research methods

primary data
data which is collected first hand by the researcher and it doesn't exist before the research. examples include questionnaires, observations, lab experiments and interviews
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strengths of primary data
1) the researcher will be aware of any problems with the data as they have gathered it themselves which could help improve the accuracy of the data. 2) the data can target the aims of the research precisely
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limitations of primary data
1) the finances and time available to the researcher may limit the scale of research and the method used
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secondary data
data which already exists and has been gathered previously. examples include diaries, official statistics and letters
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strengths of secondary data
1) its relatively cheap and time-efficient and it doesn't require using an in-depth research method which would be timely and costly
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limitations of secondary data
1) data may not be accurate or trustworthy as there could be bias so the data may not be valid. 2) data may not relate to researchers specific question
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quantitative data
data which is numerical and is usually presented in statistics or as part of a graph or table. questionnaires and experiments usually produce quantitative data
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qualitative data
non-numerical and contains verbal and visual material. this could include data from interviews, letters or paintings
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strengths of quantitative data
1) relatively easy to analyse the data and compare it between ps and across time. 2) large sample size due to ease of analysis and collecting data
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strengths of qualitative data
1) provides detailed data so you gain an in-depth insight into meaning behind behaviour. 2) more likely to reveal unexpected and interesting insights that weren't expected
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limitations of quantitative data
1) doesn't provide a lot of depth and its difficult to find meaning behind behaviour. 2) data may not reveal interesting or unexpected insights
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limitations of qualitative
1) difficult to analyse objectively and difficult to compare. 2) smaller sample size due to difficulties analysing and collecting data
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data has validity if it presents a true and accurate description or measurement. anything which introduces bias may affect validity
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data is reliable if the research is repeated using the same methods, the same results are found
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representativeness and generalisability
want data to be representative (accurately reflects) of the population so they can generalise their findings to that group without studying them all
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random sample
each member of the target population has the same chance of being selected. likely to be representative which is free from bias
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strength of random sample
quick and practical technique which doesn't require significant effort from the researcher
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limitation of random sample
difficult to use if an appropriate sampling frame is not available and therefore ps cannot be chosen at random
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stratified sample
involves dividing the target population into subcategories and selecting members of each subcategory in the proportion that they occur in the target population
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strength of stratified sample
most representative as an effort Is made to identify the important characteristics of the target population and ensure that they are represented in the sample
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limitation of stratified sample
can be very time consuming as each relevant categories in the target population have to be identified and their proportion calculated
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opportunity sample
involves selecting the ps available at the time the research takes place
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strength of opportunity sample
quick and convenient as it makes use of available ps and no advertising needs to take place
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limitation of opportunity sample
sample may not be representative as they may not reflect the population
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volunteer sample
involves using ps who choose/self-select to be part of the study
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strength of volunteer sample
an easy method to conduct and is also ethical as ps choose to take part
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limitation of volunteer sample
may not be representative of the target population as only certain ps may volunteer
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laboratory experiments
experiment conducted in an artificial setting where some variables are controlled
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field experiment
experiment conduced in an everyday social setting and not an artificial setting
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strengths of lab experiment
1) easy to replicate because highly controlled 2) easy to establish cause and effect due to control over extraneous variables 3) likely to gain informed consent
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limitations of lab experiment
1) ps may alter their behaviour (Hawthorne effect or demand characteristics)
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strengths of field experiments
1) high in validity as studied in natural environment 2) less chance of Hawthorne effect
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limitations of field experiments
1) difficult to replicate because uncontrolled setting 2) hard to test for reliability 3) low control over extraneous variables
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can include open questions or closed questions
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strengths of questionnaires 1
1) quick and cheap method of gathering large amounts of data 2) no interviewer bias as ps answer questions without presence of researcher 3) informed consent is generally gained
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strengths of questionnaires 2
1) easy to replicate 2) fast and efficient analysis is possible if questions are closed
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limitations of questionnaires 1
1) respondents may not understand the questions 2) possibility of a low response rate or may have a biased sample 3)findings may lack insight and depth
