Research Methods: Topic 1

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  • Positivism is the term used to describe an approach to the study of society that relies specifically on scientific evidence, such as experiments and statistics, to reveal a true nature of how society operates.

They believe that there are causes of things in the natural world. There are social forces, that cause/ mould people’s ideas and actions

-Durkheim: External forces= Social facts, Said the aim of sociology should be the study of social facts,which should be considered as things quantitavely- In number statistical form (P approach study of suicide, statistics to try & establish causes of suicide)

-Positivits argue that, without quantification, sociology will remain at the level of insights and impressions lacking evidence and it will be impossible to replicate studies to check findings or make generalisations 

-Positivists use RM which involve the collection of quantitative data;such methods are more likely to involve large-scale research- Macro approach

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  • Interpretivism: An approach emphasizing that people have consciousness involving, personal beliefs, values, and interpretations and these influence the way they act

-Interpretivists believe that because people's behaviour is influenced by the interepetations and meanings- They give to social situations- Researchers task= gain an understanding of these interepretations 

- Verstehn: The idea of understanding human behaviour by putting yourself in the position of those being studied, trying to see things from their POV

-Atkinson: Suicide study, involves an interpretivist approach, in contrast to Durkheim's study- suicide statistics are social constructions

- Involve the collection of qualitative data- Insights into the attitudes, values and  feelings. Involve a small scale research- Micro approach

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Influences on choice of research: PET

-Practical: A no. of factors make some methods more feasible than others. Like funding, ease of access to the place/ group being studied,time available and whether reasearcher has personal skills and charcteristics to carry out research. (Time, Cost, access and danger)

-Theoretical: Related to Positivism & Interpretivism (Methodological perspective) Validity- How far the findings of research actually provide a true, genuine picture of what is being studied. Reliability- A reliable method in one which when repeated by another researcher gives the same results again and again (Repeatability) Representativness- Whether or not people being studied are a typical cross-section of the group you are attempting to study

- Ethical: Concerns principles/ ideas about what is morally right or wrong. Informed consent, confidentiality & privacy,effects on researcher, take into account sensitivness, and findings should be reported accurately and honestly

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Operationalizing concepts in social research

- A concept is an abstract theory/idea

-It is necessary to convert a concept into something measurable= Operationalizing a concept


  • Step 1: A sociologist decides to research the link between health and social class
  • Step 2: Heath and social class are both concepts and need operationalizing
  • Step 3: The sociologist uses the number or visits to the GP to measure health and people's income to measure social class
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