KEY ISSUES IN RESEARCH AND METHODS

  • Created by: AnnabellP
  • Created on: 31-10-17 09:02

THEORETICAL ISSUES AFFECT YOUR CHOICE OF METHOD

  • TWO IMPORTANT THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO SOCIOLOGY ARE POSITIVISM AND INTERPRETIVISM.
  • POSITIVISM LOOKS AT THE INSTITUTIONS IN SOCIETY. IT'S CALLED MACROSOCIOLOGY
  • INTERPRETIVIST SOCIOLOGY LOOKS AT THE INDIVIDUAL. IT'S CALLED MICROSOCIOLOGY
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THEORETICAL ISSUES AFFECT YOUR CHOICE OF METHOD -

  • POSITIVISTS SAY BEHAVIOUR IS INFLUENCED BY EXTERNAL SOCIAL FACTORS
  • THEY THINK SOCIOLOGY SHOULD BE SCIENTIFIC AND ANALYSE 'SOCIAL FACTS'.
  • SOCIAL FACTS- THINGS THAT AFFECT BEHAVIOUR AND CAN BE EASILY MEASURED. THEY'RE EXTERNAL THINGS LIKE LAWS, NOT INTERNAL THINGS LIKE PEOPLE'S OPINIONS
  • SO POSITIVISTS MEASURE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR USING QUANTITATIVE DATA.
  • THEY USE STATISTICS TO MEASURE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN DIFFERENT FACTORS. THEY'RE INTERESTED IN CAUSE AND EFFECT RELATIONSHIPS, E.G. THE FACTORS THAT CAUSE UNDERACHIEVEMENT IN SCHOOLS.
  • THEY USE SOURCES LIKE QUESTIONNAIRES AND OFFICIAL STATISTICS. THESE ARE OBJECTIVE AND RELIABLE
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THEORETICAL ISSUES AFFECT YOUR CHOICE OF METHOD -

  • INTERPRETIVISTSTS) BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN ONLY REALLY UNDERSTAND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR USING EMPATHY - BY PUTTING YOURSELF IN OTHER PEOPLE'S SHOES. THEY THINK THAT IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNCOVER AND UNDERSTAND THE MEANING INDIVIDUALS GIVE TO THEIR ACTIONS AND TO THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS.
  • INTERPRETIVIST SOCIOLOGISTS USE METHODS THAT LET THEM DISCOVER THE MEANINGS, MOTIVES AND REASONS BEHIND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR AND SOCIAL INTERACTION
  • INTERPRETIVISTS RECKON THAT THE SCIENTIFIC METHODS USED IN POSITIVIST RESEARCH DON'T TELL YOU MUCH ABOUT HOW INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE ACT IN SOCIETY. THEY DON'T BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF 'SOCIAL FACTS' - THEY THINK THAT THE FINDINGS OF RESEARCH ARE ALWAYS SUBJECTIVE (THEY DEPEND ON YOUR OPINION)
  • INTERPRETIVISTS SAY YOU CAN'T COUNT MEANINGS AND OPINIONS AND TURN THEM INTO STATISTICAL CHARTS. THEY RECKON SOCIOLOGY ISN'T SCIENTIFIC BECAUSE HUMANS CAN'T BE MEASURED LIKE ANTS IN AN ANT FARM. PEOPLE DON'T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND QUESTIONS IN QUESTIONNAIRES AND THEY DON'T ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH TO RESEARCHERS
  • INTERPRETIVISTS LIKE TO USE METHODS THAT PRODUCE QUALITATIVE DATA - THEY TRY TO UNDERSTAND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE INDIVIDUAL PERSION. THEY USE METHODS LIKE PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION AND UNSTRUCTURED INTERVIEWS TO BUILD UP A RAPPOR WITH INDIVIDUALS, SO THEY CAN PRODUCE A VALID AND DETAILED PICTURE OF WHAT THEY THINK
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PRACTICAL ISSUES ALSO HAVE AN IMPACT ON METHOD

