Sociology Basics Exam

Conducting Research 


Main stages of social research

Creating Aims and hypothesis

  • Identify exactly what it is that you're going to research 
  • Have realistic aims (about 3-4) 
  • Make aims straightforward and clear
  • Hypothesis is a prediction of what you think you will find from research.
  • Hypothesis can be based on previous studies/findings, media reports and common sense. 

Practical Issues

  • Have a reasonable time scale
  • Time is money
  • Costs for travel, everyday needs, accomodation etc. 
  • Accessing people intended to research (crime gangs, prostitutes etc)
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  • Generalisations will be easier to make if the group being studied is cross-sectional
  • Researchers have to consider social factors: gender, ethnicity, social class and age when drawing up a sample
  • random names from a register, electoral roll, every 10th person down the street, names from phonebook - sampling frame

Random Sampling

  • Simple, cheap, easy to organise
  • Like pulling names out of a hat, or lottery numbers out a machine. 
  • Use a computer to select names at random
  • Everybody in the sampling frame has an equal chance of being selected - fair method to use. 
  • Problems - unlikely to be representative of the research population
  • Not be cross-sectional, generalisations likely to be unaccurate.
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Stratified Sampling

  • Developed to try and solve problems with random sampling
  • The sampling frame is divided into different groups of people that are appropiate for what is being studied
  • Take into account factors: age, gender, ethnicity to make generalisations

Systematic Sampling

  • Non-random sampling
  • A simple way of selecting sample for research
  • Researcher decides a pattern for selection of the sample and follows this in order to select the people who will become the sample group

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Snowball sampling

  • Non-random sampling
  • Does not involve any sampling frame
  • Normally used when investigating sensitive or illegal activity (prostitution, benefit fraud) where there is not going to be a list of potential people
  • Researcher makes contact with one member of the research population willing to participate and uses this contact to acquire more participants
  • Unlikely to be representative

Key Concepts

Cross Sectional - if a sample is cross-sectional, then it will be made up of different people to best represent the research population.
Generalisations - results from a study can be applied to the whole of the research population.
Sample - a small group of people, usually cross-sectional, on whom research will be carried out.
Sampling Frame - the source from which a sample is drawn

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