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
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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?