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Sociology Essay

1165 words - 5 pages

Examine the view that theoretical issues are the important factor influencing sociologist’s choice of research methods (20 marks)
Sociologists’ opinions differ among theoretical factors being the more important against other factors such as practical and ethical in influencing method choice.
Positivists believe that sociological research should produce quantitative data e.g. official statistics and social surveys) as they identify and explain variable relationships between variables this is good for offering comparative explanations. They like data that is reliable, objective and representative; data allows the researcher to establish facts over interpretation. An example is the through ...view middle of the document...

This is because they can research sensitive matters and gain very detailed and rich information. Therefore qualitative data is more likely to be theoretically favourable as it’s more reliable due to being a detailed account. Yet usually un-generaliasable to the whole population; as it’s a one off event. Theoretical issues are of importance to this type of research this is because it’s more applicable to use this method in detailed or more personal research. This shows that different methods are required for different research; theoretical concerns may not always be the sole deciding factor.
Other factors are also important such as practical factors. Sometimes research can be practically difficult to conduct because of the nature of the study. An example of this is James Patrick when he studied gangs in Glasgow because it’s a sensitive subject matter the researcher needs to build rapport with the participants. In this case, covertly as this would be difficult to do in such a case because the nature of the study it needed participation in the study to gain rich qualitative data. Another practical factor that affects choice of method is the social characteristics of the researcher. For example a 50 year middle class man would find it impossible to pass off as a 17 year old female sixth form student from a working class area. This would mean that they wouldn’t be able to use covert participant observation as a research method. Instead, they should use questionnaires for information if they need quantitative data (e.g. roughly how many hours they do homework for) or semi-structured interviews if they wanted qualitative data (e.g. to talk about if they were happy with their subject choice). Therefore practical issues are a factor in influencing a researcher’s choice of research method and somewhat could be argued a greater deciding factor.
Some researchers may have a lot of time and money to invest in a study; this is another practical factor which may lead them to choose qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews because they allow participants to talk at length about a certain subject e.g. Oakley carried out unstructured interviews with women about their experiences of childbirth. In comparison, if there was limited time and money, a researcher might choose to use quantitative methods such as postal questionnaires as they are quicker and cheaper and can also reach more people geographically than unstructured interviews. Also the source of finance will impact on the method chosen, this is because it will be created with intention to show some sort of data for whomever has requested it E.G. government. This is a more influential factor over theoretical factors this is because the research would struggle to...

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