Research Methods

Lab Experiments

Practical:  - Is it easy to collect data on a large scale?

  • Only study small scale, difficult to do large scale, eg, religion
  • Very restricted, reduces representitiveness 
  • cannot be used to study the past, impossible to control variables that were in the past, not present. 

Ethical: - Is the researcher at risk of harm? 

  • Can be harmed 
  • However, participant is at risk of harm with a risk of abuse after experiment if opinion is wrong or people didn't agree. 

Theoretical: - Will it produce reliable data?

  • Yes as it's controlled in a natural environment
  • Makes people know when they are being studied, so would act differently even without knowing 

POSITIVISTS = cause and effect, careful contrl conditions, natural science. 

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Field Experiments

Practical: -  Is it cost / time effective?

  • Yes, doesn't have to create environment as you are using a natural environment. 
  • It is easy to collect data on a large scale
  • Is not flexible, what happenes, happens as you are unable to recreate the experiment/data

EthicalDoes it involve deciet?

  • Researcher manipulates 1 or more variables in the situation to see the effect it has on the subject
  • The researcher is not at risk of harm
  • The participant may have psychological harm - carrying out experiment wihtout subjects consent

Theoretical - Will it produce reliable/replicable data?

  • No, takes place in subjects natural surroundings. Can't repeat it, not controlled. If it was in a lab, are able to recreate it.
  • Will produce valid data. 
  • Unethical as they study people without their consent

INTERPRETIVIST = Not controlled, and collect data on a large scale. 

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Questionaires

Practial: - Is it easy to collect data on large scale?

  • Yes, from large numbers of people, not necessarily from same area. Limited quality data
  • Data is easily analysed - easy to quantify, particularly if you have pre coded / closed questions
  • Not flexible - get 1 set of data, can't change questions. 

Ethical: - Does it involve deceit?

  • No, they ask sensitive questions but do not have to answer it, therefore researcher is not at risk of harm. 
  • Participant is at risk of harm - seen as reliable method, participant should be kep anonymous 

Theoretical: - Will it produce valid data?

  • Pre coded questionaires produce reliable data. Many lack validity, however, open ended questions produce more valid data as it allows respondents to use their own words to express how they feel.
  • Can be confidential, although presence of researcher may lead people to write different answes (ones that make them look good) (Detatchment / Objectivity)
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Structured Interviews

Practical: - Is it cost / time effective?

  • Can cover large number of people over with limited resources, so are quick and fairly cheap
  • Suitable for gathering straightforward factual information
  • Easily quantified

Ethical: - Does it involve deceit?

  • Don't have to take part
  • Participant may be at risk of harm depending on questions and may be offended

Theoretical: - Will it produce reliable / replicable data?

  • Reliable cause it is easy for the researcher to standardise and control them
  • Will not produce valid data as close ended questions restrict answers. 
  • Hard to produce generalisable / representative data because everyone's answer will be different
  • Results will not be affected by presence of researcher because the question should all be asked in the same way

POSITIVIST

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Unstructured Interviews

Practical: - Is it easy to collect data on a large scale?

  • Use mainly open ended question, answers cannot be pre-coded,
  • Makes it harder to quantify, therefore, only small number / samples can be studies
  • The skills the researcher may need is empathy - able to ask sensitive questions, need to have a background of sociology so they can recognise when interviewee has made a sociologically important point. 

Ethical: - Does it involve deceit?

  • Participant could lie about answers to make them look better for self happiness 
  • participant may not want to answer questions that are too personal

Theoretical: - Will it produce reliable / replicable data?

  • Aren't reliable as they are not standardised, which makes it impossible for another researcher to replicate questions / interviews
  • Will produce valid data as it enables researcher to get a deeper understanding of the interviewee's world
  • Lack of quantitive data makes them successful as no cause & effect relationships, that positivists prefer.

INTERPRETIVIST = Meanings, small scale, open ended

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Group Interviews

Practical: - Is the data easily analysed?

  • No, more complex and difficult
  • Time effective as it allows interviewer to conduct multiple interviews. This also makes it cost effective.
  • Don't know if answers are true or could be influenced by peer pressure
  • Researcher needs to be able to keep the group focussed on the discussion topic

Ethical: - Is the participant at risk of harm?

  • Researcher may not want to share personal information in a group for fear of judgement. 
  • Does involve deceit - peer group pressures to conform to group norms / not saying what they really think 

Theoretical: - Will it produce reliable / replicable data?

  • The free-flowing nature of it makes it impossible to standardise which will reduce the reliablity of the method. 
  • Will produce less valid data as young people may be influenced by peer pressure
  • Results will not be affected by presence of researcher unless they direct the conversation

INTERPRETIVISTS 

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Official Statistics

Practical: - Is it cost / time effective?

  • Yes, only the state can afford to conduct large scale surveys, saving sociologists time & money
  • Easy to collect data on large scale as they can be sent out to everyone to complete. Sociologists use what is already there
  • Not flexible, set in stone answers.
  • Government collect for their own purpose, meaning they may not interest the sociologist

Ethical- Does it involve deceit?

  • Yes - The individal may not be aware of sociologist using it 
  • No - Don't answer a question if they don't want to

Theoretical: Will it produce generalisable / representitive data?

  • Provide quantitive data, allowing us to identify / measure behaviour, patterns / establish cause & effect relationships. Usually lrge scale, very representitive
  • Provides reliable data as their standardised categores can be easily replicated

POSITIVIST = Social facts, reliable, generalisable and representitive, quantitive. 

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Documents

Practical: Is it cost / time effective? 

  • Yes as someone else has already collected the infromation, meaning it also saves time
  • Majority of data has already been collected
  • Researcher needs specialist skills - may have to be translated from foreign language; words may change their meaning over time
  • Different sociologists may interperate the document differently

Ethical: - Does it involve deceit?

  • Leaked documents - no consent has been given for private documents, consent can be difficult 
  • Participant is at risk of harm if there are leaked documents - no consent has been provided

Theoretical: Will it produce reliable / replicable data?

  • Positivists claim they are unreliable and cannot be standardised
  • Data may not be authentic / representitive as not all documents survive. 30 years rule prevents access to some official documents if classified as 'official secrets'
  • May not answer all the sociologists questions

INTERPRETIVISTS = Validity

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Non - Participant Observations

Practical: - Is it cost / time effective?

  • Can be time consuming and sometimes costly
  • Easier to record info / observations if you're not participating - can record data more easily
  • Group may be unwilling to participate / cooperate in research if researcher participates in experiment 

Ethical: - Is the participant at risk of harm? 

  • No, only if people are aware they are being observed

Theoretical: - Will it produce valid data?

  • Hard to gain accurate data as watching from distance
  • Results will be affected by presence of researcher as people act differently if they know they are being observed. 
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Participant Observations

Practical: - Is it cost / time effective?

  • No, time consuming and expensive
  • Researcher has to be involved in group to understand it, yet detatched to remain unbiased & objective, has to sympathise

Ethical: - Does it involve deceit?

  • Yes, covert deception 
  • The researcher is at risk of harm if the group does not accept or trust the researcher

Theoretical: - Will it produce reliable / replicable data?

  • Low reliability - relies on personal characteristics and skills of researcher
  • By observing people, we can obtain rich qualititive data that provides us with a picture on how they really live 
  • Poor representitive data due to small scale
  • Results are affected by presence of researcher as those who know they're being observed begin to behave differently. This undermines the validity of the data. 

INTERPRETIVIST 

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FIN

YAY YOU DID IT 

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