Education- using official statistics
The government collects official statistics to help save time and money for sociologists. Some sociologists use official statistics to establish correlations between different social factors. An example of this may be that sociologists use statistics from the exam results on children who are entitled to free school meals, shows a correlation between material deprivation and achievement.
Statistics themselves cannot prove that deprivation is the cause of under achievement. The government does not always collect statistics that are vital or interesting to many sociologists.
Education- using experiments
Rosenthal and Jacobson used the field experiment method. Many sociologists use field experiments because they allow the researchers to manipulate a real natural occuring social situation, helping them to discover cause and effect relationships.
Rosenthal and Jacobson were able to do this by labelling some pupils as 'spurters' to see whether this would cause a self fulfilling prophecy.
The researchers cannot control all possible factors that may lead to pupils 'spurting', therefore they cannot be 100% certain that they have infact discovered the real cause of their improved performance.
Education- using observation
Sociologist Lacey used a variety of different methods including participant and non-participant observation. He became very involved in school life by doing things such as teaching lessons and going on school trips, by doing this he was able to gain detailed insight into school relations within the school to show how pupils polarised into pro and anti school subcultures, and how or whether this had an impact on their achievement.
Observational methods can be extremely time consuming, as shown by Lacey whoms experiment took him all of 18 months. As well as this being able to provide detailed insight into a school, one school may not be representable to others, therefore the results are not generalisable.
Education- using documents
Gerwitz studied ways in which schools responded to being part of an 'education market'. She collected a range of school documents including brochures, prospectuses and planning reports. These gave her a insight into the increasing amount of resources schools who are now devoted to 'selling' themselves to 'customers'- parents.
Some documents may be needed to be treated with caution, this is because they are part of a schools public relations effort and their content may show a selective and distorted picture.