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The Experimental Method
The experiment involves manipulating
(changing) an:
independent variable (a cause) and
observing the dependant variable (the effect) whilst
controlling extraneous variables (other factors which might
influence results)
Natural Scientists favour the use of experiments
because of the possibility of control and thus
reliability
Laboratory experiments maximize control.
Field experiments are more natural
Experiments are common in psychology and
are rare, but not unknown in sociology.…read more

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FOR using scientific methods
Early positivist sociologists such as Comte and
Durkheim favoured the use of scientific methods
because of their success in producing and testing
knowledge in the natural sciences.
They saw sociology as the study of social facts, which are
the ways in which society influences the behaviour of
individuals.
Durkheim argued that the comparative survey was
an appropriate substitute for the experiment
because the thinking behind both methods was
similar.
Scientific methods can produce sociological explanations
which are generalizable and testable…read more

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AGAINST using scientific methods
Theoretical Problems
Interactionists argue that sociology should study social
action not social facts
Social action because it involves the social meanings
given to behaviour, not just the objective behaviour,
cannot be directly observed.
P. Winch said sociology needs to discover the reasons for
behaviour (which exist in people's minds) rather than `the
causes of behaviour (which are external to individuals and
are found in the structure of society)
Practical Problems
The act of studying people may change their behaviour;
this has been called the experimenter effect or Hawthorne
Effect
The expectations of researchers may influence the
behaviour of subjects: this is referred to as a self-fulfilling
prophecy…read more

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EXAMPLES
The Hawthorne Effect
Described in Mayo in his study at the Hawthorne
works. Workers included in research on the
effects of lighting on production worked harder
whatever the level of lighting
Cyril Burt was a major figure in British
psychology and education. His work on IQ
which supported the introduction of the 11+
was based in part on fictitious studies of
twins…read more

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Research Methods
Quantitative Methods
Are favoured by sociologists who wish to take a scientific approach. They involve
the systematic collection of data, and the results are usually expressed in a
numerical way.…read more

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