Methods - Factors affecting choice

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Reliability, Representativeness, and Validity


  • The quality of measurement - "consistency" or "repeatability".


  • How well a sample accurately represents the entire population.


  • The degree to which a study accurately reflects or assesses the specific concept that the researcher is attempting to measure.
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Time and Money

  • Certain studies may require postage costs, researching costs, etc.
  • Certain studies may take a long time due to limited researches, response times, etc.

Requirements of Funding Bodies

  • Research institutions, businesses, and other organisations may require certain methods to be used, or a certain format to be used.

Personal Skills and Characteristics

  • Some researchers can build a rapport with the individual, etc.

Subject Matter

  • Some groups are easier to study than others, written questionnaires are useless studying people who cannot read, etc.
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Practical (cont.)

Research Opportunities

  • Opportunities can be so spontaneous and so structured methods, which take longer to prepare like questionnaires, are not a possible choice to use.


  • Time and money play a signifcant role in the length and depth of the study.
  • Funding bodies impose their own expectations on the sociologist.
  • Not all sociologists are equipped with the same social skills.
  • There are various limitations on subject matter and how it can be studied.
  • Research opportunities are often spontaneous and thus the sociologist is not able to adequately prepare.
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  • British Sociological Association (BSA) has outlined five guidelines of which sociologists should aim for when performing a sociological study.

Informed Consent

  • People being studied should have the right to refuse.
  • Participants should be fully informed about the study.
  • Consent must be obtained before research begins.

Confidentiality and Privacy

  • Identities of participants should remain private.
  • Researchers need to respect the privacy of the participants - guarding their private details and their contribution to the study should remain confidential at all times.
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Ethical (cont.)

Effects on Research Participant

  • Researchers must be aware that research conducted may affect participants in a negative way and they must try to anticipate and prevent such occurences.
    • Police intervention, harm to employment prospects, social exclusion, and psychological damage.

Vulnerable Groups

  • Example: children in schools.
    • Researchers must be mindful of child protection acts.
    • Obtain consent from both parent and child.

Covert Research

  • Seen as deceiving or lying in order to win/gain their trust or get information.
  • Obviously cannot gain informed consent.
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  • Refers to what we think society is like and if we can obtain an accurate and truthful picture of it.
  • There are four different concerns regarding theoretical issues.
  • Validity, reliability, representativeness, and methodological perspective.

Methodological Perspective

  • Positivist Perspective
    • Prefer quantitative data.
    • Seek to discover patterns of behaviour.
    • See sociology as a science.
  • Interpretivist Perspective
    • Prefer qualititative data.
    • Seek to understand social actors' (those who exercise free will) meanings.
    • Reject the view that sociology is a science.
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