Research methods

Advantages and disadvantages of methods

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Questionnaire

Questionnaire

Questionnaire/survey A way of obtaining information in a standardised manner from a large group of people.

Advantages

  • Get to know exactly what you want
  • Provides quantitative data – easy to analyse
  • Larger samples can be studied
  • Replicable and reliable

Disadvantages

  • People may not answer truthfully
  • Researcher bias in the framing of the questions
  • May not have them all returned
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Interviews

Similar to a questionnaire where the questions are asked by the interviewer.

Advantages

  • Get to know more detail than with questionnaires
  • Can provide both quantitative and qualitative data
  • Answers can be followed up with more questions to gain more information
  • Questions can be clarified if they are not fully understood

Disadvantages

  • Can be time-consuming
  • Researcher bias in the framing of the questions
  • Presence of interviewer may affect the responses
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Laboratory Experiments

A highly controlled situation where the researchers try to isolate the influence of each variable.

Advantages

  • Replicable and reliable
  • Control over independent variable
  • Controlled environment Can establish cause and effect relationships

Disadvantages

  • Artificial environment
  • Ethical issues
  • Behaviour changes as a result of the researcher’s presence orthe knowledge of being the subject of an experiment –‘Hawthorne effect’
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Field Experiments

An experiment conducted in the participants natural environment e.g. workplace.

Advantages

  • Results generalisable to the real world
  • Real life situations in natural setting
  • Researcher can focus on specific aspects of social life

Disadvantages

  • Results only applicable to the ‘field’ studied
  • Lack of control over variables
  • Difficult to repeat in the same conditions
  • Ethical issues
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Participant Observation

Observer becomes part of the group they are observing

Advantages

  • Study of a one or small number of groups
  • Possible to study deviant groups
  • Appropriate for non-literate societies

Disadvantages

  • Getting too involved
  • Ethical issues
  • Difficulty of recording data
  • Time consuming
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Non - Participant Observation

Observer observes the individual or group from a distance without interfering with the participant’s behaviour.

Advantages

  • More accurate than asking people about their behaviour
  • Observe behaviour in natural environment
  • Small scale detailed research

Disadvantages

  • Only possible to study small samples
  • Ethical issues
  • Difficulty of recording data
  • Time consuming
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Case Studies

A detailed study of one or two situations or groups

Advantages

  • Study of a one or small number of groups
  • Obtain in-depth information of small group

Disadvantages

  • Getting too involved
  • Ethical issues
  • Difficulty of recording data
  • Time consuming
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