AQA Theory and Methods- SCYL4

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  • Created on: 11-06-13 13:38
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Laboratory Experiments Field Experiments
+ +
ractical Issues Can control variables.
Lots of time is not spent on sending out questionnaires
Takes place in the actor's natural environment
Time And Money
Usually the actors do not know about it and will act naturally
Skills and
characteristics of the
researcher Rarely used in sociology ­ suitable only for closed systems. Society is an open system (see
Subject Matter sociology as a science sheet) Variables cannot be controlled
Research Opportunity Individuals are too complex Results can be seen as inexact
Impractical to put people into lab situations Can take a lot of time to conduct the experiment depending on the number of subjects
Recording Information
Samples are very small The researcher has to choose a method of sampling and carry it out which can take time
The past cannot be studied via an experiment The researchers need to be trained to conduct the experiment
Labs are artificial environments so people will not act as they would in the `real' world
The expectancy effect ­ a form of experimenter bias where what the experimenter
expects actually affects the outcome.
E thical Issues
Informed consent ­ need agreement top take part. But explaining the experiment can be
self defeating
Is it right or wrong to experiment on individuals? Can be seen as unethical
Subjects should be told afterwards that they have taken part in an experiment
Informed Consent Harm - participants should be kept from physical harm but also psychological harm - which
is much harder to measure.
Physical and
Psychological harm
Confidentiality and
Positivists like it!
Theoretical Issues
Seen as reliable and what natural scientists (in physics, chemistry, biology) do - so lends
credibility to sociology being seen as a science.
Hypotheses can be tested.
Positivists like it because:
1) the results produced are in the form of quantitative data
2)the results can be easily compared to an hypothesis
Theoretical Perspectives Conditions can be controlled 3) the results are a spread of information and so are representative (depending on the sample size)
Validity Gives quantitative data 4) the results are reliable (replicable) because another researcher can carry out the same experiment and
Reliability Is detached and objective research. Subjective feelings do not affect the outcome. come up with similar quantitative results
5) Sociology is a science and so the use of experiments is encouraged
Interpretivists are critical 6) The researcher is objective and does not let their bias get involved in the experiment, just like scientists
Humans have free will and therefore are different from physical, biological, chemical conducting experiments
matter etc
Lab experiments lack internal validity as they are false environments Interpretivists dislike it because:
Using humans in lab experiments can evoke the Hawthorne effect 1) it goes on the assumption that sociology is a science which interpretivists disagree with
Human behvaiour cannot be explained in a cause and effect manner 2) it is not objective because the researcher may have biases about the research before it is conducted
Human beings are conscious actors and therefore meanings need to be understood ­ lab 3) it is not valid because it does not produce qualitative data
experiments do not do this 4) it is not valid because people may respond differently to a male/female, old/young person etc which may
True objectivity is impossible ­ scientists from all fields are human and therefore they affect the results of the research (this is an unintended effect)
cannot keep their thoughts, feelings etc out of their research even with lab experiments
As a result of all the above, Lab experiments are totally inappropriate for explaining human

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