Sociology- Research methods

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PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SOURCES OF DATA

Primary data is information collected by the sociologist themselves for their own purposes.

  • Social surveys
  • Participant observation
  • Experiments

+ Gather the precise information they need to test their hypothesis.

- Time-consuming and costly.

Secondary data is information that has been collected by someone else for their own purposes.

  • Official statistics
  • Documents

+ Quick and cheap way of doing research.

- May not provide the exact information needed.

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PRACTICAL ISSUES INFLUENCING CHOICE OF METHODS

Time and money

Large scale surveys may cost more, small scale surveys may take more time.

Requirements of funding bodies

Funding providers may require research to take a particular form such as quantitative data.

Personal skills and characteristics

Not all sociologists have the ability to establish rapport, observe and mix in.

Subject matter

It may be harder or not appropriate some topics with a particular research method.

Research opportunity

Unexpected opportuinties may not be possible to plan or use a structured method.

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ETHICAL ISSUES INFLUENCING CHOICE OF METHOD

Informed consent

Consent must be attained before the research begins.

Confidentiality and privacy

Identitiy should be kept secret to prevent negative effects on participants

Harm to research participants

Physical and psychological harm should be prevented.

Vulnerable groups

Special care should be taken with vulnerable groups such as children.

Covert research

Consent can not be attained adn deception takes place.

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THEORETICAL ISSUES INFLUENCING CHOICE OF METHOD

Validity

Does the method produce a true or genuine picure of the topic?

Reliability

Is the method replicable? If it was replicated would the same results be produced?

Representativness

Does the sample represent the whole group or target population?

Methodological perspective

Positivists prefer quantitative data, seeking to discover patterns of behaviour.

Interpretivists prefer qualitative data, seek to understand meanings.

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FACTORS INFLUENCING CHOICE OF TOPIC

The sociologists perspective

New rights may study welfare dependency. Feminists may research gender oppression.

Society's values

The rise of feminism influenced research into gender inequality.

Practical factors

Accesibility of situations may restrict investigatable topics.

Funding bodies

Funders will determine what topic is investigated.

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PROCESS OF RESEARCH

Formulating an aim or hypothesis 

A possible explanation that can be tested by collecting evidence to prove it.

Operationalising concepts

Define key ideas and how to measure them.

The pilot study

Trying out a draft version to find problems and refine questions.

Samples and sampling

Representative and generalisable samples

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Non-representative Sampling

Practical reasons for non-representative sampling

  • Social characteristics of the research population may not be known, meaning it would be impossible to create a sample exact to the research population.
  • Potential respondents may refuse to participate.

Snowball sampling involves collecting a sample by contacting individuals who suggest others to be interviewed.

Opportunity sampling choosing the individuals who are easiest to access.

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