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Flashcards in SY2/SY4 Research Methods Deck (149)
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1

Sociological research

A systematic attempt to extend our knowledge and understanding of the social world using rigorous methods

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Methods

The techniques sociologists use when researching social life (e.g. questionnaires, interviews, observation etc.)

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Subjective knowledge

An individual's understanding that comes from their values, experiences and beliefs

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Objective knowledge

Knowledge that is independent of opinion, prejudice and bias

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Confirmation bias

Is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that reinforces one's preconceptions

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Reliability

Whether research can be repeated and the results checked

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Validity

Whether research accurately describes the real world

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Representativeness

The extent to which a study gives a good indication of what the whole population believes

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Replicable

Means repeatable. If a method can be replicated it is more reliable

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Triangulation

Combining different research methods and different types of data in order to check the validity and reliability of findings

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Data

The information used in research

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Primary data

Information generated 'first hand' by the sociologist (usually by observation or by asking questions)

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Secondary data

Information which already exists and doesn't have to be created by the sociologist

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Quantitative data

Data in the form of numbers

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Qualitative data

All types of data that are not in the form of numbers (e.g. textual and visual information)

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Practical Issues

The influence of constraints such as time, money and access on sociological research

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Research ethics

The moral guidelines for researchers (e.g. obtaining informed consent from participants, protecting them from harm and keeping their identity secret)

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British Sociological Association

A professional body for sociologists that publishes a statement of ethical practice for researchers

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Theoretical issues

The debate about what is the best way of trying to find out about human societies involving perspectives like positivism and interpretivism

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Positivism

A theory that says the best way for sociologists to produce objective and reliable knowledge of human societies is, as far as possible, to follow the methods of the natural sciences

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Interpretivism

A theory which argues that sociological research should not emulate the natural sciences. It argues that research should seek to understand how people interpret the world using qualitative methods.

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Realism

This approach suggests there are strengths and weaknesses to both positivism and interpretivism. Sociologists have to be flexible and adopt the approach and methods that work best in the circumstances

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Correlation

The degree to which two or more factors are related

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Causal relationship

This is where one specific thing can be said to make another thing happen

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Correlation does not imply causation

A phrase used in statistics to emphasise that a correlation between two variables does not necessarily imply that one causes the other

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Verstehen

Using empathy to understand human behaviour. It refers to understanding the meaning of things from the point of view of your research participants (Weber)

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Reflexivity

The idea that people attach meanings to things, people and situations. Humans consider what things mean and then decide to act

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Comparative method

The sociologist collects evidence about different societies or social contexts as they are found in the real world and then identifies similarities and differences between them. Sometimes referred to as a ‘natural experiment'

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Social facts

A term used by positivists such as Durkheim to describe aspects of social behaviour that can be objectively counted and measured

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Social construction of statistics

The interpretivist idea that many social statistics on things like 'crimes' and 'suicide' are not objective social facts. Instead they reflect the biases and interpretations of the people who create these statistics (e.g. the police, coroners etc.)