A3 Secondary Methods

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  • Created on: 11-06-13 13:44
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Secondary Sources 2
Documents Content Analysis
ractical Issues
Time And Money
They may be the only source of information, for example studying in the past.
Skills and They are a free or cheap source of large amounts of data, because someone else has +
characteristics of the already gathered the information.
researcher For the same reason, using existing documents saves the sociologists time. Cheap
Subject Matter Material is easily sourced in the form of newspapers, television broadcasts etc.
Research Opportunity
Recording Information
It is not always possible to gain access to them.
Individuals and organizations create documents for their own purposes, not the
sociologists. Therefore they may not contain answers to the kinds of questions they wish Coding or analyzing the data can be very time consuming.
to ask.
Secondary sources tend to present fewer ethical problems of confidentiality and privacy.
E thical Issues
Informed consent and concealing the organizations identity may be essential, for example,
if a researcher made public a schools confidential statistics or reports on bullying, this
could harm its reputation and chances of recruiting pupils.
The issue of informed consent is hugely irrelevant, as sociologists find it near impossible to identify the
actual individual.
However to use an organizations' unpublished documents may be seen as ethically wrong. For example if a
Informed Consent
Privacy ­ the researcher should ensure that the individuals are unable to be identified in researcher made a school's reports of bullying public, this could harm the reputation of the school. In this
Physical and cases involving diaries or letters, anyone referred to in the document should be kept case, informed consent and concealing the organizations identity is essential.
Psychological harm confidential but these issues do not arise if those concerned are dead. But considerations If individuals are living and known, they must obtain their informed consent, so they are not identified
Confidentiality and should be given if the disclosure of identities might harm living relatives or others. through the data, but these issues may not arise if the individual has died. Conversely, sociologist should
Privacy still consider that they may harm living relatives or others.
Who likes?
Theoretical Issues
Validity ­ They are not written with the sociologists in mind so it is likely to be an
authentic statement of the author's views unlike interviews and questionnaires where the
respondent knows that their answers are used for research purposes.
Formal Consent analysis is attractive to Positivists, because they believe it produces objective,
representative quantitative data, which can make generalisations.
It is also a reliable method, because it can be repeated by others and this allows us to identify trend over
Theoretical Perspectives However, John Scott suggests it may lack validity, it may not be genuinely what it claims time.
Validity Is also attractive to Feminists in analyzing gender represented in the media. Lesley Best (1993) analysed
to be, it could be forged, also there is the issue of credibility, is it believable? E.g. if it was
Reliability written long after the event, when key details may have been forgotten. Lastly, there is the data roles in children's reading schemes and Gaye Tuchman (1978) analyses television's portrayal of
Representativeness danger of misinterpreting what the document actually meant to the write and the intended women. They both found a limited range of ways that the roles of women were portrayed and stereotyped.
audience. Also, if it is in a foreign language it gets complicated. Thematic analysis is used by Interpretivists and feminists. It involves selecting a small number of cases to
Reliability Every person's diary is different and unique, compiled to their own meanings. produce indepth analysis.
This undermines the representativeness and so, makes it hard to generalize them. They aim to find its underlying meanings that have been 'encoded' in documents to uncover the authors'
Representativeness ­ Scott suggests documents are unrepresentative as some groups ideological bias. Sylvia Walby (1991) made a thematic analysis of the ways newspapers recorded rape
cannot be represented in this way, for example the illiterate and those with limited leisure cases.
time are unlikely to keep diaries. We cannot make generalizations to everyone as these
may not be typical pieces of evidence. Not all documents survive, so are the surviving ones Who dislikes ?
typical of the ones that get destroyed or lost?
Not all documents are available ­ the 30 year old rule prevents access to many official Interpretivists criticize formal consent, as they believe it lacks validity. They argue simply counting how
secrets, they will not be available at all. Private documents such as diaries may never many times something appears in a documents tells us nothing about its actual meaning.
become available.
It is also seen as not as objective as positivists claim, as making categories and decided where to place
the data is a subjective process involving value judgments by the sociologist.
Who likes and dislikes?
Thematic analysis can be criticised on several grounds such as it does not attempt to obtain a
representative sample, so the findings cannot be safely generalized to a wider range of documents.
Interpretivists prefer documents as they can give the researcher a valid picture of the There is also often a tendency for the sociologists' to select evidence that supports their hypothesis, rather
actor's meanings. For example, dairies give us a true insight into the writer's worldview and than seeking to falsify it, therefore unscientific.
meanings by getting close to their reality.
There is no proof that the meaning that the sociologist gives to the documents gives the true picture.
Positivists regard documents as unreliable sources of data as they are not composed in a Postmodernists would argue that there is no `correct' meaning to a text and the sociologists reading of it, is
way that we can compare them, unlike official statistics. just one opinion among many.

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