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

Examine the ways in which practical, ethical and theoretical factors may influence a sociologists choice of research method

Extracts from this document...


Examine the ways in which practical, ethical and theoretical factors may influence a sociologist's choice of research method (20 marks) Many sociologists argue that practical factors are the most important factors to affect choice of method. It is important to understand the topic or group being studied. For example, if the topic is sensitive, such as domestic violence, bullying, grades at school etc. For sensitive information, unstructured interviews would be the best research method as the researcher can build up a rapport with the participant, meaning that the participant would be more likely to open up to the researcher. For example, Dobash and Dobash carried out informal interviews on women who had experienced domestic violence. Another practical factor that affects choice of method is the social characteristics of the researcher. For example a 30 year old man from the upper middle class would find it impossible to pass off as a 17 year old female sixth form student from a working class area. This would mean that they wouldn't be able to use covert participant observation as a research method. ...read more.


how customers feel about a certain product or service. Other sociologists argue that ethical factors are the most important factor when choosing a research method. They believe that it is vital to follow the major ethical guidelines such as no deception of participants, meaning that you tell them the true aim of your research. No harm or distress for the participant and especially vulnerable groups and ensure confidentiality and privacy of the information on participants. This means that it can potentially make some methods such as laboratory experiments and covert participant observation questionable as they do break guidelines. For example, Milgram's laboratory experiment into whether the presence of an authority figure affects obedience broke nearly all of the ethical guidelines and so must be questioned. Patrick's study on the Glasgow gangs was also questionable as he used covert participant observation to disguise himself as a member of the gang. This deceived the participants into thinking he was a 16 year old boy when he wasn't an also put his own and the participants' safety at risk. Finally, lots of sociologists argue that the most important factor affecting choice of method is not the practical or ethical factors but the theoretical perspective of the researcher. ...read more.


An example would be that Dobash and Dobash were able to discover the patriarchal nature of domestic violence by using informal interviews. Another type of research method that interpretivists would use is a case study e.g. the case study of Genie. This is because they can research sensitive matters and gain very detailed and rich information. In conclusion, sociologists tend to choose methods which are fit for their purpose. This means that the most important factor in the choice of research method is the topic or group being studied because sometimes you can't get much information using some research methods and it may not be practical. For example, using questionnaires to gain information about what grades students got in their exams won't be very effective as many students would be sensitive about that topic. Using informal interviews would be better than questionnaires as the researcher builds up a rapport with the participants. In order to increase both reliability and validity sociologists often triangulate and use quantitative and qualitative methods to gain validity and reliability. For example, Barker's study of the Moonies used both overt participant observation and questionnaires, and Mac an Ghaill used observation, questionnaires and secondary quantitative methods to get high validity and reliability in their research. ?? ?? ?? ?? By Lois Butler ...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. Demography topic revision notes. The study of populations and their characteristics is called ...

    However, the death rate has fallen since 1900. The death rate is the number of deaths per thousand of the population per year. In 1900, the death rate stood at 19, whereas by 2007 it had almost halved, to 10. The death rate had already begun falling from about 1870 and continued to do so until 1930.

  2. Examine The Problems That Some Sociologists May Find When Using Participant Observations In Research

    In order for any results to be considered valid, the results must remain completely objective, with no bias from the researcher. This is not always the case in participant observations. The researcher has to record their observations as they see it, which this in itself could bias the results.

  1. Examine the factors that influence a sociologist choice of research method

    If there is no access to certain groups then secondary sources may have to be used as an alternative. An example of this is when you get researchers hoping to cover a survey on a specific gang or cult. This could be dangerous especially if that gang may have a record of crime and callous behaviour.

  2. Practical and Ethical Factors

    This study also relates to another statement in Item B, 'procedures should be adopted to reduce risk to researchers'. Therefore, in this case it was possibly more due to safety reasons that Patrick chose to keep his name secret, rather than ethical or practical factors.

  1. Examine the problems sociologists may find when using participant observation in their research.

    Some groups are easier than others though. For example, joining a football gang is easier than joining a criminal gang. Making initial connection with a group may depend on personal skills, having the right connections or just plain luck. James Patrick (1973) was able to join a Glaswegian gang because he looked quite young and knew the gang leader from having taught him in a previous school.

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

    without interfering with the phenomena being studied. They contend that phenomena should be isolated and that observations should be repeatable. This often involves manipulation of reality with variations in only a single independent variable so as to identify regularities in, and to form relationships between, some of the constituent elements of the social world.

  1. Compare and contrast any two major theoretical perspectives in Sociology.

    Marxism is completely different in its interpretation and was founded by Karl Marx and it is a theory that believes society is divided by class. They believe that the rich (upper class or bourgeoisie) control and exploit the poor (proletariat).

  2. Examine some of the factors that influence a researchers choice of method (20 Marks)

    He eventually won their trust and became the leader of their gang for a day. If it was, a white person trying to gain entrance to a black gang, they would find this very hard to do so. Also, in a situation such as infiltrating a gang, you could find that you are putting yourself in great danger.

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