Research Methods - Experiments

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  • Experiments
    • Field Experiments
      • Two features which distinguish it from lab experiments:
        • Takes place in the subject's natural surroundings
        • Those involved are generally less aware that they are subjects of an experiment
      • Researchers can manipulate one or more variables to see the effects
      • Benefits
        • Natural environment
        • Avoids artificiality of lab experiments
        • Untitled
      • Issues
        • The more realistic, the less control
          • Cannot be certain of the causes identified are actually correct
    • Laboratory Experiments
      • Experimental Group
        • Vary the conditions
      • Control Group
        • Conditions are kept constant
      • Reliability
        • Once the experiment has been conducted, other scientists can then replicate it
        • Original experimenter can specify precisely what steps were followed in the original experiment so other researchers can repeat in the future
        • Very detached method: the researcher merely manipulates the variables and record the results - personal feelings/opinions have no effect
        • Used to identify cause-and-effect relationships in natural sciences
      • Practical Issues
        • Impossible to identify and control all the possible variables that might influence people
        • Cannot be used to study the past
        • Can only study small-scale groups - difficult to investigate large-scale social phenomena
      • Ethical Issues
        • Lack of informed consent
        • Harm may be caused to participants
        • Participants may be deceived if not told the true purpose of the study
      • The Hawthorne Effect
        • A laboratory is not a normal or natural environment
          • Behavior in these conditions may be unnatural or artificial
            • If people don't behave in a true-to-life way, the experiment will not produce valid results
    • The Comparative Method
      • Carried out in the mind of the sociologist
        • A 'thought experiment'
        • Doesn't involve an actual experiment on real people
      • Designed to discover cause-and-effect relationships
      • How it works:
        • Step One: Identify two groups that are alike in all major aspects except for the one variable that is of interest
          • Step Two: Compare the two groups to see if the difference between them has any effect


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