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Practical and Ethical Factors

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Using material from Item B and elsewhere, assess the claim that a sociologist's choice of research method is based mainly on practical and ethical factors Research methods are ways in which a sociologist investigates a topic, they are then able to analyse the situation and draw conclusions and results from it. There are different types of research methods, qualitative methods and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are more interpretive and may include open interviews, observation and open questions in questionnaires. On the other hand, quantitative methods are scientific and may use surveys, closed interviews and statistics. Ethical problems in research are problems of morality, where the sociologist doing the research potentially violates or breaks people's trust or affects them through the research in some way. Practical factors refer to the efficiency of the research in terms of time, function, cost and usefulness. Laud Humphrey's has been criticised for his covert research into homosexuals as it was seen as unethical. This is a significant issue as it helps others to understand the ways in which sociologists go about their research, and their reasons for choosing their methods. Looking at different reasons and views helps to assess whether a choice of research method is based mainly on practical and ethical factors or other factors. ...read more.


This is also not unethical as they use information that is available to all, as Durkheim did in his suicide study. This shows that ethical and practical factors were the most important aim to achieve for these sociologists when choosing a research method. It was ethical in that the study did not affect the individuals, as well as practical as it was inexpensive and quick. However, K Sharpe's study on prostitutes was neither practical or ethical. The aim of the study was to investigate as to why women entered the world of prostitution, their motivation and how they learnt the skills needed to be successful. Sharpe chose for her research to be covert, which in itself was unethical as the women she interviewed could not give their consent to participate in the research. As for practicality, the study would have been difficult as it was likely that many of the women did not want to discuss their lives due to fear or simply to maintain their privacy. This is a strong study to suggest that practical and ethical factors are not the main reasons for a sociologists choice of research method. K. Sharpe obviously had her own motives for choosing such method to study prostitutes, but as her study proves, her reasons were neither for ethical or practical factors, which refutes the claim. ...read more.


Herbert Blummer argues that researchers should grasp the actors view of social reality. He believes it is crucial to understand meanings and interpretations given by the actors before relationships can be made. This is ethical as interactionists do not harm anyone or interfere, however it is not practical as they are more concerned about the best way to gain relevant information rather than its accessibility ease. Whilst this view does support the ethical claim, it does not support the practical claim as it would be extremely time consuming. The evidence seems to suggest that although ethical and practical factors are extremely important when choosing a research method, sociologists also take other factors into account. A quantitative researcher is very unlikely to use qualitative methods even though they may be better suited, purely due to his own views. Most sociologists have tried to make their research ethical in some form or another, and even when studies have been unethical there have been reasons for this such as the use of covert research. It is therefore more likely that research is to be more practical than ethical as researchers will not want to waste time or money. There is little excuse for being unpractical. Some researchers may strive for their research to be high in validity and reliability rather than it being ethical or practical. Overall, evidence shows that ethical and practical factors are not the prime reasons behind a sociologists motives for a particular research method. ...read more.

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