• 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

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

    By basing any study on these 'facts', sociologists assumptions have no real meaning. This directly criticises Durkheim's study on suicide as he used statistics as the basis for his findings. Atkinson was able to use qualitative methods to criticising the compilation of suicide statistics successfully.


    many times every day may be satisfied by simply ridding himself of the abnormal behaviour. On the other hand, if an approach cannot treat the underlying causes of the behaviour, it is likely the behaviour will return after a period of time.

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

    Members of the working class could challenge the dominant class through the distribution of more radical ideas. This in theory allows religion to become a force for social change. Otto Maduro also argued that in situations where there is no other outlet for frustration and grievances, the clergy can provide guidance for the oppressed in their struggle with dominant groups.

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

    People who sold their land to JSPL are now rich and so have money to spend on commodities which are other than the basics. People who were power centres before are now facing reduction in their power. But this power shift is not without any flipside.

  1. Sociology independent project - mormons

    Still, Latter-day Saints believe that fallen men and women do need redemption. Works are a necessary condition, but they are insufficient for salvation. * Authority - The Church has 4 Standard Works that are authoritative: The Bible (in so far as it is translated correctly), the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.


    by "middle class organisations" in advocating a "politics of democracy" in opposition to authoritarian moves by the State. Here he maintains that it was primarily middle class organisations which were behind opposition to the 1981 amendments to the Societies Act, the 1986 amendments to the Official Secrets Act, and the

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