research methods

  • Created by: 1234am
  • Created on: 02-06-20 13:15

types of data

primary and secondary data 

primary data (collected by yourself/ first hand)

  • questionnaires
  • interviews
  • observations

secondary data (collected by someone else/second hand)

  • textbook
  • statistics 
  • newspaper

qualitative data - (written data) invloves opinions and values - favoured by interpretivists

quantitative data - (numerical data) - favoured by positivists

1 of 14


Practical (can the research be done?)

  • time and money
  • funding
  • opportunities 

Ethical (should the research be done?)

  • informed consent
  • confidentiality
  • will anyone be harmed
  • moral?

Theoretical (will the research be useful?)

  • is it valid/genuine
  • reliability
  • representativeness
2 of 14

laboratory experiment

lab experiments take place in an artifical controlled environment 

  • aims to measue the effect of variable and test a hypothesis

example - bobo doll experiment - seeing how a child would treat a doll after watching an adult act aggressive towards it - most similar was when the child was the same gender as the adult


  • (practical) easy to attract funding / takes place in one setting
  • (ethical) rarely ask participants to do anything illegal / most get infromed consent
  • (theoretical) relaible - easy to repliacte conditions / establish cause and effect relationships


  • (practical) time consuming /  impractical to observe large scale social processes in a laboratory
  • (ethical) might result in harm / decpetion
  • (theoretical) hawthorne effect - less valid/ small scale - unrepresentative
3 of 14

field experiment

take place in a real world context such as a school or a hospital

  • aim to measure the effect of variables and test hypothesis

example - stanford prison experiment 1971 


  • (practical) quicker and less money
  • (theoretical) more valid - no hawthorne effect 


  • (practical) not much access to participants
  • (ethical) some dont consent
  • (theoretical) not representative
4 of 14

social surveys

close-ended; respondent has a limited range of answers to chose from

open-ended; respondent gives the answer they wish to give in their own words

all surveys have an aim or hypothesis


  • random - individuals are chosen at random
  • systematic - individuals are chosen at regular intervals.
  • stratified - divide population into groups and randomly or systematically choose from there
  • quota - method for selecting survey participants that is a non-probabilistic
  • snowball - research participants recruit other participants for a test or study
  • opportunity -  researcher selects participants based on their availability
5 of 14


close-ended; quantitative - numerical data - participant has a fixed list of answers 

open-ended; qualitative - respondent gives the answer they wish to give in their own words


  • (practical) they are generally quick and easy and cheap to complete.
  • (theoretical) data should be reliable and representative
  • (ethical) informed consent


  • (theoretical)constrain or distort the way respondents answer – they may therefore lack validity.
  • (ethical) best avoided when talking about sensitive topics
  • (theoretical) postal questionnaires get a low response rate
6 of 14

secondary sources of data

official statistics

- quantitative data gathered by the government or other official bodies 

examples include statistics on births, deaths, marriages and divorces, crime and health

there are two ways of collecting official statistics;- registration e.g parents register birth of a child

- official surveys e.g the census


  • (practical) free sources of huge amounts of data
  • (theoretical) representative - large scale 


  • (theoretical) reliable - some participants may fill out information wrong
7 of 14

secondary sources of data

historical documents

personal or public documents created in the past


  • only way to obtain information about the past
  • study changes over time 
  • understanding past events is important to help with understanding current society


  • authenticity - is it genuine? is there missing pages? who wrote it?
  • credibility - is the author sincere in what they write? 
  • representativeness - how representative is this document compared with others of that time
  • meaning - the literal and underlying meaning might be difficult to decipher
8 of 14

secondary sources of data

personal document

these documents record details of a persons life experiences - mainly qualitative - favoured by interpretivists - examples include diaries, letters, photos


  • valid 
  • allow sociologists to get close to the meanings and people involved


  • unscientific
  • difficult to obtain
  • lack representativeness
9 of 14

secondary sources of data

content analysis

- used to study media texts - appeal to positivists


  • cheap
  • scientific
  • reliable - can be checked by others


  • critiscised by interpretivists for lacking depth
  • bias - researcher decides what parts to count, ignoring things that dont fit the hypothesis
  • may be time consuming
10 of 14

other types of research

case study

detailed examination of a single case or example such as school or workplace. it may even be a study of one person


  • Detailed insight into a particular group
  • Qualitative
  • Interpretivist 
  • Validity


  • Representative
  • Cannot generalise
11 of 14

other types of research

longitudinal study

follows same sample or group over an extended period of time


  • trace developments over time
  • make comparisons between groups over time causes can be identified


  • keeping track of sample
  • demograohic changes may mean original sample is not representative
  • large amount of data - time consuming to analyse
  • hawthorne effect
  • costly - parkers five year study of illegal drug use cost £380,000
12 of 14

other types of research

life histories

often case studies of indiviuals, it is a qualitative mathod used by interpretivists to understand how individuals interpret their life


  • detailed insight into a persons individual experience 
  • qualitative data
  • adds historical dimension


  • representative 
  • cannot generalise
  • time consuming
13 of 14

other types of research


combination of methods gaining both qualitative and quantitative methods


  • more rounded picture
  • weaknesses in one method can be complemented with another
  • both qualitative and quantitative
  • both reliable and valid 


  • time consuming
14 of 14


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »