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Sociological Research Methods

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Presentation on theme: "Sociological Research Methods"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociological Research Methods

2 Think About... 100 surveys were sent out to students regarding bullying. The survey simply asked: “Have you ever experienced bullying? Yes or no?” Only 48 were returned, and of those, about 40% of students claimed they had experienced bullying at some stage in their school/college life. What potential problems can you identify with this survey and its findings?

3 Learning Objectives Describe the difference between primary and secondary data. Identify two advantages and two disadvantages of each type. Describe the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.

4 What are Research Methods?
Research Methods are what sociologists “do”. In many ways, it is what distinguishes sociology from philosophy: Sociological theories are underpinned by evidence. In order to gain the required evidence, sociologists must conduct empirical research.

5 How do they fit into this unit?
Nearly everything we have studied this year so far is drawn from research conducted by sociologists. In the exam, the 52 Mark question will ask you to evaluate a piece of research. In order to do this, you need to have a wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of sociological research methods.

6 Types of Data – Primary/Secondary
What is the difference between PRIMARY and SECONDARY data?

7 Primary Data Primary Data is data that is collected directly by sociologists. It could be for the purpose of testing a hypothesis or to gain a clearer picture of a particular group.

8 Individually On your whiteboards, write down three methods that could be used to gather primary data.

9 Secondary Data Secondary Data is data that has been collected by someone else for their own purposes.

10 Individually On your whiteboards, write down two ways in which secondary data could be found.

11 Complete the Table Primary Data
ADVANTAGE #1 ADVANTAGE #2 DISADVANTAGE #1 DISADVANTAGE #2 Primary Data The data is up to date and contemporary Secondary Data A quicker and cheaper way of doing research It may not provide the exact data

12 Types of Data – Quantitative vs. Qualitative
What is the difference between Quantitative and Qualitative data?

13 Quantitative Data Information in numerical form.
This data is preferred by positivists. Examples of quantitative data might include: GCSE Results How many marriages end in divorce (stats) Proportion of over-60s in the population

14 Qualitative Data Data in the form of words.
The idea is to help understand how people think and feel. This data is preferred by interpretivists. Provides rich, detailed descriptions of people’s feelings and experiences. Can also include other non-numerical data (e.g. Photographs).

15 What type of data are the following?
Police statistics Observations Letters Structured Interviews A Level Results Diaries Photographs Opinion Poll Results Questionnaires Interviews Quantitative/Qualitative? Primary/Secondary?

16 Activity In pairs, study the examples provided and discuss whether a quantitative or qualitative approach would be most appropriate and why.

17 P.E.T. Once a sociologist decides what area they wish to research, they need to decide on an appropriate method. The choice of method will often be influenced by the strengths and limitations of each. These limitations can be Practical, Ethical or Theoretical. Check: What does ‘practical’ mean? What does ‘ethical’ mean?


19 In small groups: Complete the activity on the worksheets provided.
5 mins to discuss – then feed back to the class.

20 Theoretical Issues Theoretical issues can be summarised through four key concepts. It is essential that you understand these concepts and use them in the exam!!!!

21 Reliability & Validity
What is your understanding of these terms? What does it mean for something to be reliable? What does it mean for something to be valid?

22 Reliability & Validity
Reliability is the extent to which a test/method/procedure produces similar results under constant conditions. Validity is the extent to which a method measures or describes the thing that it is supposed in a truthful way. In other words, it gives you a true picture of what is really happening.

23 For Example... I weigh myself every morning for a week. Every morning, the scales tell me I weigh 35 stone. Is this data: Reliable? Valid?

24 Reliability Quantitative data tends to be more reliable than qualitative data... ...This is because quantitative methods tend to be more tightly structured. However, it is difficult to get truly reliable results in sociology, because people are unreliable. For example, observations of human beings are rarely the same twice.

25 Validity Qualitative methods tend to be more valid, because the researcher can spend more time drawing from people what they really think or feel about something – and why. For example, you would learn more about a group by hanging out with them and observing them closely for a week than you would from getting them to fill in a multiple choice questionnaire. The big problem is, though, that some people act/speak differently when they know they’re being studied.

26 Discuss (Small Groups)
You read an article that states 10% of Yr10 boys and 7% of Yr10 girls have smoked cannabis in the last week. 43% of the year group have taken drugs in the last 6 months. What kind of data is this? What RELIABLE methods could you use to find out if it was replicated in your school/college? What methods would you use to find out if Yr10 were being truthful (VALID.)

27 Representativeness & Generalisability
Representativeness is the extent to which the individual/group being studied is typical of the research population. If they are typical, then what is true of them is true of others like them. We can therefore generalise from this sample. Generally speaking, a large sample has more chance of being representative/generalisable than a smaller one.

28 For example... I want to research goths; my aim is to find out how important style is to a ‘goth’ lifestyle. Who would be the most representative?

29 ...And... How many of this sort of person should I talk to if I want to generalise my results for... Goths in Northampton College Goths in The East Midlands Goths in England & Wales How would the amount of people I need to study impact my choice of method?

30 Theoretical Issues: Methodological Perspectives
The method a researcher chooses will also depend on their methodological perspective. There are two main, contrasting perspectives in sociological research: Positivists & Interpretivists.

31 Positivists Treat the study of society as a science.
They favour quantitative methods, which are objective and high in reliability. The researcher should be distant and value free.

32 Interpretivists Believe a scientific study of society is not possible, as people are too individual. Favour qualitative methods which are high in validity. They are interested in gaining empathy and understanding... ...verstehen!!!!

33 Sampling You want to do a study on Goths in the Midlands: How are you going to obtain your sample? Identify three potential ways.

34 Choosing a Sample Do you need a sample that is representative of a particular target population? How big should the sample be: Will the sociologist be able to make generalisations from the results? Is there a suitable sampling frame (list that includes most of target population)?

35 Probability or Random Sampling
Simple Random Sampling – select a number of sampling units from the sampling frame (usually computer generated) Systematic Random Sampling – pick one name from the frame and then choose every nth after that.

36 Probability or Random Sampling
Stratified Random Sampling – Divide the target population (e.g. by gender or ethnicity) and then take random samples from each group.

37 Non-Probability or Non-Random Sampling
Quota Sampling – Decide how many people from each population group are needed and then select them personally. Snowball Sampling – Find one person who fits the criteria and then ask them if they know others who will take part, and so on… Purposive Sampling – Seeking out particular people directly.

38 Non-Probability or Non-Random Sampling
Opportunity Sampling – Choosing from those people available at a particular time (e.g. the first 20 who come along). Volunteer Sampling – When people actively volunteer to take part (e.g. in response to an advertisement).

39 Activity In pairs or small groups, read through and discuss the study you are given and answer the following: What was the aim of the study? What method(s) was used? Comment on the reliability and validity of the method(s). What was the sample and how was it gathered? Comment on the representativeness of the sample and the generalisability of the results. What practical and ethical considerations did the researcher have to take into account? Why? What were the findings of the study?

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