The research process in sociology
Sociologists carry out research to collect information in an organised way. This information gives them the evidence they need to explain the social world. The process of research involves several key stages:
Developing research aims and hypotheses:
- Research aims set out what the researcher intends to investigate and they provide the studies focus.
- A hypothesis is a hunch or informed guess and is written as a statement that can be tested. It will either be supported by evidence or proved wrong.
Carrying out a pilot study:
- A pilot study is a small scale trial run carried out before the main research
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Selecting a sample:
- Rather than studying a whole population, a sociologist usually selects a sample. This is done by using a sampling technique such as Snowball sampling or stratified random sampling
Collecting the data:
- Sociologist collect data using primary research methods such as quesionnaires or observation. They may also use secondary sourcse such as official statistics or mass media reports. Data may either be qualitative or quantitative.
Analysing the data:
- Data analysis involves interpreting or making sense of the information and presenting the main findings or results
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Evaluating the study's aims, methods, findings and conclusions:
- Sociologists write articles about their research in journals and present papers at conferences. These articles and papers are reviewed and evaluated by other sociologists. This is known as peer review.
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Researchers select their samples by using sampling techniques. With probability sampling, each member of the sampling frame has a known chance of being selected. If the sample is selected randomly, it is likely to be representative of the population. Examples of probability sampling include simple random sampling, systematic sampling and stratified random sampling
Non-probability sampling is used when a sampling frame is not available. The sample is not selected randomly, so it is unlikely to be representative of the population. Snowball, quota and purposive sampling are examples of non probability sampling.
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Here are some terms necessary to know for the exams:
- Population: The particular group being studied, for example students in Higher Education.
- Sample: A subgroup of the population, that is selected for study
- Sampling frame: A list of members of the population, for example a school register
- Representative sample: A sample that has the same characteristics as the population but is a smaller version of it.
- Generalisations: General statements and conclusions that apply not only to the sample studied but also to the broader population
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And some sampling techniques..:
- Simple random: Each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected (like names being drawn from a hat)
- Systematic: Researchers take every 'nth' item from the sampling frame, for example every 20th name from a school register
- Stratified random: Researchers divide the population into strata (subgroups) according to characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity. They then randomly draw a sample from each subgroup in proportion to the numbers in the population
- Snowball: Through contact with one member of a population (e.g. one member of a youth culture), the researcher is introduced to, or identifies others in the same population