• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine the usefulness of Social Surveys as a research method.

Extracts from this document...


Examine the usefulness of Social Surveys as a research method. In this essay I will be looking at the usefulness of social surveys, in particular, Questionnaires and structured Interviews. Social surveys consist of quantitative methods that are preferred by positivists as they are conducted on a large scale and are therefore representative of the population. A large sample size denotes reliability which is also preferred by positivist sociologists. Social surveys are a useful type of research method as they are a good way of studying large numbers of people, therefore making it easy to generalise the population and they can be used to collect data and test hypotheses. An example of a very large scale survey in the UK is the Census. The Census is carried out every ten years and is given to the population to fill out and return. Social surveys consist of two forms: written questionnaires, which respondents are asked to complete; and interviews, that are either face to face or over the telephone. Questionnaires are the most commonly used form of social surveys. They are usually used for reaching large numbers of people and consist of two questions: open and closed questions. ...read more.


Another way to increase the response rate of questionnaires could be to offer incentives such as a pen but then again that would add to the cost of conducting the research as well. Interpretivists would not think that questionnaires are useful as they argue that data from questionnaires lack validity and do not give a true picture of what is studied. People may lie, misinterpret the questions, not know the answers to the question, exaggeration could occur or even the wrong person could fill in the questionnaire making the research to be far less reliable. This is what Schofield experienced when he conducted his research in 1985. One of his questions asked: "Are you a virgin?" and the response were 'no not yet', demonstrating how people could easily misinterpret a simple question. There is also the problem of time lags i.e. the time it takes for the respondent to receive, complete and send back the questionnaire. All these factors question the usefulness of questionnaires and consequently social surveys. The other types of social surveys most used are interviews. Interviews can be conducted face to face, over the internet or over the telephone. ...read more.


The problems of using structured interviews are that they can still have some interviewer bias/effect on the response from the interviewee and therefore an answer could be exaggerated or adapted to likings of the researcher. There are usually a limited range of alternative answers which affects the validity of the research and these limited responses can be limited, overlap or they can be open to interpretation as well. Different interviewers could mean that some variables aren't kept the same and therefore again could have an affect how the response of the responder. As a rapport is not built in structured interviews it means that it is harder to uncover sensitive information as the respondent may not feel comfortable to talk about something to a stranger. In conclusion social surveys usually consist of structured interviews and questionnaires both of which have similar usefulness's and even similar disadvantages. Positivists nevertheless love to use social surveys as they produce hard reliable, quantitative data and they can easily be conducted cheaply again to test the reliability of your first results. Interpretivists disagree with positivists and would say that social surveys are not useful at all as they do not produce valid data that can be used to produce an accurate picture of society. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Assess the usefulness of Postal Questionnaires

    For example, if your research is concerned with finding-out the opinions of women on a range of issues, it would be less than useful if an unknown number of the questionnaires sent by the researcher were filled-in by men. Where the researcher is not present, it's always difficult to know whether or not a respondent has understood a question properly.

  2. METHODOLGY The research design sets out how the researcher will collect evidence and ...

    There are three main questions to be asked about any piece of sociological research: is the method of data collection reliable? Is the data valid? Are the people or the social setting representative? For data to be regarded as valid, it must be a true picture of what is being studied so the laboratory experiment has a validity problem.

  1. The Making of a Moonie

    The second stage was 'An interpersonal level' to look at the interaction between Moonies and each other and Moonies and Non-Moonies. The third stage of initial questions was 'An impersonal level'. This looked at the structure of the movement, its functions and consequences and looked at the overall role of the movement in society.

  2. Interview is a form of research method which involves interaction between interviewer and respondents ...

    In other words, group interview allows larger sample size to be studied in a shorter time than in individual interview. Hence, data collected in group interview will be more representative and generalizable. Furthermore, James Holstein and Jaber Gubrium argue that respondents in group interviews are more reflexive than in individual interviews due to multivocality.

  1. Assess the usefulness of observations in sociological research

    true, the participants knew they were being observed and thus the observation is classed as overt. When Whyte began his research, he simply observed the gang. However, as time went by he became more involved and even moved away from his home into the area in which the gang lived.

  2. Gender Bias

    For example Levison's Seasons of a Man's Life. Levinson based his theory on research with 40 men. He attributed these seasons to women too. In 1986 Levinson did research to develop the 'Season's of a Woman's Life'.

  1. Social research

    This quote describes a sort of conclusion on findings that he had found; "It describes the patterns of departure from and returns to the parental home, and it estimates the impacts of regional housing market circumstances and of characteristics of young person and his/her on these processes."

  2. Assess the usefulness of interactionist approaches to the study of society

    The goal of the Dramaturgical Model is to explain how individuals understand who they are and present themselves to others in different situations based on cultural and social expectations. The model?s primary function is to describe what is going on within a given setting.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work