The limitations of conducting field experiments may include invalid research, Rosenthal and Jacobson in America deliberately labelled random students as “sputters”. The students who were believed to have high IQ made progress, because they were believed by their teachers, then those who had low IQ. This experiment proves the self-fulfilling prophecy and raises the ethics of freely labelling students.
Harvey and Slatin used photographs of children from different social class backgrounds and asked teachers to rate their educational achievement. Pupils from middle-class backgrounds were seen as more likely to be successful than pupils from a working-class background, suggesting that labelling because of a child’s personal appearance takes place.
However teachers may see labelling as an act of creating discipline for a student rather them labelling as a failure. This therefore will make it hard to generalise the results from the research.
Laboratory experiments are very small scale; this makes it very difficult to investigate large scale problems within society. The small scale nature of laboratory experiments also reduces the representativeness. Trying to study the effects of labelling would have different outcomes as it is set in a real setting and this would isolate numerous studies.
Studying labelling within schools can have some advantages; supervision within the classroom can get a more descriptive portrayal of what labelling pupils has on children and their education. A study in a classroom would allow sociologist to estimate which labels are associated with pupils.
6. Explain what is meant as content analysis
The term content analysis refers to a method of analysing the content of documents. It is best known for analysing the documents produced by mass media, such as television news bulletins or advertisements.
Content analysis enables sociologists to produce quantitative data from these sources.
7. Suggest two examples of personal documents
Personal documents include items such as letters, diaries and photographs. The importance is this is an individual’s perspective of accounts of the social events and personal experiences, and they include the individual’s feelings and attitudes.
8. Identify two problems of using documents in sociological research
Problems which can affect documents in sociological research consist of informed consent and confidentiality.
Participants should be offered the right to refuse being studied. The researcher would have to tell the participant the relevant aspects of the research, so they can make a fully informed decision. The consent should be obtained before the research begins.
When being studied the researchers should keep their participants secret in order to prevent possible negative effects on them.
9. Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose to use official statistics when conducting research.
Official statistics are a source of secondary data which is gathered by the government. There are numerous reasons to use official statistics, the main reasons is they are a form of secondary data; which means they are not collected by the researcher themselves. The research is large scale therefore it is high in representativeness and reliability.
However there are disadvantages when it comes to using official statistics, such as the government collects statistics for its own purposes and not for the benefit of the sociologists. Yet the research method appeals to sociologist, despite the problems they may represent.
The government may have collected statistics that may not benefit researchers; they still have practical advantages which make them viable for research. This is because only the government can afford to produce a large scale survey and have the authority to make it compulsory for people to fill in and provide information on births or deaths. With this data ready for researchers, this saves time, valuable resources and money; this is why many sociologists will choose for official statistics when conducting research. For example, the compulsory census that is sent to every household in the UK would be hard for a researcher to duplicate because it would be time consuming to target people on a large scale as well as the cost for the survey nationwide. The census is collected every 10 years it would allow sociologist to display the different trends and patterns, which could show the different household incomes or professions.
Sociologists choose official statistics when conducting research because they have minor ethical problems. This is because the researcher would not be personally involved in the respondent’s answers; therefore the respondent shouldn’t feel pressured in any way. Official statistics is secondary data; there is no issue of having consent because the government has previously collected the information.
Another reason why sociologist use official statistics when conducting research is because they are high in representativeness. This is because, similar to the census statistics cover a large number of the population which makes it easy for researchers to generalise and test their hypotheses.
Positivists would favour official statistics because they are highly representative, reliable and are a source of a quantitative data. This is useful when analysing data collected regularly because it will allow researchers to draw comparisons. Official statistics are good for testing out hypothesis. Durkheim suggested that high suicide levels were because of low levels of social integration of individuals into social groups. He used a comparative method and argues that different religions produced different levels of integration, Catholics had higher then Protestants. From this analysis he predicted that Protestants would have a higher suicide rate.
Durkheim tested his prediction comparing suicide rates of the religious groups, who were similar in other aspects, for instance where they lived and their marital status. The hypothesis was supported by the official statistics on suicide, which showed Catholics had lower suicide rates. Therefore Durkheim prediction was correct.
However sociologist such as interpretivits criticise official statistics when conducting research. An interpretivist such as Atkinson regards official statistics as lacking validity. Statistics are not real or “social facts”, they are socially constructed that represents labels given by others. Statistics do not demonstrate the true rate of suicides that have taken place, but the total number of decisions made by coroners to label particular deaths as suicides.
Rather then acknowledging statistics as they are shown, interpretivits argue that we should investigate how statistics are socially constructed by observing how the coroner comes to their decision, to label some deaths as suicides whereas others are labelled as accidents. This then would show some validity in their research.
Ultimately researchers would possibly choose official statistics when conducting research, because there are more positive aspects to collect statistics then negative. Official statistics are easy to use meaning they have a high level of practically for sociologist, which can conduct their research without worrying about time, money or resources. Also because the statistics is already collected consent does not have to be given. Statistics being nationwide means that sociologist can conduct a representative study. Also because sociologists are trained at producing data it means the statistics are reliable because they can be easily repeated. Validity is the only concern for interpretivists.