Sociological Methods

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Primary Data
Information collected by sociologists themselves for their own purposes. These purposes may be to obtain a first-hand 'picture' of a group/society or to test a hypothesis.
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Secondary Data
Information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purposes, which the sociologist can then use.
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Qualitative Data
Numerical form data. Including: official statistics, information collected by opinion polls and market research data.
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Quantitative Data
Gives a 'feel' for what something is link, e.g. in-depth interviews. Methods which provide rich descriptions of people's feelings and experiences.
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Positivism
The belief that society is made up of 'social facts' that can be studied scientifically to discover laws of cause and effect.
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Interpretivism
A term covering a range of perspectives, including Interactionalism. They focus on how we contract our social worlds through the meanings we create and attach to events, actions and situations
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Objective
Having actual existence or reality.
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Subjective
Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world.
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Hypothesis
An untested theory or explanation, expressed as a statement.
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Numerical
Relating to or expressed as a number/numbers.
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Covert
Not openly acknowledged. (the opposite of overt)
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Overt
Shown openly. (the opposite of covert)
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Validity
A valid method is producing a true/genuine picture of what something is really like. Many argue that qualitative methods (like participant observation) give a more valid/truthful account.
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Reliability/Replicability
A reliable method is repeated by another researcher, and it gives the same results.
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Representativeness
It refers to whether or not the people we study are a typical cross-section of the group we are interested in.
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Methological perspective
Sociologists' choice of method is influenced by their metholodical perspective. It is their view of what society is like and how we should study it.
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Theoretical perspective
The sociologists' theoretical perspective is a large influence on the choice of research topic.
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Societies' values
Sociologists themselves are part of the society they study and thus are influenced by its values. As these values change, so does the focus of research.
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Funding bodies
Most research requires funding from an external body. As the funding body is paying for the research, it will determine the topic to be investigated
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Practical factors
Sometimes there are inaccessibilities of certain situations to the research. This causes restrictions to the topics which they are able to study
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Time and Money
This influences the sociologists' choice as access to resources is a major factor. Also some methods take a long time to take out.
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Requirements of funding bodies
Research institutes, businesses and other organisations that provide the funding for research may require the results to be in a particular form; thus influencing the choice of research method.
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Personal skills and characteristsics
Each sociologist has different personal skills; affecting their ability to use different methods.
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Subject matter
It could be harder to study a particular group/subject by one method than another.
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Research opportunity
Sometimes the opportunity to carry out research occurs unexpectedly. This could mean that it is not possible to use structured methods such as: questionnaires, which take a long time to prepare.
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Informed consent
Research participants should be offered the right to refuse. The researcher should inform the participants about all relevant aspects of the research, so they can make their own decision. Consent should be obtained before and during the research.
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Confidentiality and privacy
Researchers should help the identity of research participants stay secret in order to help prevent possible negative effects on them. They should respect their privacy and keep their personal information confidential.
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Effects on research participants
Researchers need to be aware of the possible effects of their work on the particpants they study. Researchers should try to anticipate and prevent this.
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Vulnerable groups
Vulnerable groups include: age, disability or physical/mental health.
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Covert research
When the researcher's identity and research purpose are hidden from the people being studied: creating ethical problems - deception/lying. However, some sociologists argue that this can be justified.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

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

Back

Secondary Data

Card 3

Front

Numerical form data. Including: official statistics, information collected by opinion polls and market research data.

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

Gives a 'feel' for what something is link, e.g. in-depth interviews. Methods which provide rich descriptions of people's feelings and experiences.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

The belief that society is made up of 'social facts' that can be studied scientifically to discover laws of cause and effect.

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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