2 By the end of this lesson you will be able to: - Describe cross sectional studies and longitudinal studiesDescribe how sociologists use structured/unstructured interviews to gather data.Describe non-participant observation and participant observation.Describe content analysis and carry out a basic content analysis of women’s magazine.Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the above methods.
3 Social SurveysSocial surveys aim to collect information from a large number of people through questionnaires and structured interviews. There are two main types of social surveys: -Longitudinal surveysCross sectional surveys
4 Longitudinal surveysA longitudinal study aims to gather information from the same group over time, at regular intervals or stages. Examples included:-The 7Up programme, which first aired on ITV in 1964, followed a group of children every seven years.The British Household panel survey, which follows what happens to the same sample of families over a period of years.
5 Cross-sectional studies A cross-sectional survey is done only once. It takes a cross section of the population and asks them about a particular issue only once.Example: The National Foundation for Educational Research carried out a survey into teachers perceptions of the new diploma. Only 21% of teachers polled thought the diplomas were suitable for students who wanted to go to university.
6 Survey type Definition Example Advantages Disadvantages Cross- sectionalA cross-sectional survey takes a cross section of the population and questions them on relevant issues only once.A questionnaire asking students about their attitudes towards sex only onceNot as time consuming as a longitudinal survey. Can be a cheap way of gathering a lot of information.This only gives us a snap shop view. It only tells us about people at one particular point in time.LongitudinalA study of the same group over time.A questionnaire is given to a group of students concerning their attitudes towards sex. A questionnaire is given to them every year until they finish University.Allows us to examine social change over time.Can be time consuming and expensive.
7 InterviewsIn sociology, the interview is widely used for gathering data. Interviews can be conducted face to face or over the telephone. They can also be conducted with individuals or groups. There are two main types of interview: -StructuredUnstructured
8 Interviews Interviews can be: - Structured: - The interviewer uses a set of pre-planned questions (interview schedule). The interviewer is not allowed to deviate from the questions provided. It’s like a postal questionnaire, but administered by an interviewer.Unstructured interviews: -The interviewer may have a set of questions, but aims for a more conversational style. This type of interview enables the researcher to adapt their schedule and questions in response to the participants’ replies.
9 Problems with interviews Problems with validityRespondents may not always tell the truth (e.g. give an answer which they think is acceptable)Respondents may be reluctant to give honest answers to sensitive or personal questions
10 Problems with interviews continued Interview Bias: the presence and behaviour of the interviewer may influence or distort answers given by respondent.Leading questions: The researcher phrases a question in a way that suggests a particular answer. E.g. “It’s now considered only right that women have the same opportunities as men. What do you think about that?”
11 Participant observation and non-participant observation Involves observing particular groups in their natural settings.Participant observation: -Researcher becomes involved in the group, doing the things they do in order to ‘see the world through their eyes’. For example, Hey (1997) played truant with the school girls she was studying.Non-participant observation: -Researcher observes group from a distance. The researcher does not become involved with the group For example, Flanders (1970) study of student/teacher interactions in the classroom .
12 Observation can be: - Overt: - Covert: - Subjects are aware that they are being observedCovert: -Subjects are not aware that they are being observed
13 Content AnalysisContent analysis enables researchers to analyses qualitative material (e.g. magazines, TV, films) by quantifying it. Researchers do this by sorting out categories, then going through this material and systematically recording the number times each category appears.
14 Content Analysis Advantages Disadvantages It can be a reliable method because other researchers can use same categories if they want to repeat the research.It’s easy to produce statistical data.May still be problems with reliability though. Even if researchers use the same categories, they may interpret those categories differently.Doesn’t say much about the meanings behind the text and images being studied. Also assumes that the audience are passive consumers of message
15 Further ReadingBlundell, J (2001) Active Sociology for GCSE, Essex: Pearson Educational Limited: pagesBrowne, k (2005) An Introduction to Sociology for GCSE, Polity Press: Cambridge: pages 429 – 436
16 Useful Websites S-cool sociology- Research methods Tutor2U net: