Choice of method and the research process

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  • Choice of method and research process
    • Key concepts
      • Reliability
        • For a method to be reliable, it must be replicable. Exactly repeatable to obtain the same results, regardless of who actyally carries out the research
        • Reliability also means using standardised forms of measurements
        • A reliable method creates data that can be used to systematically re-test hypotheses about social behaviour
      • Representativesness
        • Sociologists cannot usually study every member of the group they are interested in because generally there are simply too many of them, so researchers choose a sample.
        • To be representative, the characteristics of the sample need to be the same as those of the wider group. This allows the researcher to be more confident that what is true for the sample is probably also true for the whole group.
        • This means they will be able to make generalisations on the basis of the evidence from the sample.
        • Positivists emphasise the importance of representativeness, because they wish to discover general patterns and make general cause-and-effect statements about social behaviour.
      • Validity
        • Validity refers to how authentic and true the data is. The aim or any research is to 'get close to the reality' of a social situation
        • Interpretivists emphasise the need to use methods such as participant observation or unstructured interviews which reveal the meanings people hold.
        • Surveys, experiments and other structured research techniques are rejected because they do not reveal what social actors think or really feel.
    • Positivism V Interpretation
      • Positivists
        • Argue that there is a measurable, objective social reality that exists 'out there' just like the physical world.
        • They see our behaviour as the result of social forces shaping what we do, and the aim of research is to discover the underlying causes of our behaviour.
        • They use standardised methods of research, like questionnaires, structured interviews, structured observations and official statistics. This enables them to obtain reliable and representative quantitive data.
        • They use this data to identify general patterns and trends in behaviour, from which they produce cause and effect explanations like those in natural sciences
      • Interpretivism
        • Claim that there is no objective social reality, just the subjective meanings the social actors five to events. Therefore, the aim of the research is to uncover actor's meanings or worldview.
        • For interpretivists, this means using open-ended research methods that produce valid qualitative data, such as unstructured interviews, participant observation and personal documents.
        • Such methods enable the sociologists to gain understanding by experiencing the group's lifestyle for themselves.
        • Or by allowing individuals to explain their worldview in their own words, without the sociologist imposing their own views on the research project.


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