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Compare and Contrast Questionnaires and Interviews as Sociological Research Methods

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Compare and Contrast Questionnaires and Interviews as Sociological Research Methods Sociologists can use many types of experiment when conducting research, all of which have many advantages and disadvantages. One form of research a sociologist could take is a questionnaire. Positivists are more likely to use this type, as they prefer large scale or 'macro' research, involving a lot of people. This is because they believe that doing large scale research gets a more varied answer, and a more representative conclusion as the group being studied is much more varied. A questionnaire collects quantitative data, as it is mostly expressed in numerical form. Within a questionnaire, many different types of question can be used. For instance, a sociologist could just use simple closed questions, such as a person's name or the year they left school. They could also use multiple choice questions, category questions, where the participant must choose more than one option, or open questions. Within these questions, the respondent is able to go more into depth with their answers. ...read more.


Unstructured interviews are more like and everyday conversation in comparison. They are much more informal, and the questions asked are unlikely to be pre-set, although the interviewer usually has subjects they wish to cover. A famous interview is Ann Oakley's 'From here to maternity' interview. Oakley was interested in the feelings and experiences women went through before, during and after their first pregnancy. She interviewed a number of women; all aged between 19 and 32, and asked them about their emotions and in particular their attitudes towards the child and the father after they had given birth. There are many advantages to using both of these types of experiment. The advantages of using questionnaires are that the experiment is not very time consuming, as they only have to write one questionnaire and send it to different people. Also, the data collected is primary, as you collect it yourself, so the sociologist would know the information had not been tampered with or manipulated or massaged. The information collected is representative as the sociologist is covering a large number of people, presumably with different ages, races and gender. ...read more.


An interviewer can also go off track if they are particularly interested in something the subject is saying, so they can gather data they are really interested in. The disadvantages of using interviews are that an interviewer could use leading or loaded questions. Also, the interviewee may answer in a way they believe is right or politically correct to please the interviewer, even if they do not believe what they are saying. Interviews are not very representative as a sociologist would only be asking one small group of people, and so would not be gathering varied answers. The interviewee may also feel intimidated when being questioned, and so lie or mess up their response, so interviews are not very valid. Also, they are not reliable as a respondent may change their thoughts or feelings later on in life. To conclude, both questionnaires and interviews are two very different, but useful, methods for a sociologist to consider when conducting sociological research. Some may suggest that one, if not both, come with many disadvantages but if a sociologist structures their experiment correctly, both types can be very rewarding. ...read more.

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