Research methods

Different research methods covered

  • Created by: Beth
  • Created on: 19-06-11 16:54

Types of data

  • There are two types of data
  • Primary data and secondary data
  • Primary data is information collected by the sociologist themselves for their own purpose
  • Secondary data is information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purpose but that a sociologist can use, for example statistics
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Qualitative and quantitative

  • Quantitative data refers to numerical information. It is preferred by positivists. e.g statistics
  • Qualitative data is information in the form of words. It iss more concerned on feeling than statistics and is preferred by interpretivists.
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4 important concepts

  • Reliability- data is reliable when it can be re-tested and can obtain the same result
  • Problems with reliability- people can be unreliable, unstructured interviews tend to mean that the interviewer is relying on their own interpretations and responses may differ according to social characteristics thus producing unreliability
  • Validity- does it give a 'true' picture of what is being studied? Qualitative methods tend to produce valid data
  • Problems with validity- people lie,the researcher changes what has been said, people may be aware they are being observed so could influence the answer (social desirability)
  • Representative- is the sample group typical of the research population? If so it is representative.
  • Problems with representativeness- Qualitative data usually use small sample size so cant be representative
  • Generalisability- if we can make general assumptions about the group because our sample group was representative
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  • see's studying society as a science

·     tend to use quantitative methods, focusing on measurement and the collection of numerical data

·     can generate a cause and effect relationship

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  • argue that the study of society is not a science because people are not identical and cannot be treated as the same
  •  tend to use qualitative methods as the research focuses on meaning and feelings
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Mixed methods

Methodological pluralism

  • The researcher uses more than one method in order to build up a fuller and more comprehensive picture of social life- one method so usually either qualitative or quantitative


  • Use of multiple or mixed methods to cross-check or verify the reliability and validity of data collected- usually combines qualitative and quantitative methods to check accuracy

Fit for purpose

  • The researcher selects methods best suited for the collection of data that they need. 
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Longitudinal surveys

  • they are surveys that are carried out at regular intervals over a period of time


  • They can trace development over time and avoid a snapshot of a single image
  • It is harder for people to live up to social desirability if it is for a long period of time


  • people may chose not to participate later on in the study
  • very expensive- Parker's study cost £380,000
  • people may act differently because they know they are being studied
  • Due to the length that the study takes, the issue may no longer be relevant to the times
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Ethnographic & qualitative data added too

  • Ethnographic- A term used for participant observation or observation and in-depth interviews. The sociologists will generally join in as much social activities as possible in order to gain an in-depth understanding of peoples lives

3 questions that have to be asked for qualitative data

  • What is possible?- differences in age, social class etc can influence what is possible and what is not 
  • What is ethically correct?- immoral and illegal activity, is it harmful to participants, is it harmful to sociologist?
  • What method will produce the most valid results?
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