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

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Examine some of the factors that influence a researcher’s choice of method (20 Marks)


When a sociologist is carrying out research, they must take the following factors into consideration. These are practical, ethical and theoretical factors. These factors must always be used to determine which research methods should be used. If these factors are not met and fully considered before carrying out the research, then it will lead to major problems arising later on in the research. All of these factors must be well balanced and one should not be focused on more than the others. They are all equally important and must be considered when evaluating results found.

The practical methods which must be taken into consideration when carrying out research are varying and wide ranging. One of the main factors that is important is funding. The funding limits the scale of research that can be carried out. For example, if a sociologist gains a large amount of funding, they can conduct their research on a large scale and gain a collection of information. Funding can influence the opportunities available to researchers, for example, if a researcher has lots funding, they can use incentives for people to comply with their research. they could offer for example a entry into a £5,000 reward for people who complete their questionnaire.

Another important practical factor is gaining the trust of the people. One example of this is Sudhir Venkatesh. He was able to infiltrate a gang called 'The Black Kings'. He was able to do so because he was of Asian descent meaning that the gang trusted him. Throughout the research, his ethnicity played an important part. At first however, he was held and questioned by them as they believed him to be a member of a rival gang. 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. For instance, you could find yourself involved in a serious crime such as drug dealing or murder. However, in some instances you must go undercover in order to gather information that you would otherwise be unable to record. Sometimes, subjects are not told that they are being used for a sociological experiment as there would be no other way of gathering information. An example is Lawd Humphries 'tea room' study in the 1960's. He would not have been able to gather the information that he did as his subjects would not have been willing to cooperate as homosexuality was such a controversial issue at the time and the subjects he was using were committing a criminal act.

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The second topic which must be considered when writing are the ethical factors behind a research method. The research methods must be kept as ethical as possible. However, some of the most revealing and gripping studies have been unethical. The British Sociologists Association (BSA) have a set of guidelines for which they expect their members to conduct their research within. It fits into the mnemonic DRIPP.

 D - Deception - Participants should not be misled or lied to about the nature of the research being carried out.

  • R - Right to withdraw - Participants can withdraw at anytime and ...

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