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Assess the factors that influence a sociologists choice of research method.

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Introduction

Q) Assess the factors that influence a sociologist's choice of research method. (25) There are many different factors that influence sociologist's choice of research. Sociologists have to firstly decide what particular area or topic they want to study, in order for them to carry out their research. When sociologists choose a topic, there are two types of sources available to the sociologists, they are primary and secondary. Primary is the data collected by the researchers themselves, usually in the form of questionnaires or interviews. Secondary is the data that is already available e.g. official statistics, diaries, historical documents etc. The researcher then has to decide what type of method they will use for their research. The main research methods flow from two main theoretical approaches to the study of society. These two approaches are known as positivism and interpretivism. Interpretivists believe that, because peoples' behavior is influenced by the interpretations and meanings they give to social situations, the researcher's task is to gain an understanding of these interpretations and meanings and how people see and understand the world around them. ...read more.

Middle

For example large-scale and qualitative research methods are mostly expensive. The availability of existing data on a topic may limit or decide the method of research for the sociologist. Furthermore, the values and beliefs of a researcher may inevitably influence whether he or she thinks issues are important or trustworthy for study or not. Also, some researchers might find interviewing easy, while others might be good at handling a lot of statistics gained from questionnaires or sometimes a sociologist might simply find it easy to fit into a group to observe them whilst others would not. And, of course, some topics are best matched with some methods. For example, voting would involve the use of large numbers of people, therefore quantitative methods would be used. Quantitative methods involve reliability and are more practical as they take less time, require less commitment from the researcher and are cheaper. Quantitative methods aren't so easy to quantify. Topics such as deviant behavior would involve qualitative research, because it is a detailed topic, which allows a deeper, and a valid relationship. ...read more.

Conclusion

In participant observation, people may not act normally if they know they are being observed. Therefore is it ethically right to lie to people so that they are unaware that they are being studied? Or when conducting an interview, should the sociologist continue even if the participant is showing signs of hurt or distress? In a questionnaire, is it right to restrict an answer to yes/no if the participant would like to give a more detailed answer? And if in the course of research a sociologist uncovers illegal activity should s/he report this? Sociologists, in reality, often use more than one method in their study (e.g. use a questionnaire & interviews). They do this for a number of reasons. They might want to get a fuller picture of the situation or might want to produce both statistical and in depth data (both quantitative & qualitative data) or may simply wish to cross check the findings from one method by using another. In fact, if a sociologist had limitless time, money and skill he or she would probably always use a variety of methods so as to minimize the theoretical, practical and ethical problem associated with a single research method. Nawal Tauqeer A-1 (Group 4) ...read more.

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