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    I'm doing my sociology coursework, and part of it you have to produce a table of 'research methods' and state their advantages and disadvantages.

    I was wondering if anyone out there, already has such information? if so, could you please post it back on this thread?

    Your generosity will be greatly appreciated ... if not.. then *sighs* oh well

    *thumbs up*


    I did a TOK presentation on this topic few weeks ago. These are my notes; I hope you'll find it helpful

    Are sociological investigations reliable or not?


    - Quetelet – to study the behaviour of men in some society, we should first, with a help of statistics, create ‘an average man’ (l’homme moyen) with all typical features and no individual features and then on this basis we can explain different variations.
    - Park – Chicago school – to fully understand a human behaviour we should know the biography of all the individuals of the sample we study
    - Functionalism, Malinowski – we can’t study human behaviour without a knowledge about the whole culture, so sociology should be correlated with etnography, cultural sciences, anthropology etc and described only as a part ‘building the whole culture’ and not compared with any other cultures.
    - Durkheim, Evans-Pritchard – we should compare all types of societies to formulate general conclusions about human behaviour
    - Znaniecki – we should study social sciences as natural sciences and use them to find out general laws and axioms governing human behaviour, smaller variations are irrelevant.
    - Goulder – because sociologist are always ‘man of their culture’ and will always have a priori ideas, be subjective and never neutral, so empirical study of human behaviour is impossible
    - Etnometodology, Garfinkel - Only participants can study their behaviour in their own community, so we can’t gain any knowledge about ‘the society’.


    - laboratory experiments – they gave the opportunity of having control over the circumstances that shouldn’t influence the result of the investigations.
    - field experiments – scientists are investigating in natural environment
    - experimental method – when an experimental group is exposed to some factor to see if it does influence them. A control group is needed.
    - questionary interview – a formular with questions (open or closed or both) is sent to respondents
    - free interview – asking the interviewed very general questions to let them talk on many related topics
    - phone interview – interviewing via phone
    - internal – when observed don’t know that they are examined by the researcher
    - part-taking – when the researcher takes part in situations going on inside a group.
    Secondary analysis – analyzing already obtained data gathered by someone else – very popular and cheap


    - laboratory experiments are usually unnatural and don’t give a clear picture of a groups behaviour in nature
    - field experiments – researchers receive ‘natural’ results but they cannot know if they are not influenced by some unnoticed factor or a factor that they know but cannot wind up.
    - Experimental method – there may occur other differences between the groups aren’t related to the factor on which they are exposed. However, they will be attributed to it.

    - the most popular
    - To not interview the whole population one interviewes a sample – a group of people that should be representative for the whole population. The smallest sample is usually about 1000. The most popular way of choosing the sample is choosing it randomly – that means e.g. asking people in the street. However, when it may be reasonable to interview tube passengers, interviewing people at anti-Iraq War demonstration about their political preferences will give a biased result.
    - When questionaries are sent to people with a pled to fill it and send back only a few would do it unless the costs are given back or there is a chance to get a present/money. However, people wishing to get a specific present/being in financial need are already a non-representative group. Generally people are interested in taking part in a poll if they think it is devoted to an important issue.
    - Free interviews cannot be sent to respondents what means that this technique is more expensive and takes more time. Moreover, it’s very hard to analize the results given.
    - Phone interviews – a quick and cheap method of research, however, it is counted that choosing randomly phone numbers will give a representative group only if 90% of population obtain a phone

    - People may not wish to take part in polls because of lack of time
    - Polls may touch their intimate issues/ issues controversial for them and they may not wish to share it with a stranger.
    - People may answer in a way that is better percepted by the society, e.g. only a part of parents considering beating their children as permissible will declare it in a poll
    - ‘The spiral of silence’ – Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann – people wish to talk about their support for something if they know that others are also for; if not, they usually stay silent. This leads to boosting one support rate while decreasing another and can change the public opinion, that is why it’s prohibited to results of polls for some period before the elections.

    - internal observations don’t give a researcher a chance to perseive the reality inside the gropu as its member; he may, for example not have a possibility of entering some gatherings.
    - Taking-part observation may lead to the point that a researcher starts to take actively part in events and in the same moment stops being neutral (what happens e.g. when researchers are observating one of the conflict’s part and join it). It also leads to ethical problems – the consciousness that someone is a researcher may change the group’s behaviour in his presence and on the other hand hiding it is a form of imposture.

    In Thirties in one of factories of Western Electric Company in Hawthorne, New Jersey Roethlisbergerger and Dickson lead an experiment on an influence of work condition (quality of light, coffee braek, wages) on productivity. To their amusement it came out that in both better and worse conditions the productivity is still growing! It came out that the workers where happy that somebody was interested in their situation and therefore worked better. This experiment shows what an impact on the result can have an examined opinion about the research.


    - Secondary analysis – May be a reasonable way of analyzing (especially in case of data we can’t gather on our own). However, in this case we are forced to rely on all the data that we receive and those can be false (eg data collected by totalitarian governments)

    - Even reliable research can lead to false conclusion, e.g. Durkheim in his famous studium of suicide didn’t take into consideration that different types of suicide (honour suicide, suicide of depression etc) are differently judged by different societies, for example harakiri in Japan was in some situations considered as essential.

    - The researcher should not have any apriori theories.


    - People can be observed and examined only if they know about it and agree on it, what may lead to biased effects. However, observating them through venice mirrors is unethical.

    - Publicing sociological investigations may lead to harming participaqnts, e.g. showing in public the answers in poll about infidelity may lead to someone’s divorce. Should then the results be publicated?

    Living in a modern society, there’s no doubt that we have to lead sociological investigations. But we must be aware of all failures of our metodology and, according do possibilities, minimalize it.

    Sorry, error.....
    External observation, not internal
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