Questions and answers on the key concepts and choice of methods topic of AQA AS Sociolog
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Question Answer
What do positivists argue research should be? Scientific, objective and quantitative
Why do they argue this? They argue there is a measurable objective to social reality
Give some examples of standardised methods of research preferred by positivists Official statistics, structured interviewsm, questionnaires, structured observation
What do positivists use the data they obtain to make? Generalisations and cause-and-effect relationships
How do interpretivists disagree? There is no objective social reality
What do interpretivists want to find out with the research they conduct? Meanings
What open-ended research methods do interpretivists prefer? Unstructured interviews, participant observation, personal documents
What do such methods of research allow the researcher to gain and how? Understanding by experiencing the groups life style for themselves
What are the 3 key concepts sociologists use to judge the usefulness of a research method? Reliability, representativeness and validity
For a method to be reliable, it must be _________ Replicable
What does reliability mean using? Standardised forms of research
What can a reliable piece of data be used for? Systematically re-testing hypothesis about social behaviour
What can't sociologists study every member of the group they are interested in studying? There are usually too many of them
What do the characteristics of the sampled group need to be in order to the data to be representative? The same as those of the wider group
What does this mean the sociologist will be able to make on the basis of evidence from the sample? Generalisations about the wider group
Why do positivists emphasise the need for representativeness? So they are able to discover general patterns and make general cause and effect statements about social behaviour
What does 'validity' refer to? How authentic and true data is
What is the difference between primary and secondary data? Primary - collected by the sociologist themselves Secondary - already been collected by someone else
Give some examples of secondary sources of data? Official statistics, historical documents, business records, media reports, personal documents
What are the three main factors that influence a researchers choice of method? - The methodological preference of the researcher - Practical aspects - Ethical concerns
What are the two methodological types? Positivists and interpretivisits
Which one prefers data to be scientific, objective and quantitative? Positivists
What do intepretivists prefer data to be? Qualitative, unstructured, valid
Give 2 examples of research methods preferred by each type Positivists - questionnaires and official statistics Interpretivists - unstructured interviews and participant observation
How many factors are there surrounding the practical issues of a research method? 7
What are these factors? Time - money - source of funding - personal factors - research subjects - research opportunity - personal danger
TIME Some methods take more time than others - e.g participant observation takes more time than social surveys
MONEY Money can affect the number of researchers (training), the number of respondents (incentives) and the amount of research time. Some methods such as postal questionnaires are cheaper than others.
SOURCE OF FINANCE Research sponsored by government, business etc reflects the concerns of these funding bodies
PERSONAL FACTORS Researchers may have careers, families etc so may not be able to do lengthy research
RESEARCH SUBJECTS Some groups such as criminals are less open, so structured research methods are not appropriate
RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY If a research opportunity suddenly appears, the research may have little/no time to prepare lengthy questionnaires or interview schedules
PERSONAL DANGER Methods involving direct contact with a research group such as participant observation increase the possibility of danger to researchers
What are the three ethical factors? Consent, confidentiality and effects on research subjects
Why must researchers gather informed consent from their research subjects? The effects the research might have on them - it is wrong to manipulate of mislead people
Research subjects have the right to _________ Anonymity
What does this mean about the research subjects when the research is published? They should not be identifiable
Give one reason why this may be hard to achieve If the group studied is small
How may the research subjects be affected by sociological research? Research findings can be used by political groups in the media in ways that may damage the research subjects through embarrassment, harassment etc
How can practical, ethical and theoretical factors be interrelated? Collecting qualitative data produces practical problems such as gaining trust and access Collecting quantitative data creates practical problems such as sampling frames, distribution of a sample etc
What is triangulation? Combining qualitative and quantitative methods of research so that the strengths of one balances the weaknesses of the other
What 5 factors affect a sociologists choice of topic? Practical factors Funding bodies Society's values Theoretical perspective Chance
PRACTICAL FACTORS Some topics may not be easily studied, e.g high level political decision making
FUNDING BODIES Funding bodies will only fund for topics they consider to be important Governments are much more likely to fund research that links to their policies
SOCIETY'S VALUES Society's values change and the interest in particular topics and issues moves with them
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE A sociologists theoretical perspective is likely to influence their choice of topic e.g feminists are likely to study gender issues
CHANCE Sometimes sociologists find themselves in a potential research situation by pure chance e.g hospitalisation as a result of illness gave one researcher the opportunity to do a study of hospital ward
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