Sociology - Research methods

Factors influencing choice of methods. 

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  • Created by: jade.l.m
  • Created on: 21-04-15 16:00
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  • Factors influencing choice of methods.
    • Practical issues
      • Time and money
        • Large scale surveys may employ dozens of interviewers and data-inputting staff. 
        • A small scale project involving a lone researching using participant observation may cheaper but take longer. 
      • requirements of funding bodies
        • The organisations that fund the research may want the data in a specific format which may mean that the method has to be changed in order for it to be a certain type of data e.g. qualitative/quantitative 
      • Personal skills and characteristics
        • Different sociologists have different skills which may come in use for particular research methods e.g. interviewers need to be able to build a rapport. ve 
      • Subject matter
        • It may be much harder to study a particular group or subject by oe method than by another. E.g. a male sociologist may find it difficult to carry out participant observation in an all – female group. 
      • Research opportunity
        • If the research opportunity is unexpectedly “offered” to them then they may not have time to prepare. 
        • Example:    Patrick was given the change “out of the blue” to join a gang so he chose participant observation without any preparation. 
    • Ethical issues
      • Informed consent
        • The participants should be offered the right to refuse to be involved. They should be fully informed so they can make a decision. They should confirm whether they want to take part before and during the study
      • Confidentiality and privacy
        • The participants’ identities are kept secret to prevent any potential harm. Researchers should also respect their privacy. All personal information should be confidential
      • Harm to research participants
        • Researchers should be aware of any possible harm whether it be psychological/social/physical. Wherever possible, researchers should prevent harm and protect their participants. 
      • Vulnerable groups
        • If the participants are particularly vulnerable whether it be due to age/disability/physical or mental health then special care need to be taken. 
      • Covert research
        • This can be considered an ethical issue as it is deceiving and lying to people in order to gain their trust. their participants. 
    • Theoretical issues
      • Validity
        • Many sociologists argue that qualitative methods such as participant observation are more valid because we get a deeper insight through first hand experience. 
      • Reliability
        • If it is replicable, it is reliable. If you carry out a study multiple times and get similar results then it is reliable.
      • Representativeness
        • You get a sample and then find out if it is representative of a larger population. If you can say it is representative then you can make generalisations with your findings. Large scale quantitative surveys are more likely to produces representative data. 
      • Methodological perspective
        • Positivists prefer quantitative data, seek to discover patterns of behaviour and see sociology as a science. 
        • Interpretivists prefer qualitative data, seek to understand social actors’ meanings and reject the view that sociology can model itself on the natural sciences. 


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