Factors influencing the choice of research methods.

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  • Choosing a research method.
    • Theoretical Issues
      • Validity
        • Validity is where the results of a research method depicts a true or genuine picture of what some thing is really like. It's also closer to the actual truth.
          • Most sociologists claim that qualitative research methods, such as; participant observation, gives a more valid and truthful report of what it's like to be a member of a particular group.
            • This is mainly due to the first-hand experience and witness of how these groups act and behave, which allows the researchers to obtain a deeper understanding of the groups..
      • Reliability
        • Reliability is where a research method is able to be replicated, by another researcher, to achieve the same results each time.
      • Representativeness
        • Representativeness refers to whether the group the researcher is studying links to what they're interested in, and if the data represents the group interested.
          • If the results of the research is representative of the wider population, it means that the researchers can make generalisations.
            • This may not be possible if the sample/data being collected is small.
      • Theoretical perspectives
        • Positivism
          • Positivists favour quantitative data, as they look to identify patterns of behaviour.
        • Interpretivism
          • Interpretivists prefer qualitative data, as they look to understand the meanings behind their subjects.
    • Ethical Issues
      • Informed consent
        • The research participants who are going to be studied, realistically should be offered the right to refuse being involved. Also if it's a long study, then consent should be given at regular intervals.
          • The researcher should also then include details of the study to the participant, without excluding any aspects, so they can make a fully informed decision.
        • Vulnerable groups
          • Harm to research participants
            • When completing a study, the researchers need to take into account all the possible dangers and negative outcomes.
              • I.e. Some prevention of some dangers may include: Police intervention, harm to employment prospects, social exclusion and psychological damage.
          • Participants who are more vulnerable, specifically due to their age, disability, physical or mental health, needs to be considered and cared for attentively.
            • I.e. When doing a research that involves children, such as; in schools or daycare groups. Consent should be obtained from both the child and the parent.
      • To prevent any negative effects of the research or of the people participating, the identity of the participants should be kept a secret.
        • Their privacy and personal information should also be respected and kept in secret.
      • Harm to research participants
        • When completing a study, the researchers need to take into account all the possible dangers and negative outcomes.
          • I.e. Some prevention of some dangers may include: Police intervention, harm to employment prospects, social exclusion and psychological damage.
      • Covert research
        • Covert research is where the researcher's identity and research purpose is hidden from the participants.
          • The ethical issue of this is that the researcher can be perceived as someone who deceives and lies to participants in order collect information and win their trust.
        • Some 'jusitifed' exceptions of covert research is when studying secretive, dangerous or powerful groups.
        • Harder to gather informed consent whilst keeping the research a secret
    • Practical Issues
      • Requirements of funding bodies
        • Researcher institutes, businesses and other organisations who fund the research, may demand for the results to be in a specific form.
          • I.e. A Government department who is funding research into educational achievement may have targets for pass rates, and request for quantitative data to see if it's been achieved.
            • Methods for this may include: structured interviews / questionnaire.
      • Personal skills and characteristics
        • Every sociologist carries their own set of individual skills, which may affect their ability to use different methods.
          • I.e. Participant observation often requires sociologists to  easily mix and interact with others, whilst observing and remembering.
            • Not all sociologists have suitable qualities for specific research methods.
      • Subject matters
        • It may be hard to study a particular subject or group by one method, or another. Especially if the researcher can't relate to the study themselves.
          • I.e. A questionnaire or survey is not suitable or useful for a person who can't read nor write.

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