AQA Theory and Methods- SCYL4

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  • Created on: 11-06-13 13:43
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P Practical Issues E Ethical Issues T Theoretical Issues
Who likes
They are a quick and cheap way to gather large amounts of quantitative data from
large numbers of people ­ widely spread geographically. Positivists take a scientific approach and believe questionnaire-based research
There is no need to recruit and train interviewers ­ respondents complete the achieves the main goals of scientific sociology.
questionnaire themselves. For positivists, questionnaires produce representative findings that can be
Data is usually easy to quantify, particularly where pre-coded questions are used ­ generalized to the wider populations. ­ they are reliable, objective and detached
can be computer processed to reveals relationships between variables. method for producing quantitative data, testing hypothesis and developing causal
laws of social behavior.
Who Dislikes?
Interpretivists argue that questionnaires cannot yield valid data
Hypothesis testing ­ positivists model their approach on the natural sciences and
seek to discover laws of cause and effect.
Data is often limited and superficial ­ because they need to be fairly brief as most about the meanings of social actors
people are unlikely to complete a long, time-consuming questionnaire. Questionnaires are attractive to positivists because they enable us to test
They believe that approaching research in a detached manner fails hypotheses and identify possible cause-and-effect relationships between different
It may be necessary to offer incentives to persuade respondents to complete the to produce a valid picture of actor's meaning, instead promoting factors or variables.
questionnaire ­ adds to cost. methods that involve us closely with the people we research to
With postal questionnaire, we cannot be sure whether an unreturned questionnaire Questionnaires can establish correlations because they yield quantitative data about
gain a subjective understanding of their meanings (verstehen-
the links between different variables.
was ever actually received by respondent. Also whether the intended recipient understanding- seeing things through the eyes of participants).
completed the questionnaire and not someone else. Once the correlation has been established, we can construct a hypothesis about this
If there are cultural or language differences between researcher
possible cause.
Very low response rates ­ higher response rate can be obtained by sending and respondent, these go undetected in questionnaires and may
follow-up questionnaires or by collecting them by hand ­ but adds to cost and time. be interpreted wrongly because actor's meanings aren't detected Positivists value reliability (repeatability), which is seen to be good if a study can
be replicated by another researcher and gain the same results.
Non-response may be caused by faulty questionnaire design ­ may involve complex (whereas this is less of a problem with interviews- communicate
language therefore only well educated could understand and complete form. personally with participants). A replica of the original study means scientists can check or falsify certain findings.
If others repeat research and obtain the same results then we can have more
Inflexibility of questionnaires. Once it has been finalized, the researcher is stuck The validity of questionnaires depends on the participants
willingness and ability to provide accurate answers- respondents confidence in the findings.
with the questions they have decided to ask and cannot explore new areas of
interest should they come up during the course of the research. may lie, forget or not understand (and not admit that they don't) Questionnaires are reliable because each one is identical (different participants are
Due to the questionnaire being drawn up in advance, the researcher must already creating validity issues. asked the same questions) so if respondents give different answers we know it is a
Social desirability- may lie to put themselves across in the best result of real life differences rather than the result of different questions.
have some knowledge of the subject and a clear hypothesis to test. This makes it
less suitable for investigating unfamiliar topics where the researcher has little idea light e.g. among groups where churchgoing is thought socially Questionnaires consequently allow us to make comparisons by asking the same
as to the important issues. desirable, respondents may exaggerate how often they attend. questions in different times or societies.
Questionnaires are only snapshots ­ pictures of reality at one moment in time, when May catch on to the purpose of the study and lie in their favour to Positivists find questionnaires representative because they are large scale- can be
the respondent answers the questions. They fail to capture the way people's please the researchers or alternately lie in order to ruin the distributed quickly and cheaply (e.g. by post) to large geographical areas (good
attitudes and behavior change. results. sample size= easier to generalize to the wider population).
Interpretivists favour observation rather than questionnaires They also use representative samples because researchers who use them tend to
because it allows us to see for ourselves what people actually do use sophisticated sampling techniques to obtain a representative sample. However,
rather than what they say they do. representativeness may be undermined by a low response rate, and only certain
Researchers who have formulated a hypothesis to test have groups may respond to questionnaires making findings bias (e.g. more educated
already decided what's important and what isn't. Therefore, the individuals respond= only represents these people).
type of questions they include may distort the undermining reality Positivists view scientific (quantitative) research as objective, and therefore
and threaten validity. unbiased. This prevents the researcher's subjective views from affecting the subject
Close ended questions mean respondents have to fit their views matter/findings.
into the answers on offer there is no opportunity to express any Postal questionnaires are completed at a distance and involve little or no personal
other view they find important. contact between researchers and respondents. So they are more detached than
Open ended questions allow respondents to give whichever other methods, such as interviews where the presence of a researcher may influence
answer they want to but when the researcher codes them to the answers (e.g. through choice of wording).
produce quantitative data, non identical answers may get lumped

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