Research methods

Primary data
Information collected by sociologists themselves for their own purposes
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Secondary data
Information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purposes but which the sociologist can use
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Practical factors = time and money, funding bodies, personal skills
Ethical factors = consent, confidentiality, debrief, deception
Theoretical factors = validity, reliability, representivness, feminist (interpretiviats) Marxists (positivist), functionali
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Quantitative data
Numerical and statistical data E.G official stats
Preferred by positivist
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Qualitative data
Rich deep written data E.G instructed interviews
Proffered by intrrpretivists
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Lab Experiments (info)
Carried out in artificial environment
Used to test a hypothesis
Experimental and control group used
Preferred by positivists as it is quantitated data
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Lab Experiment (ao2) example
Milgrim = used to test obedience. Someone answered a question wrong they were given a shock. 65% of people were willing to give the shocks.
He debriefed at the end
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Lab experiment advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = Controlled, reliable (checked by others), comparisons can be made
Disadvantages = can be very unethical, Hawthorne
Effect (may act differently)
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Field experiments (info)
Experiments which are taken place in someone’s natural environment E.G a playground
They gain qualitative data so preferred by interpretivist’s
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Field experiments ( a02) example
Rosenhan - mental health (schizophrenia)
Showed the labelling caused mental health and staff treatment, not actually the illness
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Field experiments advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = natural and realistic, valid as done in true real life situation
Disadvantages = unethical people may not realise they are being researched, hard to establish cause and effect
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Closed questionnaires - precoded (info)
A list of preset questions and answers for the respondent to choose from with high levels of structure.
They gain quantitated data so positivists prefer them
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Closed questionnaires (a02)
Census = structured postal questionnaires, very structured, legal requirements
General household survey = £5 incentive with questions- closed and open
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Close questionnaires Advantages and disadvantages
Advantages= Quick to complete , produce standardise data , reliable
disadvantages = extra questions cannot be added, people may be lying, Snapchat so only give an image of a certain period
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Comparative methods
An experiment carried out in the sociologist mind
Preferred by positivists as they produced quantitated data
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Comparative methods (a02)
Durkheim study on suicide
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Comparative method advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = can study the past, no ethical issues
Disadvantages = made up, no control of variables
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Open questionnaires ( written)
I list a preset questions that was space to write your own response
Preferred by interpretivist as they gain qualitative data
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Open questionnaires (a02)
Sheer Hite = carried out a study of love passional and emotional violence in America. Sent a postal questionnaires
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Open questionnaires advantages and disadvantages
advantages = hi invalidity can use own words and reliable
disadvantages = Harder to analyse cannot add new questions and the very low response rate
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Structured interviews - formal interviews
A list of structured questions which is called an interview schedule when everyone gets the same questions but then answers how they wish
Preferred by positivists as they gain quantitated data
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Structured interviews (a02)
Young and Wilmart research into extended families in East London = employed people to carry out interviews which were very formal and standardised
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Structured interviews advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = which does the problems are overcome, reliable
Disadvantages = interview schedule impose limits time-consuming and cannot establish rapport ( relationship
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Participant observation
Research it actively joins in with the groups that they are studying and want to see the world through their eyes
The idea of getting in staying in and getting out
Interpretivist like these as they gain qualitative data
Can be covert or overt
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Participant observation (a02)
Humphrey covert participant observation =. Was the watch queen observing men in sexual activity in public toilets
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Participant observation advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = Firsthand so valid, verstehn achieved, may be the only method
Disadvantages = issues with reliability and validity as you cannot check findings, very expensive, covert can be on ethical
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Unstructured interviews (informal)
A guided conversation but there is a topic in mind that needs to be studied
Interpretivist like these as they gain qualitative data
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Unstructured interviews (a02)
Do bash and do bash = studied domestic violence with some interviews taking 8+ hours
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Unstructured interviews advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = valid new lines of enquiry can be opened and they build rapport
Disadvantages = time-consuming and not reliable
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Semistructured interviews (conclusion)
Combination of both structured and unstructured interviews
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Nonparticipant observation
Research it does not join in with the group they are studying and have a structured observation schedule
Can be Covert or overt
Positivists prefer these as they gain quantitated data
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Nonparticipant observation (a02)
Bandura = doll observation
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Non-participant observation advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = less bias cannot go native and more reliable
Disadvantages = findings may not be valid so open for interpretation. Hawthorne effect it could occur as participants may act differently as they are where they are being studied
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Official statistics
A secondary source of data collected by the government or other official agencies
Liked by positivists as they gain quantitated data
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Official statistics (a02)
Crime statistics, health statistics
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Official statistics advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = free comparisons can be made and no ethical issues
Disadvantages = not valid, skewed and socially construct it.
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A secondary source of data
This is any written text public documents or private documents
Preferred by interpretivist’s as they gain qualitative data
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Hitler diaries and Ann Frank diary
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Documents advantages and disadvantages
Advantages = cheap saves time and valid, Verstehn is achieved
Disadvantages = are they authentic, unrepresentative, Open to interpretation
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When sociologist use a small percentage of the population who mirrored the largest population
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Random sampling
Based on the idea that each person has an equal chance of being selected as they are chosen at random
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Systematic sampling
When every nth person off the list is chosen
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Cluster sampling
Where the research to select a series of different geographical locations then chooses a sample at random within these groups of people
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Longitudinals study
Done over a long period of time
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Pilot study
Small-scale initial run through
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Secondary data


Information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purposes but which the sociologist can use

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Card 4


Quantitative data


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Card 5


Qualitative data


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