  • TIME - SOME METHODS NEED MORE TIME. COVERT PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION TAKES A LONG TIME. THE RESEARCHER HAS TO GET INTO THE GROUP THEY'RE STUDYING AND WIN THEIR TRUST BEFORE STARTING THE ACTUAL RESEARCH. A SOCIAL SURVEY DOESN'T NEED THE RESEARCHER TO PARTICIPATE ALL THE TIME AND THE WORKLOAD CAN BE SHARED IN A TEAM
  • MONEY - THIS AFFECTS THE LENGTH AND METHOD OF THE RESEARCH. MONEY IS NEEDED TO PAY THE RESEARCHER, FOR TRANSPORTATION TO INTERVIEWS, AND TO PAY FOR RESOURCES LIKE COMPUTERS. LARGE-SCALE SOCIAL SURVEYS ARE EXPENSIVE. THE 2011 CENSUS COST £480 MILLION. A SMALL FOCUS GROUP WILL COST A LOT LESS
  • CHARACTERISTICS AND SKILLS OF THE RESEARCHER - IT'D BE DIFFICULT FOR A FEMALE RESEARCHER TO BE INVOLVED IN A PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION OF MONKS IN A MONASTERY. SOME RESEARCHERS MAY BE OK WITH DANGEROUS SITUATIONS AND OTHERS MAY PREFER TO STAY AT THEIR DESK AND DO DETAILED ANALYSIS OF STATISTICS
  • ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY - IF RESEARCHERS DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO CERTAIN GROUPS TO CARRY OUT INTERVIEWS OR OBSERVATIONS THEN THEY HAVE TO TURN TO SECONDARY SOURCES
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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • STUDIES SHOULD TRY TO MEET THESE FOUR ETHICAL IDEALS. SOME STUDIES FALL SHORT, AND SOME METHODS DELIBERATELY AVOID THEM.

1) CONSENT - ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST HAVE OPENLY AGREED TO TAKE PART

2) AVOIDANCE OF DECEPTION - RESEARCHERS SHOULD BE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT THE STUDY AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

3) CONFIDENTIALITY - THE DETAILS OF ALL PARTICIPANTS AND THEIR ACTIONS MUST REMAIN CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVATE

4) AVOIDANCE OF HARM - PARTICIPANTS SHOULD NOT BE PHYSICALLY OR PSYCHOLOGICALLY HARMED BY THE RESEARCH PROCESS

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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • THE RESEARCHER SHOULD GE PARTICIPANTS' CONSENT BEOFRE THEY CONDUCT THEIR STUDY. SOCIOLOGISTS SHOULD BE OPEN AND HONEST ABOUT THE WORK THEY WISH TO CARRY OUT. IT'S IMPORTANT THAT THE RESPONDENT KNOWS WHAT THEY'RE SIGNING UP FOR.
  • PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES MAY NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND WHAT PARTICIPATION WOULD ENTAIL. THIS IS PROBLEMATIC. IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT UNINFORMED CONSENT ISN'T REALLY CONSENT AT ALL
  • CONSENT CAN BE DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN, ESPECIALLY FROM SECRETIVE GROUPS OR WHEN THE RESEARCH IS ABOUT A SENSITIVE TOPIC
  • COVERT METHODS INVOLVE NOT TELLING THE GROUP BEING STUDIED THAT THEY ACTUALLY ARE BEING STUDIED. THEY'RE OFTEN CRITICISED FOR THEIR LACK OF HONESTY AND THE ABSENCE OF TRUE INFORMED CONSENT
  • COVERT PARTICIPANT OBSERVERS ARGUE THAT TO NEGOTIATE ACCESS INTO SENSITIVE OR DANGEROUS GROUPS SUCH AS CRIMINALS, THE RESEARCHER OFTEN HAS TO EITHER PRETEND TO BE PART OF THE GROUP, OR NOT INFORM THE GROUP OF THE TRUE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • THE GROUP:

1) THE GROUP HUMPHREYS WISHED TO STUDY WERE MEN WHO ENGAGED IN HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITIES IN PUBLIC PLACES LIKE TOILETS.

2) THEY WERE SECRETIVE ABOUT THEIR ACTIVIES FOR 3 MAIN REASONS - HOMOSEXUALITY WAS TABOO IN MAINSTREAM SOCIETY, SEXUAL ACTIVITY IN PUBLIC IS AGAINST THE LAW, AND SOME OF THE MEN MAY HAVE BEEN MARRIED MEN LEADING A 'SECRET LIFE'

  • COVERT STUDY

1) HUMPHREYS PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE GAINED ACCESS TO THIS GROUP IF HE'D OPENLY AND HONESTLY INFORMED THEM ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE RESEARCH AND THEN SOUGHT THEIR PERMISSION.

