Research Methods

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Realist: "Both positivism and interpretivism are useful". A Realist approach would be TRIANGULATION - The use of more than one method so that the diffeent types of data will compliment each other. "A much bigger picture can be achieved". There are 3 types:

  • Investigator: This involves the use of different researchers to check for observer bias.
  • Data Triangluation: This involves collecting both primary and secondary data.
  • Methodological Triangulation (This takes 2 forms):
    • Within-method: Using a variety of techniques within the same method. e.g. a questionnaire with both closed and open questions so you can get both valid and reliable results.
    • Between-method: The combination of different methods.

Example: Barkers (1984) study of the Moonies. Invterviews, Overt Obvs, 42pg Questionnaire.

Advatages and Disadvantages:

Its the only time you can say data is valid AND reliable, macro AND mirco ect. The strenghts of one method compensate for the weaknesses of another. HOWEVER its time consuming and expensive as there is more data to analyse.

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Content Analysis

Content Analysis is described as the scientific study of content of communication, commonly used in mass media studies. It is the statistical exercise that is counting the number of times such behaviour/events occur.

A content analsis of a tv programmesuch as Hollyoaks, might involve 2 basic categorties (men and women) which would simply invovle counting the number of minutes men and wmen seperately appear on screen.

Example: Glasgow Media Group's studies of Bad News (1976). They claimed that the news was biased in favour of powerful forces/actors in society against the less powerful groups such as the working class.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

The data can be easily analysed and reliable as it is quanitive (POSITIVISTS). It is also on a macro scale so you can make the subjective data objective. HOWEVER, it is not indepth as there are no meanings or motives to be found - therefore it lacks validity because it doesnt explain why. Also, if macro, it could possibly be very time consuming.

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Overt Observation

Observation studies invovle watching, listening and recording what is going on. Participant obvs invovles the researcher and Overt Observation is when the researcher reveals their identity to the group.

Example: Venkatesh - Gang Leader for a day. Studied the lives of poor black peple in Chicago's inner city and prison. Used structured interviews, built a rapport with gang member, J.T but risked the fact J.T couldve showed Venkatesh what J.T wanted him to see. Venkatesh was able to establish a rapport and so, the method was more ethical as he gained the J.T's trust and gained verstehen from the gang. HOWEVER, Venkatesh was always in risk of physical harm and could of possibly 'gone native'.  It was also on a micro scale, meaning it wasn't representative, therefore Venkatesh could not make generalisations. It is not reliable and the Hawthorne effect may of taken place as the gang memebers knew they are being watched by Venkatesh.

Advantages and Disadvantages of general, overt observation: It is ethical as there is no deception when the researcher follows the crtitcal rule of asking the particiapnt for consent. HOWEVER there could be a researcher influence meaning the method may not be valid.

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Covert Observation

Covert Observation is when the researcher does not reveals their identity to the group or their sample population. It is an undercover method.

Example: Humphreys and the Tearoom Sex Study. Humphreys studied men who have impersonal sex with one another in public restrooms and what motivates them to seek sexual gratification. He found only 14% of men were members of the gay community and were interested in primarily homosexual reletionships. He was very unethical as he followed some of the men home (deception and lack of consent), HOWEVER it is an example of ethnographic research as the men were in a natural environment.

Advantages and Disadvatages of general Covert Observation:

The method is high in validity as it is commonly a more indepth, ethnographic method. There is never the Hawthorne effect unless the participant detects the researcher. HOWEVER, there is forever a risk of going against ethics as the research must ask for consent to continue studying or publishing the data they encountered.

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A social survey invovles collecting the same types of data from a large number of people. The main type of social survey is a questionaire. They allow us to establish a cause and effect relationship (POSITIVISTS) between differet variables so we can discover social, scientific facts about society.

Example: The Census/S.Hite's 4.5% Low response rate from her study of emotional violence (which may skew the results and prevent accuracy of findings).

Advantages and Disadvantages:

They are cheap and they are quick because answers have to be fairly brief, however this makes data less valid. They gather a large amount of data from a large number of people so the data can be generalised. There is no need to train/recruit interviewers to collect the data as it is easy to analyse, particularly when closed questions are used. They allow comparisons to be made overtime and between different societies. HOWEVER questionnaires are simply a snapshot - this means people's mood would influence their answers. It captures a moment in time, unlike longitudinal studies.

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