Overview of research methods

Summary of main features of research methods.

  • Types of data
  • Issues with research methods
  • Advantages and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative date
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Practical issues
Time + money ­ some methods are more costly or time consuming than others, and some
researchers have access to more resources than others
Requirements of funding bodies ­ those funding the research (e.g. government) may need
a particular kind of data
Personal skills + characteristics of the researcher may affect choice of methods (e.g.
ability establish rapport in unstructured interviews)
Subject matter ­ it may be harder to study a particular group or subject using one method
rather than another
Research opportunity
Ethical issues
Informed consent ­so participants can make informed decision
Confidentiality + privacy
Effects on research participants
Vulnerable groups ­ age, disability, or physical or mental health
Covert research ­ may involve deceiving people
Theoretical issues
Validity - valid method = one that produces a true picture of what something is really like
Reliability ­ when repeated by another researcher gives the same results
Representativeness ­ if the sample is a typical cross-sections of the wider population from
which it is taken, findings can be used to make generalisations about the wider population
Methodological perspective ­ Positivists prefer quantitative, interpretivists prefer
Theoretical perspective ­ Action theories/micro perspectives (e.g. interactionism)
- Structural theories/ macro perspectives (e.g. Functionalism +

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Quantitative or qualitative?
Structured + standardised They do not allow the researcher to
- Gives more reliable results be personally involved with the
Allow to study larger numbers respondents
- Results = more representative of wider - Less valid
population - Produce a more superficial
Examples understanding
Primary ­ questionnaires, structured
interviews, experiments
Secondary ­ Official statistics
Requires researcher to become closely Only permits sociologist to study
involved with the group they are studying fairly small numbers of people
- Brings a deeper…read more


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