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Compare and contrast the effectiveness of questionnaires and interviews in sociological research.

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Introduction

George Amos 12K - Sociology Compare and contrast the effectiveness of questionnaires and interviews in sociological research. When sociologists wish to collect some data about people's behaviour, questions must first be asked. It comes as no surprise to learn that sociologists spend most of their time asking questions of the respondents and collecting the data. But what is the best way to ask these questions? Questionnaires have become an everyday occurrence with most people having filled in a questionnaire at some point in the life span. There are two methods of asking questions; firstly, an interviewer can ask questions of the respondents and record the results, which means that the questionnaire is likely to be filled out correctly, but on the other hand, the respondent may change his or her opinion based on what they think the interviewer wants them to hear. I.e. if the interviewer is a female, a male respondent is more likely to be sympathetic to feminist views. ...read more.

Middle

There are two types of question, open or closed. Open questions are more qualitative as they allow the respondent more chance to express themselves, and closed questions are easier to turn into stats and figures making them more quantitative. Questionnaires are relatively cheap and easy to produce, when compared to the time and cost it takes to do the same amount of face to face interviews. The findings in a questionnaire are also more representative as they allow the sociologist to use a broader sample. This style is also more reliable meaning that it can be produced again by another sociologist to achieve the same results. Filling in a questionnaire is usually done anonymously which encourages more people to answer honestly. The main problem with Questionnaires is validity. Some sociologists argue that in their hurry to complete the questionnaire, respondents may not think to carefully about their answer and may skip on details. ...read more.

Conclusion

Structured interviews are obviously less quick and cheap when compared to questionnaires, but the interviewer is there to give the respondent prompts and explain certain questions. However structured interviews still maintain a high level of reliability. Unstructured interviews benefit from not forcing the respondent into niches that they would be forced into in structured interviews or questionnaires. This means that the responses given are far more valid. It takes a long time to carry out an unstructured interview so the sample will generally be smaller, thus less representative. Finally, the researcher must be aware that the respondent will only reveal what the respondent is aware of and wants to reveal. On top of which, people are not always aware of their own behaviour, i.e. teachers don't necessarily know that they place a greater emphasis on girls rather than boys in the classroom. Questioning in any form therefore has its limitations. In conclusion, both questionnaires and interviews are useful depending on whether you want more qualitative or quantitative data. ...read more.

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