Research Methods

Primary
Data collected first hand by the researcher themselves and obtained by methods such as interviews and questionnaires
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Secondary
Data that already exists - existing information that you gather and analyse but which has already been generated e.g. official statistics, letters, newspapers. This is often used to inform primary research.
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Qualitative
Data which are expressed textually instead of in a numerical form. Qualitative data are compsed of rich descriptions of social life. Research methods such as observations or focus groups generate this type of data.
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Quantitative
Data which are expressed in a numerical or statistical form. It is useful for establishing patterns or trends and identifying similarities and differences between phenomena.
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Interview
Where the researcher asks questions of the respondents, can be open or close and delivered face to face or over the phone but is an interaction between researcher and respondent. Can generate quant/qual data.
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Observation
That involves the researcher watching the behaviour of those they are studying. The level of involvement of the researcher varies (participant/non participant) and if the research subjects are being watch (overt/covert). Normally generates high qual
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Questionnaire
Series of questions put to the respondent without researcher interaction (via post/hand delivered/internet). Largely quantitative data as questions are normally closed and can be called social surveys.
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Content Analysis
The analysis of the media, often to see how a particular group are being portrayed/represented. This can be done in a quantitative way through counting frequency of occurrences or through textual analysis in a more qualitative manner.
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Social Surveys
The systematic collection of mainly quantitative data from a fairly large number of people. Usually through questionnaires or structured interviews.
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Longitudinal Study
Studies that are conducted over a long period of time and provide a longer term picture of a group to gain an understanding of social trends.
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Ethnography
This is when sociologists use in depth qualitative methods to immerse themselves in the lives of people they study in order to understand the lives of a particular group.
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Mixed Methods
More than one method is used in a piece of sociological research. Sociologists often refer to Triangulation or Methodological Pluralism to describe the purpose of using more than one method.
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Pilot Study
Small scale research, conducted on a sub-sample of the population in order to check problems in the research and test for problems/bias in the research.
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Operationalising Concepts
Operationalising a concept involves defining it so that it can be accurately and effectively measured. Concepts must be operationalsied so that validity and reliability can be achieved.
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Ethical Guidelines
Moral guidelines that must be followed when conducting research. The BSA lay out ethical guidelines for researcher to follow in order to protect both researcher and participants.
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Sampling
Process to which sociologists select research subjects for study, sometimes using a sampling frame (a list that people are selected). Choose a sample that is representative of an entire population in order to make generalisations
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Validity
A concept that refers to whether the research and its findings give a true and accurate picture of what is being studied.
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Reliability
Refers to whether or not the same results would be produced if repeated by the same reseacrher or by another sociologist, the replicability and consistency of results.
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Representativeness
This is when the sample is typical of the population that is being investigated. The individual sampling unit will reflect the characteristics of the research population as a whole in terms of social class, gender and ethnicity
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Generalisable
When you are able to make claims about a whole population based on actually only studying a small sample. The ability to do this depends on the size and representativeness of a sample, a bigger sample would make one better equipped.
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Objectivity, Subjectivity, Value Freedom
The extent to which research can achieve objectivity and by the researcher not imposing their own values onto research (affecting validity)
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Hawthorne effect
When the research population change their behaviour because they know they are being watched, normally refers to observation and can result in lessening the validity.
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Going Native
When a researcher becomes so involved in the life of the paeticipants, objectivity is hard to maintain and the research lacks validity .
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Reflexivity
When a researcher reflects on their work in order to check they are being objective and have an acceptable degree of detachment from the research project.
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Respondant Validation
When the respondants are given the opportunity to verify the research findings in order to assess whether or not it is a true reflection of how they perceive things they said.
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Researcher Bias
When research loses objectivity/validity as the interviewer effects the truthfulness/honesty and quality of the responses.
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Researcher Effect
When the researchers characteristics can affect the validity of the research, often related to the researchers' physical or social characteristics.
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Rapport
When a good relationship is established between researcher adnd participant
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Verstehen
German word for understanding, closely related to the process of achieving empathy, understanding a situation from another's point of view. Researchers must 'step in their shoes' to understand their thoughts and actions.
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Triangulation
When more than one method is used in order to check the validity of the research findings.
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Methodological Pluralism
When more than one research method is used in order to get a broader and fuller picture of social life.
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Interpretivists
An approach to research where Qualitative methods are favoured. Seek to understand meanings and subjective experiences of their subjects. Seek to gain verstehen, gaining in depth information and detail in order to interpret meanings behind actions
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Positivists
Theoretical approach believes in applying logic of natural sciences to researching society, they prioritise objectivity and use quantitative data as it is more quantifiable, measurable and reliable.
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Realists
This theoretical approach ensures that research methods are fit for purpose - they prefer results to be qualitative and quantitative and also like to ensure that data can be cross checked.
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Feminists
These theorists like research that explores the role of women - generally qualitative data used, ensuring meanings, feelings, experiences, and opinions are gathered, however this is not exclusive.
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Random Sampling
EVERYONE HAS AN EQUAL CHANCE OF BEING SELECTED S=objective, scientific W=baised
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Systematic Sampling
RANDOMLY CHOOSING NO. FROM 1-10 AND EVERY Nth PERSON S=objective, larger the sample the most rep W=need to obtain large sample, biased
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Stratified Sampling
DIVIDING RESEARCH POP. INTO 2+ FRAMES & USING SYST. SAMPLING S=most rep., same chance, objective W=time consuming, biased if ome have large groups of people
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Quota Sampling
SPECIFIC GROUP OF PEOPLE & FIND THESE PEOPLE S=useful when no sampling frame, easy W=may be biased towards certain group:subjective, no sampling frame
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Snowball Sampling
FINDING PERSON WHO FITS RESEARCH & ASKS FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO JOIN S=useful when no sampling frame, good when have difficult groups to access, easy W=not rep., same type of people, biased
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Purposive Sampling
CHOOSING INDI. THAT FIT NATURE OF RESEARCH S=useful when no sampling frame, quick, easy W=same type of people, biased
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Volunteer Sample
VARIATION OF SNOWBALL. ADVERTISE FOR VOLS. IN MEDIA S=consent is ok W=biased, confident participants
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Card 2

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Secondary

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Data that already exists - existing information that you gather and analyse but which has already been generated e.g. official statistics, letters, newspapers. This is often used to inform primary research.

Card 3

Front

Qualitative

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

Quantitative

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Card 5

Front

Interview

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