choosing research methods

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 11-04-14 19:35

choice of topic

  • may be intrigued by a social problem. Asking questions is called problem raising. People often choose topics that are scarecely researched
  • may be concerned about a social problem that needs a solution, referred to as problem solvers.
  • the topic affects their own group or values, i.e Marxist, Feminist, or anti-racist
  • may be paid by an organisation to conduct it
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choice of method - theoretical

  • what a socioloigst wants to find out determines the type of data they need to collect
  • Quantative - positivist/scientific - exclude ireelevant variables. Questionnaires, interviews, observations, analysis of data. Relatively reliable as little personal input and other researchers can replicate study.
  • Qualitative data more useful for feelings or reasons for behaviour. unstructured interviews, participant observation, examine personal documents
  • rich and valid data as researcher took time to develop rapport, able to emphasise and fully understand respondents(verstehen)
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choice of method - practical


  • ethnography(long term observation+informal interviews) - structured observation faster
  • must interview wide range of people to get representative sample
  • time lag(waiting for questionnaires) important


  • postage+travel


  • gaining permission to research in some situations
  • covert observation - being accepted by a group = being same sex and age+ native costume


  • covert risk exposing sociologist
  • any method conducted with deviant groups needs to be considered carefully

exam tip

  • memorise definition of reliable, valid, representative
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choice of method - ethical

  • research may be rejected if ethical guidelines ignored
  • participants given full informed consent. Makes covert studies quetionnable
  • no participants harmed - physically or mentally
  • participant confidentiality respected - no identification should be shown in publications
  • law should not be broken or researchers should not be present when others are breaking law
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