AS AQA Sociology - Research Methods Keywords

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Research methods:
Case study ­ A study that involves the detailed examination of a single case; person, place or institution
Close-ended questions ­ questions used in a social survey that allow only a limited choice of answers from
a pre-set list
Comparative method ­ a research method that compares two social groups that are alike in all major
respects apart from one factor
Content analysis ­ a method of analysing the content of documents in a quantitative way
Control group ­ a group in experiments that are not exposed to the variable under investigation ­ allows
scientists to compare any changes against the experimental group
Ethics ­ issue of right and wrong; moral principles/guidelines
Hawthorne Effect ­ where the subjects of a research study know they are being studied and begin to behave
differently as a result, thereby undermining the study's validity
Hypothesis ­ an untested theory or explanation, expressed as a statement. Sociologists seek to prove or
disprove hypotheses by testing them against evidence
Informed consent ­ where those taking part in a study have agreed to do so and understand the purpose of
the study, the uses to which its findings may put and its possible effects
Interpretivism ­ Interpretivists focus on how we construct our social worlds though the meanings we create
and attach to events, actions and situations. They favour qualitative methods and see human beings as
fundamentally different from the natural phenomena studied by scientists, in that we have free will,
consciousness and choice.
Interviews ­ a method of gathering information by asking questions orally, either face to face or by
Structured ­ interviews are preset, standardised, usually close-ended questions producing
quantitative data
Unstructured ­ interviews are more like a guided conversation and use open-ended questions
producing qualitative data
Longitudinal study ­ a study over a long period of time ­ used to record and track changes over time
Non-participant observation ­ a primary research method where the observer records events without taking
part in them
Objectivity ­ the absence of bias or preconceived idea ­ look at things without letting our personal feelings
get involved
Official statistics ­ quantitative data collected by the government
Open-ended questions ­ questions in a social survey that allow the respondents to answer as they wish, in
their own words
Operationalism ­ the process of turning a sociological process, concept or theory into something
Overt participant observation ­ where the researcher takes a role in the group they are researching but
openly disclose their identity, and ask for permission to study the group
Pilot study ­ a trial, small sample version of the intended study to iron out any problems

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Primary data ­ information collected first hand by sociologists themselves for own research purposes
Questionnaires ­ lists of questionnaires which are widely used in large scale social surveys
Reliability ­ a piece of research is reliable if it produces exactly the same results when repeated, using
identical methods and procedures
Representative ­ whether findings are typical of a cross-section in society
Response rate ­ the proportion of those who actually reply to the questions asked in a social survey
Sample ­ a smaller group selected…read more


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