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

Experimental methods are of little use to sociologists. Discuss

Extracts from this document...


´╗┐Experimental methods are of little use to sociologists. Discuss (33) Some scientists use experiments (usually laboratory) because it enables them to test precise predictions. Laboratories are controlled environments in which the researcher can manipulate the various independent variables however they wish. They can calculate the effects of a single independent variable while removing the possibility that any other factors are affecting the dependent variable they are studying. This is achieved through the use of control with which to compare the experiment. However, sociologists rarely use laboratory experiments because laboratories are unnatural settings. Members of society do not spend their time under observation. The knowledge that they are being studied and the artificiality of the situation, might well affect the behaviour of those involved and distort the results so as to make them of little use. Because the results obtained in a laboratory may have little relationship to how people might behave outside the laboratory, the results of experiments lack validity. ...read more.


emphasis on the meanings and motives of actors is more important than finding patterns, trends and correlations because it requires an understanding of people?s unobservable subjective states, which cannot be reduced to statistical data. However, Griffin did conduct an experiment where he changed his skin colour to see how people responded to him. Because Interpretivists think that humans are not like plants or animals because they are self-reflexive and have consciousness and attach meanings to behaviour they feel that the best way to research social interaction is through participant observation. Participant observation and unstructured interviews allows the researcher to see the world from the point of view of the people concerned. As Whyte said ?as I sat and listened I learnt the answers to questions I never would of asked.? This shows that the positivist approach puts the researchers boundaries around the research in a way that the Interpretivists try not to do. In addition there methods reveal more about actual behaviour than any positivist approach could, for example, Ditton?s research into bread sales men found that they all stole as a matter of course. ...read more.


Thus in Sissons?s experiment, for example, it was not possible to carry out the two experiments at the same time and the same place, and, since they took place at different times, factors such as the weather and the time of day might have affected the results. Also, in some field experiments, the fact that an experiment is taking place can affect the results. This is often known as the Hawthorne effect. For example Mayo found in his study that variables such as room temperature, the strength of the lighting and the length of breaks were varied, but irrespective of whether working conditions were improved or made worse, productivity usually increase. It appeared that the workers were responding to the knowledge that an experiment was taking place rather than to the variables being manipulated. To avoid the Hawthorne Effect, it is necessary that the subjects of experimental research are unaware that the experiment is taking place. (However, this does raise further problems of informed consent). In conclusion, experimental methods are of little use to sociologists because they are too small scale, the Hawthorne effect occurs and sociologists like to see people in their natural environment. ...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


    and the DV (dependent variable). The behaviourist principles of learning have been, and continue to be, tested in the laboratory where learning can be objectively measured. The behaviourist approach concentrates on the 'here and now' rather than exploring a person's past or their medical history.

  2. Sociology independent project - mormons

    Age of marriage - Will have been married from a young age from as early as 19. Marital happiness - Most likely to be happy in marriage compared with 65 percent of Protestants and Catholics and 57 percent of those with no religion.

  1. Most sociologists do not believe there is any straight forward relationship between religion and ...

    Marshall further argued that predestination wasn't introduced to produce a rational pursuit of profit, but was an unintended consequence, therefore, the interpretations that Calvinists put on the doctrine of predestination contributed to them being the first capitalist. Marshall concluded that although other areas might have other prerequisites of capitalism, (labour, profit etc)

  2. Discuss the usefulness of Quantative and Qualitative Methods in study of Suicide.

    Atkinson looked into the validity of suicide statistics by using interpretist methods to look into the meaning behind them. This is essentially critiquing Durkheim's research and so he is externally criticising Durkheim's suicide study. Atkinson looked into how the suicide statistics are constructed.

  1. To the study of effect of industrialisation in Kolam village of Raigarh district of ...

    Income * Agriculture: Average income from agriculture was before industrialisation was Rs 31,974 which increased by 32.46% and the resultant average income after industrialisation became Rs 47,338. This has helped the villagers in two ways. Firstly, the uncultivated land did not give any return to their owner.


    For against those who argue that conceptual clarification is neither possible nor desirable,6 I would suggest that considerable confusion has been generated by the conflicting, sometimes even contradictory ways in which the term has been used. Some of these issues loom large in a recent article on the Malaysian middle class by Johan Saravanamuttu.

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