2) EVEN IF HE DID GAIN THEIR PERMISSION, IT'S LIKELY THAT THEY'D HAVE ACTED DIFFERENTLY IF THEY WERE AWARE THAT THEY WERE BEING OBSERVED

3) HUMPHREYS THEREFORE POSED AS SOMEONE WHO WATCHES HOMOSEXUAL ACTS FOR A SEXUAL THRILL. THIS ENABLED HIM TO GAIN THE TRUST OF THE GROUP AND OBSERVE GENUINE ACTIONS

  • OTHER SOCIOLOGISTS ARGUE THAT WORK LIKE THIS SHOULDN'T BE CONDUCTED
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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • BACKGROUND

1) MILGRAM CONDUCTED A SERIES OF EXPERIMENTS IN WHICH VOLUNTEERS WERE TOLD TO ADMINISTER ELECTRIC SHOCKS TO ANOTHER PERSON (AN ACTOR) ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A GLASS SCREEN, WHEN THAT PERSON FAILED TO GIVE THE CORRECT ANSWERS IN A MEMORY TEST

2) MANY VOLUNTEERS KEPT ON GIVING PUNISHMENT SHOCKS UNTIL THE ACTOR PRETENDED TO PASS OUT

  • DECEPTION

1) MILGRAM LIED ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF THE EXPERIMENT. HE TOLD THE VOLUNTEERS THAT THEY WERE DOING AN EXPERIMENT ABOUT MEMORY]

2) THE ELECXTRIC SHOCKS WEREN'T REAL. THE PERSON WHO THE VOLUNTEERS WERE 'SHOCKING' WAS AN ACTOR, PRETENDING

  • RESULTS

1) THE RESULTS OF THE EXPERIMENT WERE VERY USEFUL. THE EXPERIMENT SHOWED HOW PEOPLE ARE READY TO OBEY AUTHORITY WITHOUT QUESTION. THIS HELPED PEOPLE UNDERSTAND HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE TAKE PART IN WAR CRIMES AND GENOCIDE

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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • THE EXPERIMENT WOULDN'T HAVE WORKED IF THE VOLUNTEERS KNEW THE REAL PURPOSE OF THE EXPERIMENT.
  • IF THEY KNEW THAT THEIR OBEDIENCE WAS BEING TESTED, THEY MIGHT HAVE DELIBERATELY BEEN LESS OBEDIENT
  • IF THEY KNEW THE SHOCKS WERENT REAL, THEY WOULDNT HAVE BEHAVED IN THE SAME WAY.
  • MILGRAM HAD TO BE DISHONEST FOR THE EXPERIMENT TO WORK AT ALL
  • THIS EXPERIMENT HAS BEEN REPEATED MORE RECENTLY, BUT WITH ADJUSTMENTS TO TRY TO REDUCE THE RISK OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HARM.
  • MANY OF MILGRAM'S ORIGINAL PARTICIPANTS SHOWED SIGNS OF DISTRESS DURING THE EXPERIMENT, AND SOME OF THEM WERE DISTURBED BY HOW EASILY MILGRAM HAD MANIPULATED THEM. HOWEVER, MILGRAM DID DEBRIEF ALL OF HIS PARTICIPANTS AFTERWARDS SO THAT THEY ALL UNDERSTOOD THE STUDY, AND DID FOLLOW-UP WORK TO CHECK ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE.
  • HE FOUND THAT SOME PARTICIPANTS SAW THE EXPERIMENT AS A VALUABLE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • ALL RESPONDENTS TAKING PART IN A PIECE OF RESEARCH MUST HAVE THEIR BASIC RIGHT TO PRIVACY VALUED AND UPHELD. THE DATA GATHERED FROM THEM AND THEIR PERSONAL DETAILS MUST NOT BE DISTRIBUTED TO ANYONE OUTSIDE THE RESEARCH PROCESS.
  • WHEN THE REPORT IS FINALLY PRODUCED, RESPONDENTS MUST BE MADE ANONYMOUS. ANY DESCRIPTIONS OF PEOPLE, GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN IN A WAY THAT PREVENTS READERS FROM EASILY RECOGNISING THE PARTICIPANTS. FALSE NAMES MAY BE USED - IN WHICH CASE THE RESEARCHER SHOULD CLEARLY STATE THAT FALSE NAMES HAVE BEEN USED, IN CASE SOMEONE WHO SHARES THE NAME IS MISTAKENLY IDENTIFIED AS HAVING TAKEN PART IN THE RESEARCH
  • OF COURSE, IF A RESEARCHER BREACHES TRUST AND CONFIDENTIALITY, POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS WILL BE PUT OFF TAKING PART IN FUTURE STUDIES. RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS MUST FEEL THEY CAN TRUST THE RESEARCHER, ESPECIALLY IF THE RESEARCH IS OF A SENSITIVE NATURE - E.G. A SELF-REPORTED CRIME STUDY, OR A SEXUAL HEALTH SURVEY
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ETHICAL ISSUES CAN BE GROUPED INTO FOUR MAIN AREAS

  • EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL HARM IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE IN SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH, AND WORK IS ACTIVELY CRITICISED AND REJECTED IF IT HAS ALLOWED HARM TO COME TO THOSE INVOLVED.
  • RESEARHCERS STUDYING TOPICS SUCH AS MENTAL HEALTH OR GERIATRIC CARE MAY HAVE CONTACT WITH VULNERABLE GROUPS OF PEOPLE, OR WITNESS SITUATIONS AND EXPERIENCES THAT CAUSE INDIVIDUALS HARM - E.G. INAPPROPRIATE LIVING CONDITIONS, OR ABUSE BY CARERS. THERE IS AN ETHICAL QUESTION AS TO WHETHER THEY SHOULD STOP OR SUSPEND THE RESEARCH IN ORDER TO REMOVE THE INDIVIDUAL FROM THE DANGEROUS SITUATION
  • SOME TOPICS THAT ARE DISCUSSED MAY BE TRAUMATIC FOR THE RESPONDENTS - THEY WOULD NEED TO BE INFORMED OF THE POSSIBLE TEMPORARY MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HARM BEFORE STARTING THE STUDY. REMBMER, ITS IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL CONSENT IS INFORMED CONSENT
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SOME SOCIOLOGISTS CAN JUSTIFY BENDING OR BREAKING

  • THERE'S A LOT OF GOOD THAT CAN COME FROM SOCIOLOGICA RESEARCH. MANY SOCIOLOGISTS CAN JUSTIFY BREAKING OR SLIGHTLY BENDING SOME OF THE ETHICAL RULES - IF THE DATA THAT THEY'LL GATHER IS LIKELY OT MAKE A BENEFICIAL CONTRICUTION TO SOCIETY. THIS JUSTIFICATION BECOMES EVEN STRONGER IF POTENTIAL ETHICAL PROBLEMS ARE MINIMISED - E.G. IF THERE'S MINIMAL HARM AND FULL CONFIDENTIALITY, BUT JUST A WEE BIT OF DECEPTION

1) NIGEL FIELDING (1981), IN A STUDY OF THE NATIONAL FRONT (AN EXTREME RIGHT-WING POLITICAL PARTY WITH A SECRETIVE HIERARCY) ARGUES THAT HE NEEDED TO CONDUCT COVERT RESEARCH OTHERWISE HE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE GROUP AND GATHER INFORMATION

2) 'JAMES PATRICK' (1973) WAS A FALSE NAME GIVEN TO A A RESEARCHER CONDUCTING A STUDY ON VIOLENT GANGS IN GLASGOW - TO ENSURE HIS OWN SAFETY AND PROTECTION

3) ROY WALLIS (1977) WASN'T ENTIRELY HONEST WHEN RESEARCHING SCIENTOLOGY. HE DIDN'T SAY HE WAS A SOCIOLOGIST WHEN HE SIGNED UP TO A SCEINTOLOGY COURSE. IF HE HAD BEEN HONEST, THE SCIENTOLOGISTS MAY HAVE TOLD HIM TO GO AWAY. WALLIS WAS ALSO FORCED TO NAME SOME OF HIS SOURCES, DURING A LEGAL BATTLY BETWEEN THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY AND ANOTHER RESEARCHER. THIS BROKE THE RULE ON PRIVACY AND ANONYMITY, BUT IN THIS CASE WALLIS HAD NO CHOICE

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