Research methods


Types of data 

  • Primary 
  • Secondary 
  • Quantitative 
  • Qualitative 

Practical issues

  • Time and money  
  • Requirements of funding bodies - research needs to be funded 
  • Personal skills and characteristics - If someone was shy they wouldn't chose interviews
  • Subject matter - sensitive/personal topics
  • Research opportunity - research where there is a gap in the market 

Ethical issues 

  • Informed consent 
  • Confidentiality and privacy  - give no name to participants 
  • Effects on research participants - psychological harm?
  • Vulnerable groups 
  • Covert research  - no consent 

Theoretical issues 

  • Validity- representative of life 
  • Reliability  - a method thats easily replicated 
  • Representativeness 
  • Methological perspectives  - positivists or interpretivists 

Factors influencing choice of topic 

  • Theoretical perspective  - what theory supports this?
  • Society's views  - people's views change over time 
  • Funding bodies - research won't be funded if it is pointless 
  • Practical factors - researching children is sometimes unpractical 

Qualitative + Quantitative = Mix method approach  

Lab experiments  

  • Experimental group (exposed to independent variable)
  • Control group (not changed, but controlled)
  • The researcher manipulates variables which they're interested in, to discover the effect they have 

Lab experiements - Advantages 

  • Reliable - easiliy replicated 
  • Positivist sociologists may use it - quantitative, easy to compare 

Lab experiments  - Disadvantages 

  • Unethical to control variables and consent is needed 
  • The Hawthorne effect - not a natural environment 

Lab experiments - Practical issues 

  • Individuals are complex - it is hard to 'match' the members of the control group and the experimental group 
  • The Hawthorne effect 
  • Studying the past - cannot be used for the past as the variables cannot be controlled 

Lab experiments - Ethical issues

  • Informed consent 
  • Harm to subjects - everything including risks must be explained 

Theoretical issues 

  • Positivists - experiments are good because of their reliability. This is because they can control the variables, produces quantitative data and is detached. However, it can't be representative 
  • Interpretivists - experiments are bad because we are different from natural things. Our actions can only by understood by the choices we make

Field experiments 

  • Try and control variables and establish cause and effect but take place in a natural environment 
  • Participants unaware they are being studied 
  • Cannot ensure that all variables are controlled meaning it is less valid 

Field experiments - Practical issues 

  • Problems of access 
  • Can the researcher control all the variables?
  • Does the natural environment change the researched behaviour?

Field experiments - Ethical issues 

  • Personal effects - the experiment may have affected the school life of other children told that they were not smart enough 
  • Informed consent 

Field experiments - Theoretical issues 

  • Positivists - they are not reliable as they cannot be repeated again as lab experiments can. They can produce quantitative data though but you cannot be in control of all the variables 
  • Interpretivists  - can understand the meanings to some extent 

Structured interviews

  • Questionnaires read out by an interviewer who records answers 
  • Same questions in the same order for every respondent 

Structured interviews - Advantages 

  • Training interviewer is straight forward 
  • Cover large sample as they're cheap and quick 
  • Good for…


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