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

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Q) Assess the factors that influence a sociologist’s choice of research method.                                                                (25)

There are many different factors that influence sociologist’s choice of research. Sociologists have to firstly decide what particular area or topic they want to study, in order for them to carry out their research. When sociologists choose a topic, there are two types of sources available to the sociologists, they are primary and secondary. Primary is the data collected by the researchers themselves, usually in the form of questionnaires or interviews. Secondary is the data that is already available e.g. official statistics, diaries, historical documents etc. The researcher then has to decide what type of method they will use for their research.

The main research methods flow from two main theoretical approaches to the study of society. These two approaches are known as positivism and interpretivism. Interpretivists believe that, because peoples’ behavior is influenced by the interpretations and meanings they give to social situations, the researcher’s task is to gain an understanding of these interpretations and meanings and how people see and understand the world around them.  Sociology should, therefore, use research methods which provide an understanding from the point of view of individuals and groups. The Interpretivists question the research methods used by positivists as, according to them, methods such as surveys and interviews impose a sociologist’s own view of what is important rather than what may be important to the individuals being researched.

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Positivists, on the other hand, believe that reality is stable and can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint, i.e. 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. Predictions can be made on the basis of the previously observed and explained realities and their inter-relationships.

However, it is not just theoretical issues that ...

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