Types of Data
A wide variety of different methods are used obtain data about society. These are classified into: Primary and secondary sources of data & Qualitative and quantitative data.
1. Primary data is information collected by sociologists themselves for their own purposes, obtaining a first hand 'picture' of a group or society.Methods for gathering primary data include:
- Social surveys - asking people questions in an interview/questionnaire.
- Participant observation - sociologist joins in with activities of a group they're studying.
- Experiments - rarely lab experiments, but sometimes field experiments & comparative method.
A02: +ve: Sociologists can gather precisley the information they need to test hypothesis.
2. Secondary data is information that has been collected or created by someone else that sociologists use. Sources of secondary data include:
- Official statistics - produced by gov't on wide range of issues such as crime, divorce, health.
- Documents - such as letters, diaries, photographs.
A02: +ve: quick and cheap as its already done for you.
Types of Data
3. Quantitiative data refers to information in a numerical from. For example, official statistics on how many girls passed five or more GCSE's or the amount of same-sex families living in a particular area. Quantitative methods of research include: questionnaires, structured interviews, experiments and official statistics.
AO2: +ve: favoured by positivists as identifies cause and affect relationships, produces data that is reliable and representitive.
4. Qualitative data gives a 'feel' for what something is like. For example, what is feels like to get good GCSE results or sense of what it feels like to be in a part of a particular group.Qualitative methods of research include: participant observation, unstructured interviews and documents.
AO2: +ve: favoured by interpretivists as gives an insight into what it is like to be in another persons 'shoes', gives rich descrpitions of people's feelings and experiences.
In choosing a method, sosiologists take several issues into account:
- Practical issues including time and funding.
- Ethical issues including whether the researcher decieves the subject.
- Theoretical issues including validity, reliability and representativeness.