Research Methods

  • Created by: iiStevey
  • Created on: 24-04-19 08:49

Types of Data: Primary VS Secondary

PRIMARY - Collected by the researcher themselves i.e. experiments / surveys / observations.

Primary Advantages & Disadvantages:

  • Relevant Information / Validity
  • Can Control methodolgy
  • TIme Consuming
  • Can be costly dependant on the methods used

SECONDARY - Data collected by other people & organisations.

Secondary Advantages & Disadvantages:

  • Already gathered - less time consuming
  • Usually cheaper to access sometimes even free
  • Information may be outdated therefore inaccurate
  • Questionable wether it can be applied
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Types of Data: Qualitative VS Quantitative

QUANTITATIVE: Numerical, statistical information that is objective. Answers factual questions instead of giving reasonings.

Quantitative Advantages & Disadvantages:

  • Best for representativeness and generalisability
  • Broader study - greater number of subjects
  • Harder to analyse and give reasonings
  • Can't explore why

QUALITATIVE: Type of data that is focused around opinion, feelings and why something is happening. Complex data and harder to analyse. Subjective Data.

Qualitative Advantages & Disadvantages:

  • Deatiled information that explores reasonings
  • Based on human experience which gives better validity
  • Longer process to analyse the data as it all varies due to subjective nature
  • If not careful, researcher can have a negative impact on the results - behaviour
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Positivism VS Interpretivism

POSITIVSM - Theory appraoch based on natural and factual causes - idea surrounds objectivity and positivists want statistical, quantitative data that reveals the truth.

INTERPRETIVSM - Approach which tries to see explanations from sujects perspective. They want Verstehen (Meaning) and qualitative data with reasons as to why something happened. 

Preferred Research Methods: Positivist

  • Quantitative
  • Offical Statistics
  • Social Surveys / Unstructured Interviews / Questionnaires

Preferred Research Methods: Interpretivst

  • Qualitative
  • Personal Documents
  • Participant Observation
  • Unstructured Interviews
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Sampling Methods

Representative Sampling:

  • Attempt to accurately sample the target population - can be generalised.

Non-Representative Sampling: 

  • Stronger focus on validity over specificity, study of experiences is more important than the accuracy of the population.

Systematic Sampling:

  • On a list, every nth person is picked - gets a variety of data. 

Statified Sampling:

  • Divided into groups based on critea but you need to know the % of the characteristics.

Quota Sampling:

  • Sampling based on proportions in UK population e.g. age / sex / income / ethnicity 
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Practical / Ethical / Theoretical Issues


  • Time (How long does the study take) / Money (Funding/Costs) 
  • Researcher Characteristics i.e. Does Researcher fit the group?
  • Researcher Skills (Can they effectively conduct the research method)


  • HARM - Effects on people studied / wider society / researcher.
  • Legality / Immorality - Witness any illegal activity.
  • Consent - Need full consent from participants.
  • Anonymity - Participants identity needs to remain 


  • Quantitative / Qualitatitve
  • Positivist / Interpretivist
  • Theoretical Perspective
  • Representative & Sampling / Validity / Reliability / TRIANGULATION
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  • Questionnaires with sets of questions that participants answer - Postal Surveys / Online / Face-To-Face Surveys. Can consist of open and close ended questions.


  • Less time consuming to conduct but could take time to construct
  • Cheaper research method especially if online
  • Lower response rate - increase cost as may need to send out more


  • Complete privacy if it isn't face-to-face / Can't harm - Can avoid question
  • No informed consent - don't know who is actually answering it which can cause harm


  • If close ended - provides facts which is positivist and quantitative
  • No Verstehen - researcher imposes meaning - different to the participant
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Interviews can be either structured or unstructured:                                                                            STRUCTURED: Close ended questions, same order and questions - quantitative.                        UNSTRUCTURED: Open ended questions so participant can give own opinion - qualitative.


  • Little previous knowledge required | In-depth so it's useful | Structured take less analysis
  • Time, Money and Funding | Researcher Skills needed | Characteristics - Impact Answer


  • Give participants informed consent - allowed to withdraw at any point - no harm
  • Not full anonymity - researcher knows | Sensitive topics could cause harm.


  • High level of validity - Qualitative data (Open-ended) | If structured - Quantatitve
  • Most interviews are open ended so aren't positivist and representative (Small sample)
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RESEARCH METHOD: Participant Observation

Observations are the action or process if closely observing or monitoring something or someone   - usually monitor groups.


  • Time consuming as need to be involved with group over a span of time
  • Research is much more useful
  • As long period of time it'll cost more to conduct | Researcher Characteristics
  • Hard to record data 


  • Participants give consent as it's an overt observation
  • Going Native | Harm to researcher & particpants | Illegal Activity 


  • Qualitative Data - Has verstehen - Interpretivist and larger amount of validity
  • Not quantitative - Not representative as only able to study small sample
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RESEARCH METHOD: Non-Participant Observation

Observation whereby the researcher doesn't get involve within the activities that the participants are conducting.

COVERT = Conceals fact they are researcher - No informed Consent                                        OVERT = Particpants are informed of researchers and their intentions


  • Minimal knowledge required and the research is useful
  • Takes alot of time | Costly | Still need similar characteristics


  • If overt then consent if given | Benefits society
  • Could harm participants | No consent is covert | Legality - Crimes reported


  • Validity as its qualitative and interpretivist - Only if covert
  • Small sample - Representative? No Quantitative
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RESEARCH METHOD: Secondary Sources

Data that researchers don't gather themselves - predetermined data that has already been researched by a previous researcher.

OFFICIAL: Comes from the government and other verified sources i.e. Census.                           UNOFFICIAL: Non-verified sources such as media and diarys.


  • Less time consuming - good if can't find info | Usually free
  • Needs to be current interest - is research avaliable | Is it useful to your research


  • Won't harm anyone | Already consented | Didn't consent to new research


  • Can be both quant and qual/positivist or interpretivist
  • Dependant on what the secondary source is - Is it representative. 
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Variety of research methods to provide in-depth, longnitudinal interpretivist research. Uses more than one method i.e. obserations, interviews - brings the benefits and drawbacks with them.


  • Is useful as uses a variety of methods | Brings advantages dependant on methods
  • Time consuming | Need Researcher Skills | Can be Costly


  • Choice of research methods will cause the ethical advantages to vary
  • Usually has an in-depth nature so harm to participants is more likely - depends on method


  • Multiple methods but focus on interpretivist methods - qualitative data
  • Doesn't provide quantitative data meaning it isn't positivism
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