Research Methods

research methods and sociology

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Types of data

What is primary data? Data you've collected yourself 

What are the advantages of primary data? You know it's reliable, It hasn't been changed by anyone

What are the disadvantages of primary data? Time consuming, Could be biased

What is secondary data? Data you did not collect yourself but still use

What are the advantages of secondary data? You can use data that you may not have been able to collect yourself e.g. historical data or national survey

What are the disadvantages of secondary data? May be false, Don't know where it's from, Is it valid?

What is quantitative data? Data using numbers which can be changed to statistics

What is qualitative data? Deals with types of things (categories etc) rather than number data

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Factors affecting choice of method

Practical issues

Time and money - It can take alot of both to produce a good questionnaire, collect data and organise it

Requirements of funding bodies - To fund your research, they may also influence your questions and/or your answers

Personal skills and charateristics - How you communicate with people, are you biased or judgmental ?

Subject matter - What are you researching and why

Research opportunity - When and where are you conducting your research

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Factors affecting choice cont.

Ethical issues

Informed consent - Participants need to know full aims of the study and purpose of the research

Confidentiality and privacy - How are you keeping the data private

Vulnerable groups - How will you protect them

Effect of research on participants - E.g. psychological affects - how will you deal with it

Covert research - undercover research, people don't know that they are part of your research, this can cause legal problems  

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Factors affecting choice cont 2.

Theoretical issues

Validity - Interpretivists believe that observation is one of the best ways to guarantee validity as it shows people an authentic view of the world. However the observer may affect behaviour of participants, this will affect the validity of the study

Reliability - Methods such as questionnaires, structure interviews, experiments, comparative and observational studies are acceptable because they offer higher levels of reliability than qualitative methods

Representativeness - Not everyone may be represented. How will you deal with that?

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Methodological persective

Positivist - positivism means 'scientific' and their methodologies argue that it is possible and desirable to study social behaviour in ways similar to those used by natural scientists to study behaviour in the natural world

Interpretivist - For interpretivists the social world consists of and is consttucted through meanings e.g. everytime you go to school, this behaviour helps recreate the structure of education

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Why choose to study a certain topic

Theoretical perspective - To get evidence for the theory

                                         Information is out there already so easy to obtain

                                         Back up other evidence for the theory


Society's values - To track how society has changed

                             Learn how to stop crime using values

                             How does society think

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Problems with experiments

Practical problems -

Researchers take a long time to get used to where their observation/experiment is taking place and understand how the place operates.

Time may be limited e.g. restricted working hours etc.

Participants may be decieved, how could this be dealt with.

Ethical problems -

Covert observations are inappropriate in a number of settings.

Identity of people involved must be protected.

If the observer sees someone breaking the law they have to make the decision whether to report them or not.

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Experiment types

Laboratory experiments - Usually involve two groups, experimental group and control group (extraneous variables are controlled), Set in a artifical environment.

Advantage - They are highly reliable

Disadvantage - Not a natural setting

Positivists like lab experiments because they are scientific, easy to analyse and compare data, based on facts rather than opinions.

Field experiments - In a natural environment but have controlled variables

Advantage - Broader focus of research, it looks at many variables.

Disadvantage - Can be resticted by extraneous variables connected to the environment.

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There are two types of survey: Written questionnaires and interviews

There are two types of questions: Closed ended questions and open ended questions

Before you conduct a survey you must  do the follwing procedure :

1. Choose a topic to research

2. Formulate an aim or hypothesis

3. Do a pilot study

4. Select a sample

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Sample types

Random sampling - Everyone has an equal chance of being selected

Quasi -random sampling - choose participants using a sampling frame

Stratified random sampling - Divide the target population into sub-catergories selecting members from each that occur in the population

Quota sampling - Same as stratified

Voulnteer sampling - Ask people to be part of your research

Opportunity sampling - Ask the first people you see

Snowball sampling - A few participants are selected they then put the researcher in contact with other possible participants

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Advantages - Quick and easy


                      lots of data gathered


Disadvantage - People may lie

                         Questions may be biased

                         Low response rate


                         Forgetting and 'right answerism'

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Types of interviews

Structured - A formal interview with a set of questions to ask the participant.

Semi - structured - A mixture of questions that may be asked

Unstructured - Open questions used so participants give full answers, there may not be a set of questions to answer.

Group interviews - self explanatory

Focus groups - A group interview with only one topic of discussion

Representativeness - Not everyone's views may be representent no matter which type of interview is used.

Reliablity - Low level reliability, they same answers may not always be given.

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Non-participant observation - The observer watches from afar, people are not involved closely.

Participant observation - Observer gets involved in what they are observing

Overt observation - Participants know what you are observing and why

Covert observation - Undercover observation, people do not know why you there, yo may pretent to be someone else.

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Offical statistics

Types of offical stats : Census

                                    Inland revenue

Government collect them to show up patterns and trends in society that may need addressing e.g. rising crime rates in a certain area.

They collect the statistics via questionnaires, surveys and exam results etc.

They are qualitative data

Advantages include: representativness, reliability, easy to produce, easy to compare.

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so useful.



thank you 

Brittany - Team GR


Very good thank you!

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