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Flashcards in Choosing A Research Method Deck (45)
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What are the 2 sources of data?

Primary and Secondary


What is primary data?

Information collected by sociologists themselves for their own purposes. These purposes may be to obtain a first hand 'picture' of a group or society, or to test as hypothesis (an untested theory)


What are the 3 methods that can be used to obtain primary data?

-social surveys
-participant observation


What is a social survey?

Involves asking people questions in a written questionnaire or an interview


What is participant observation?

The sociologist joins in with the activities of the group he or she is studying


What are experiments?

Sociologists rarely use laboratory experiments, but they sometimes use field experiments and the comparative method


What are 1 advantage and 1 disadvantage of using primary data?

Advantage: sociologists may be able to gather precisely the information they need to test the hypothesis

Disadvantage: costly and time consuming


What is secondary data?

Information that has been collected or created by someone else for their own purposes, but which sociologists can then use


What are the 2 sources of secondary data?

-official statistics


What are official statistics?

Produced by government on a wide range of issues, such as education, crime, divorce, and unemployment as well as other statistics produced by charities, businesses, churches and other organisations


What are documents?

Letters, emails, diaries, photographs, official report, novels, newspaper, the internet and television broadcasts


Give an advantage and a disadvantage of using secondary data

Advantage: quick and cheap way of doing research, since someone else has produced the information

Disadvantage: those who produce it may not be interested in the same questions as sociologists- may not provide exactly the information that sociologists need


What are the 2 types of data?

Qualitative and Quantitative


What is Quantitative data?

Refers to information in a numerical form.
Examples of this data include official statistics on how many girls passed 5 or more GCSEs

Similarly, information collected by opinion polls and research surveys often comes in the form of quantitative data


What is Qualitative data?

It gives a 'feel' for what something is like
For example, what it feels like to get good GCSE results

Evidence gathered by using participant observation aims to give us a sense of what it feels like to be a member of a particular group


What are the 3 main factors influencing choice of methods?



What are the 5 practical issues?

-time and money
-requirements of funding bodies
-personal skills and characteristics
-subject matter
-research opportunities


How does time and money cause an issue with research? (P)

Different methods require different amounts of time and money and can influence a sociologists choice
For example:
Large scale surveys may employ dozens of interviewers and data-inputting staff and cost a great deal of money
By contrast, a small scale project involving a lone researcher using participant observation may be cheaper to carry out yet can take several years


How does requirements of funding affect choice of method? (P)

Research institutes, businesses and other organisations that provide the funding for research may require the results to be in a particular form


How does personal skills and characteristics affect choice of method? (P)

Each sociologist possesses different personal skills and this may affect their ability to use different methods


How does subject matter affect choice of method? (P)

It may be much harder to study a particular group or subject by one method than by another


How does research opportunities affect choice of method? (P)

Sometimes the opportunity to carry out research occurs unexpectedly and this means that it may not be possible to use structured methods such as questionnaires, which take longer to prepare


What does ethical issues mean?

Ethics refers to moral issues of right and wrong


What are the 5 ethical issues?

-informed consent
-confidentiality and privacy
-harm to research participants
-vulnerable groups
-covert research


What is meant by informed consent? (E)

Research participants should be offered the right to refuse to be involved. The researcher should also tell them about all relevant aspects of the research so that they can make a fully informed decision. Consent should be obtained before research begins


What is meant by confidentiality and privacy? (E)

Researchers should keep the identity of research participants secret in order to help to prevent possible negative effects on them. Researchers should also respect their privacy. Personal information about/concerning research participants should be kept confidential


What is meant by harm to research participants? (E)

Researchers need to be aware of the possible effects of their work on those they study. These could include police intervention, harm to employment prospects, social exclusion and psychological damage wherever possible, researchers should anticipate and prevent such harm


What is meant by vulnerable groups? (E)

Special care should be taken where research participants are particularly vulnerable because of their age, disability, or physical/ mental harm


What is meant by covert research? (E)

Covert research is when researchers identify and research purpose are hidden from the people being studied. This can create serious ethical problems, such as deceiving or lying to the people in order to win their trust or obtain information. Clearly it is impossible to gain informed consent while at the same time keeping the research or its purpose a secret.
However, some sociologists argue that the use of covert Methods may be justified in certain circumstances. These may include gaining access to sensitive, dangerous or powerful groups


What is meant by Theoretical issues?

This refers to questions about what we think society is like and whether we can obtain an accurate, truthful picture of it