- highly reliable - QN data and other sociologists can produce the same experiment with the same variables.
- objective - personal feelings should not affect the outcome.
- can identify cause and effect relationships - can control all other variables to increase validity.
- Interpretivists reject this since it cna produc invalid data due to aritifical setting (Hawthorne effect).
- cannot be used to study the past.
- small sample so less representative.
- hard to obtain informed consent.
- potential for psychological and sometimes physical harm.
Example of lab experiments
- investigated obedience and authority by asking participants to administer shocks to other participants.
- this caused psychological harm and physical since 65% were willing to adminster shocks of 450 volts.
- natural surroundings - natural behaviour so likely to be more valid.
- participants are generally not aware they arebeing observed so Hawthorne effect takes less effect.
- can produce QL data so can be liked by interpretivists.
- difficult to obtain informed consent - especially if senstive topic.
- unable to control variables so how does the researcher know if the behaviour is due to what they assume?
- how does the researcher measure the behaviour or data if QL?
- can be subjective if QL.
Example of field experiment
Rosenthal and Jacobson:
- invetigated the self fulfilling prophecy by telling teachers invalid IQ scores that were opposite to the truth.
- by the end the students who were lowest ability but were told to be the best came out with the best grades.
- this caused a form of harm because the students who were said to be lower ability ended up with lower grades despite natural ability.
- quick and cheap.
- large sample can be gathered which increases representativeness.
- if closed-ended questions - data easily analysed since easy to quantify (positivists prefer this)
- highly reliable.
- can identify cause and effect relationships.
- self-compelted so if sensitive topic the respondent has no obligation to complete it.
- data tends to be limited since it needs to be brief (reduce the detail - interpretivists reject them because of this).
- low response rates since not everyone can be bothered or, if sensitive, will want to.
- once questionnaire is finalised, cannot change questions to explore change of interest.
- lack of contact to rectify any confusion of respondents.
- if closed questions, this can be hard for respondetns to elaborate opinions (invalid).
- quick and cheap.
- easy to quantify due to standardised questions.
- have higher response rate.
- training interviewers can be expensive.
- little freedom to deviate, especially if interviewee probes other areas of interest.
- hard to clear misunderstandings.
- people could lie (reduce validity).
- time consuming so may not reach a large sample (less representative).
- develops rapport between interviewer and interviewee.
- more freedom and flexibility.
- can get in depth insight to attitudes and opinions (interpretivists).
- unreliable since no standardised questions.
- takes a skilled interviewer to come up with questions.
- imperfect recall.
- time consuming so smaller sample (less representative).
- has the potential for leading questions since they are not pre-set and bounce of the respondent.
- participant may feel more comfortable due to presence of others - more likely to open up.
- can stimulate others thinking.
- researcher can deviate and form discussion.
- interpretivists like this.
- some may dominate so not all can share views (less representative and valid).
- potential for peer group pressure.
- data can be difficult to analyse (QN data).
- researcher may not be able to keep up with discussion and miss some parts.
- can pre-determine categories to standardise behaviour (positivists like this).
- less time consuming so can collect data from larger samples (more representative).
- participant may not know they are being studied (covert) so this can reduce the Hawthorne Effect.
- researcher could carry out observation for a sustained period of time to see behaviour develop.
- ethical issues with covert since did not obtain informed consent of participant.
- Hawthorne Effect if overt.
- subjective - type of behaviour shown by participant may be seen differently by different researchers so less reliable.
- hard to detect particular variables or factors leading to behaviour.
- if something sensitive or dangerous occurs the researcher may want to step in.
- if covert, will have to keep up an act or role.
- can see behaviour and attitudes first hand.
- if covert, potential for no Hawthorne effect.
- flexible to allow researcher to find out about new areas of info.
- can gain empathy through personal experience.
- time consuming and researcher needs to be trained to recognise data.
- data may be perceived differently by another researcher (unreliable).
- sample is usually small so not very representative.
- researcher could potentially be involved in deviant behaviour.
- if covert, researcher must take up convincing role and needs to think about getting in, staying in and getting out of a group.
- free source and quick.
- large sample since collected by government so very representative.
- positivists like this because you can easily identify trends and cause and effects.
- easy to analyse since QN.
- government collect data for their own purposes so may not be what sociologist is looking for.
- definitions may be different.
- if sensitive topic, government may leave out some parts.
- public may not be entirely reliable.
- interpretivists do not like them since they do not find out reasons for these trends.
- cheap and quick.
- can be reliable depending on the document.
- personal documents can give in depth insight.
- sometimes only source of information from the past.
- documents can be used to double check primary data.
- personal documents can be biased.
- may be hard to access sensitive documents.
- need to evaluate: credibility, authenticity (who wrote it?), representativeness and meaning (need skills to establish the findings).