Factors affecting choice of research topic

Notes on researchers' values, changes in society, funding, practicality, ethics

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Choices of research topic
Values
The values of the researcher are undoubtedly going to play a role in what they decide to
research because a person is unlikely to carry out research into a subject that they do not
consider to be particularly important, let alone spend a large amount of time putting together
proposals for research.
Developments in sociology and society
As society progresses there are undoubtedly going to be aspects of wider social
development that affect which research topics are seen as the major issues of the day and
which are seen as having little or no significance to the advancement of sociology as an
academic discipline. While some sociologists pursue the doctrine as a means of helping
those in society that they view as oppressed groups such as feminists and Marxists many see
it is a career and as such wish to do what they can to leave a lasting impact on the subject,
something which is unlikely to happen if they undertake research topics that many do not
consider to be particular relevant anymore. For example many have developed on the
theories of late modernity as social institutions such as the labour market have changed in
structure (for example in the UK from being largely based around the production and
manufacturing sectors to the service sector) and some sociologists have built on theories
such as the risk society first developed by Ulrich Beck, often to consider topics such as the
environment which have been largely neglected by sociology up until the last two decades as
discoveries in the natural sciences have provided greater understanding as to how crucial an
issue for society it is. The theory of secularisation has also been used as a starting point in
recent years to examine the revival of religious fundamentalism in various parts of the world
such as the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and the USA.
There is also an inbuilt tendency within sociology as a discipline to try and understand the
underlying causes of social change rather than focus on societies or aspects of societies that
appear stagnant. This mindset has its roots in the founding of the subject in the 19th century
where the first major theorists such as Marx, Comte, Weber and Durkheim tried to provide
differing accounts as to why society had experienced such radical changes on an
unprecedented scale following industrialisation.
Government policies can also act as a catalyst which galvanises a change in direction within
the discipline as can be seen in contemporary studies of education that have come to focus
on increased marketisation within the system.
Funding
Funding can often be the most decisive factor in whether proposed research actually
becomes a reality. There are a variety of organisations that can provide grants to sociologists
which include government departments or bodies like the Economic and Social Research

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Foundation, universities, businesses or charities/independent bodies such as the Rowntree
Foundation. One of the problems this immediately throws up is that it leaves sociological
research open to the special interests and influence of those who fund the study in the first
place. While this may not be the case for small scale interpretive or qualitative research for
those that look to study a large sample across a variety of geographical areas are likely to
require a large amount of funding.…read more

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This has particular
problems for those carrying out experiments of various sorts as it means that there is less
chance of having full control of the variables involved, and it also threatens the validity of the
research as people may act different from usual in the situations that are being studied as
they are aware that their behaviour is being monitored, or they may respond differently to
questions in interviews if they know what aspects of their answers are going to be taken into
consideration.…read more

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One of those that can be looked
at closely is Goode (1999, 2002) which was a study of members of the National
Association for the Advancement of Fat Americans where those who were studied only
consented to being involved if he dated women who were in the organisation, one of whom
ended up having his child. This raising questions about whether it is ethical for researchers to
enter into sexual relationships with those studied and if so under what circumstances.…read more

Comments

Older_than_most

Would be much easier to read with proper punctuation. However the content is good.

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