Representative - …is when the sample used is typical of the population in general.
Once a researcher has carried out a pilot study, made any necessary changes to it and selected a sample, he or she is ready to begin the process of gathering data. Data can be collected by using one or more methods from a range of research methods such as questionnaires, interviews and observations. When data is collected by doing research in this way, it is known as primary data.
Primary data is information that is generated and collected first hand by the researcher using techniques such as questionnaires, interviews or observations.
Secondary data is information that already exists and has previously been collected by other people such as Official Statistics collected by the Government, the work of other sociologists and the mass media.
Qualitative Data - This type of data is presented verbal form, for example, as words or quotes. This type of data usually consists of word for word accounts from the people being studied.
Quantitative Data - This type of data is presented in numerical form, for example as graphs or tables of statistics which count of measure something (such as the responses to a questionnaire question).
The Research Process
Research can generate large amounts of data, such as interview transcripts and completed questionnaires. At this stage of the research the researcher analyses the data by interpreting it and presenting the main findings or results.
As the research studies the data they look for patterns in answers – such as similar answers from people from the same social class.
Before the research can be published it is evaluated by other experienced sociologists. This form of peer assessment acts as a form of quality control.
Social Surveys involve collecting information from a large number of people usually through questionnaires and structured interviews. They are used by opinion pollsters, market researchers and government departments as well as sociological researchers.
Asking Questions through Questionnaires
A questionnaire consists of a list of pre-set questions to which the respondent supplies the answers. The questions are standardised so each respondent answers an identical set of questions in the same order. There are three main ways of delivering questionnaires;
Hand-delivered Questions: the researcher hands the questionnaires out.
Formal or structured Interviews: the interviewer reads out the questions from the interview schedule, this can be done face to face or through the phone.
Postal Questionnaires: the self-completion questionnaire is mailed or emailed and then sent back to the researcher.
Closed or Fixed-choice Questions
Respondents choose between a number of given answers often by just ticking the appropriate box in response to a question.
Researcher has to be sure to include all possible answers and ensure questions are worded so that the meaning is clear.
Do not provide in-depth, detailed information
Respondents can give their own answer to the question instead of selecting an answer.
Responses to this type of question can vary to give deeper understanding.
Responses are likely to be very varied so are more difficult to convert into statistics.