Slides in this set
Types of data
It can be either primary (info collected by sociologists themselves for own purpose) which
includes social surveys, participant observation or experiments and is often more precise or
secondary (information collected/created by someone else for their own purpose, but used
by sociologists) including official statistics and documents such as letters, photos or diaries
which is cheaper, quicker but may not be exactly what is needed.
Then it can either be quantitative (numerical, statistical data, including official statistics) or
qualitative (feelings & meanings such as in-depth interviews, newspapers or observation).
Factors influencing choice of methods
1)Time & money Large scale surveys employ dozens of interviewers & data inputting so
expensive whereas small scare project using pp observation are cheaper, but take several years.
2)Requirements of funding bodies Suppliers may request data to be present in a certain way,
for example, educational achievements have to be quantitative so questionnaires or structured
interviews have to be used.
3)Personal skills & characteristics - Different sociologists possess different skills, which will
affect their choice, as they will be better suited to some more than others.
4)Subject matter Harder to study one group by one method, than by another.
5)Research opportunity Sometimes opportunity occurs unexpectedly, so may not be possible
to use structured methods.…read more
1)Informed consent pp's should be offered the right to refuse, and be fully informed about
the aims, so consent can be obtained on a fully informed decision.
2)Confidentiality & privacy Identity & personal info should be kept secret & confidential.
3)Effects on research participants Psychological or physical damage, as well as damage to
personal life should be prevented.
4)Vulnerable groups - Because of age, gender, disability or physical/mental health. Extra
care should be taken.
5)Covert research This can cause deceiving or lying to win their trust, because it's
impossible to gain informed consent, whilst trying to keep aims a secret.
1)Validity - One that produces true/genuine pictures of what something is really like. Many
argue qualitative methods are best for this, as we can gain a deeper insight.
2)Reliability A method that's easily replicated.
3)Representativeness - Whether the pp's were a typical cross-section of the target
population. This means generalisations can be made.
4)Methodological perspectives Either positivists (prefer quantitative and seek to discover
patterns of behaviour, seeing sociology as a science. Include functionalists + marxists) or
interpretivists (prefer qualitative and seek to understand social actor's meanings, rejecting
sociology as a science).…read more
Factors influencing choice of topic
1)Theoretical perspective - For example new right researcher
might study effects of welfare benefits on growth of lone parent
families whilst feminist might study domestic violence.
2)Society's views - Values of society change, and this influencing
3)Funding bodies - Include government agencies or charitable
organisations who will determine topic to be investigated.
4)Practical factors Such as inaccessibility to situations,
restricting what's available to study.…read more
Lab experiments: Whatever you are testing is split into 2 groups: Experimental group
(exposed to independent variable the thing we change) or the control group (not changed,
but controlled). The logic is that researcher manipulates variables which they're interested
in, to discover what effect they have to establish and cause-and-effect relationship.
Reliable Unethical to control variables and consent is needed
easily Practical problems (society cannot be easily identified and controlled)
replicated. Cannot study the past
Positivist Small scare so small samples studied, so lacks population validity and isn't reliable
sociologists Moral objections
may use it The Hawthorn effect (not a natural environment, likely behaviours not genuine
Free will - Humans are different to plants, we have free choice, and our behaviour
cannot be described as cause-and-effect. (interpretivists say this)
Field experiments: try and control variables and establish cause & effect but take place in
natural environment. Pp's unaware they're being studied, however, cannot ensure all
variables are controlled which means it's less valid and there's a lack of consent which is an
ethical issue. But does avoid the Hawthorne effect.
Comparative method: sociological version of an experiment, tries to establish cause-and-
effect. Find 2 groups who are alike in major respects except for the 1 variable we're
interested in then compare the groups to see if the 1 difference has any effect. Avoids
artificiality, can be used to study past events and poses no ethical concerns.…read more
Experiments in education context
Sometimes used to study issues including teacher expectations, classroom interactions,
labelling and pupils self-concepts. Focusing on teacher expectations:
1)Lab experiments & teacher expectations
Ethical problems: Ones that don't involve real pupils have fewer than ones that do. Young
people's vulnerability and more limited ability to understand what's happening mean there
are greater problems of deception, lack of informed consent and psychological damage.
Narrow focus: Usually only focus on one specific aspect of teacher expectations so can be
useful in examining variables thoroughly but aren't seen in wider process.
Practical problems: Schools are large and complex and so many variables affect teacher
expectations such as class size, type of school etc. It's impossible to control all variables so
researchers are often more interested in large-scale factors.
Artificiality: Lacks ecological validity.
2)Field experiments & teacher expectations
Ethical problems: They work best when those involved are unaware however this requires
Reliability: Hard to replicate due to age of pupils, teaching style etc.
Validity: Can lack validity if they don't back it up with other techniques such as
observation, but are more ecologically valid as they replicate real life more accurately.
Broader focus: Can be longitudinal so adds depth, but often only exam a single element.…read more