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limitations of questionnaires 2
1) respondents may try to please the researcher or could suffer from social desirability bias 2) closed questions may limit what respondents can say so may not gain understanding of meaning behind behaviour
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structured interview
interviewer asks the interviewee the same questions in the same way to all respondents
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strengths of structured interview
can explain questions and overcome literacy problems, data is easier to compare and analyse
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limitations of structured interview
data isnt rich, time consuming and expensive
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unstructured interviews
interviewer has freedom to vary questions between respondents, more like a guided conversation
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strength of unstructured interviews
flexibility, rapport and empathy, checking understanding, good for sensitive topics
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limitations of unstructured interviews
lack reliability, success of interview depends on the bond of trust between the researcher and respondent, interviewer bias
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overt observation
ps are aware they are being observed
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strength of overt observation
ethical as ps consent to take part, information can be recorded openly so data more likely to be valid/accurate, researcher can ask questions
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limitations of overt observations
ps may change their behaviour due to the observer effect
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covert observations
ps don't know they are being observed
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strength of covert observation
ps more likely to show true behaviour
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limitation of covert observation
less ethical due to no consent, cant ask questions and find out in-depth information, researcher cant record information as it happens so may not be accurate
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participant observation
the researcher becomes a ps in the group they are studying
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strength of participant observation
allows researcher to gain insight so data could be more in-depth and valid, sometimes may be the only suitable method for gaining access to vulnerable or dangerous groups
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limitations of participant observation
open to more bias and researcher behaviour could affect the validity of the results, very time consuming demanding and requires certain skills, may be difficult to record info as it happens so data may not be accurate
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non participant observation
the researcher does not actively take part in the activities of the group theyre studying
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strength of non participant observation
less open to bias so data may be more valid, researcher more likely to record into at the time it happens so may be more accurate data
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limitations of non participant observations
difficult for the researcher to gain insight into the groups behaviour, regarded to be unethical if its covert
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official statistics
numerical data gathered by the government or other official bodies, secondary source of data and can be hard statistics or soft statistics
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strengths of official statistics
easy to access, often cover a very large sample of individuals so data is likely to be representative of the population, data is collected frequently
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limitations of official statistics
may not be statistics available for the research topic, may not always be accurate or may not truly reflect the population, may not provide meaning or insight into behaviour
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personal documents
first person accounts of social events and personal experiences, secondary source of data
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strengths of personal documents
theoretical - high in validity as written from the perceptive of an individual
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limitations of personal documents
difficult to access, time consuming to analyse, may not be truly valid or representative, ethically need to get consent
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public documents
produced by organisations such as government departments, schools, welfare agencies, businesses, ect. secondary sources of data
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strengths of public documents
ethical as they've already been published to a public domain, easy to access
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limitations of historical documents
difficulties in establishing meaning as language and meanings change over time and its difficult to establish the authenticity of a historical document as you cant consult the individual that produced the document
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historical documents
public documents which were created in the past
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practical factors influencing choice of topic
funding bodies and availability of data/access to participants on a topic
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ethical factors influencing choice of topic
harm/distress caused to groups
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theoretical factors influencing choice of topic
sociologist's theoretical perspective and values of a society (values and concerns of society change so does the focus of research)
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practical issues influencing choice of method
funding, time, accessing participants, personal skills and characteristics of the researcher
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ethical factors influencing choice of method
informed consent, confidentiality/privacy, protection from harm
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theoretical factors influencing choice of method
methodological approach (interpretivist or positivist)
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Card 2


strengths of primary data


1) the researcher will be aware of any problems with the data as they have gathered it themselves which could help improve the accuracy of the data. 2) the data can target the aims of the research precisely

Card 3


limitations of primary data


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Card 4


secondary data


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Card 5


strengths of secondary data


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