods (Lab experiments)

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  • Laboratory Experiments
    • Key features of laboratory experiments
      • Control- the artificial environment means that scientists can control different variables in order to discover their effect
      • Two groups in an experiment
        • Experimental
          • Exposed to the independent variable
        • Control
          • Their conditions are kept constant (dependent variable)
      • Cause-and-effect relationships can be discovered
    • Practical Issues
      • Open systems: Keat and Urry (1982)- lab experiments are only useful when studying closed systems whereas society is an open system and countless factors are at play
      • Individuals are complex: it's not possible to 'match' the members of the control and experimental groups exactly
      • Studying the past: lab experiments can't be used to study an event in the past
      • Small samples mean that it is very difficult to study large-scale social phenomena
      • The Hawthorne Effect
      • The Expectancy Effect- experimenter bias
    • Ethical Issues
      • Informed Consent: may defeat the aim of the experiment
      • Harm to subjects
    • Theoretical Issues
      • Reliability
        • The original experimenter can control the conditions and specify the precise steps that were originally followed
        • Quantitative data is easily comparable
        • It's detached and objective
      • Representativ-eness
        • Small samples mean it's not a representative cross-section of the population
        • Such high levels of control aren't natural
      • Lack of internal validity due to the Hawthorne Effect
      • Interpretivists
        • Humans are too different from animals, plants and chemicals to be studied in the same way
        • Our behaviour isn't caused by external forces


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