Methods In Context Education (SMELT VLAD (Access- How easy is it to gain…
Methods In Context Education
More overall disadvantages than advantages. Gives researcher some control over variables but may compromise validity of sample.
Identifying and controlling variables, very hard to do
The Hawthorne effect
Ethical problems- most participants don't know the true research topic as to avoid the Hawthorne effect. Therefore no informed consent.
Positivists like lab experiments because they produce quantitative data. However they rarely use them because of the long list of disadvantages. Lab experiments are seen as the most scientific research method.
Interpretivists don't like lab experiments because they don't produce qualitative data. Not meaningful or valid, argue lab experiments don't translate easily into the study of social behaviour. Therefore lab experiments are a rarely used method by any sociologist.
Field experiments take place in real social situations, where sociologists can create or adapt a situation for the purpose of their research.
Better alternative to lab experiments
Less control over variables, less scientific
Limited application, don't measure why people do things
Ethical problems, usually done without informed consent
Access- How easy is it to gain access?
Memory- What can be remembered by the researcher/ respondent?
Data- Will the data collected be valid or reliable?
Legal- Are there are legal constraints?
Vulnerable- Is the research group vulnerable in anyway?
Timescale- How long will it take?
Language- Language capabilities of those being researched?
Ethics- Any ethical concerns?
Status- Authority figure affects response?
Detachment and objectivity, questionnaires are often complete with little to no personal contact between researcher and respondent.
Representativeness, the findings of questionnaires are more likely to enable generalisations because they are more geographically widespread.
Practical advantages, questionnaires are quick and cheap. Closed-ended questions make the data easy to quantify and they are moderately representative.
Reliability, Positivists see questionnaires as a reliable method of collecting data. Easily replicated and there is no researcher present to influence the respondent's answer.
Hypothesis testing, Questionnaires are useful for testing hypotheses about cause-and-effect relationships between different variables. For example parental attitudes to education can easily be correlated to class.
Practical problems, questionnaires need to be brief and this limits the amount of information that can be gathered. You don't know if the questionnaire was actually completed by the intended respondent.
Response rate, very low response rates are a major problem, especially with postal questionnaires. A low response rate means a lack of representativeness.
Inflexibility, very inflexible once it has been finalised the researcher can not explore any new areas of interest.
Detachment, interpretivists argue that questionnaire data lacks validity.
Lying, forgetting and 'right answerism', respondents may lie, forget or try to please or annoy the researcher.
Imposing the researcher's meanings, the researcher chooses which questions to ask and decides the response categories (closed-ended)
Reliability, fixed list of questions with pre-coded response categories, easily quantifiable data. (Liked by Positivists)
Representativeness, relatively quick, higher response rate.
Cost, the cheapest form of interview, limited training needed.
Lack of validity, researcher decides the questions in advance the questions can't be changed. The researcher has limited what the respondent can talk about. Fixed- response q's limits validity as it limits the interviewee's response.
Reliability, interviewer effect may also reduce reliability, interviewers will have different social characteristics making the interview not exactly replicable.
Cost, not as cheap as other methods, e.g. questionnaires.
Sensitive issues, lack of rapport makes sensitive issues harder.
It's naturalistic approach, the group is observed in it's natural setting, acting normally and largely unaffected by the researcher's presence.
Authenticity, observation of a group's normal social routines is likely to produce a more authentic account of their worldview than merely asking them questions. With PO conducted over a long time the group's 'private face' is more likely to be seen.
Unreliable and unrepresentative, Positivists see PO as flawed because it is unscientific. It is open-ended subjective research with no standardised system of measurement.
PO gives control of the research process to the research subjects and this removes the reliability of the data.
Problems with validity, Hawthorne effect, going Native and interpretation problems.
Ethical issues, covert PO means there is no informed consent . Covert observer may witness or participate in immoral or illegal activities or risk blowing their cover.
Practical problems, getting in, staying in and getting out.
Advantages and disadvantages:
Reliability, structured obs produces reliable data because obs can be easily replicated.
Comparing data, allows quantitative data to be produced quickly and easily. Easier to see patterns and relationships.
Loss of validity, counting the frequency of events doesn't tell us about their meaning. Events may overlap in categories and different observers may place events in different categories.
Structured observation is only useful in studying small-scale interactions. It is also a very intensive method to carry out.
Advantages of official stats:
Availability, cheap and readily available in accessible form.
Representativeness, normally based on a very large sample. E.g. 10 year census.
Coverage, usually most important aspects of social life (those the state are interested in).
Prompts to research, provide a starting point for research... boys underachievement first noticed in official stats.
Background data, often provide useful background data inc ethnic, class and gender make-up of a research group.
Comparability of data, the quant nature makes it easy to draw comparisons and identify trends.
Reliability, easily replicated by others.
Disadvantages of official stats:
Definition and measurement, definitions of concepts used and how the data is presented may differ from those of the sociologist.
Reliability, even in the census recording errors are made and households are missed out.
Social construction, interpretivists argue that official stats are social constructs not objective 'truth'.
Political bias, Marxists claim official stats are not politically neutral but reflect ruling class interests and ideology. E.g. the definition of unemployment changed over 30 times in the 1980s.
Male bias, feminists argue official stats are biased again women. Housework not counted as work by census.
Positivists often present official stats as 'social facts', but interpretivists see them as social constructs.
'Hard statistics', simple counts that register events e.g. birth and death, are less socially constructed.
'Soft statistics' e.g. crime stats, are less reliable and valid because they are more easily manipulated politically or are the outcomes of interactions and labelling.
Mostly written for personal purposes, often have high levels of validity and are a genuine insight into people's attitudes.
Most personal docs are cheap and save time.
Some groups, e.g. the illiterate, are unlikely to produce personal docs such as letters so their views aren't represented.
Some docs are created after the event with the benefit of hindsight.
Personal docs such as letters are written with an audience in mind and may affect what is recorded. Personal bias is also likely to be present.
Produced by bodies such as government, business, the media
these documents are often detailed, cheap and easy to access. However, because their authors are aware that the documents are publicly available, the content is likely to be selective and presented with a particular bias. For example, media reports may reflect the political views of the journalist or media owner.
, are often the only way in which we can study past societies. However, there can be particular problems interpreting historical docs because the meaning of words changes over time. Some historical docs may be lost or destroyed.
, quantitative content analysis of docs measures the amount of coverage given to a particular issues. However, simply knowing how much coverage there is doesn't tell us about meaning. Therefore interpretivists use qualitative content to analyse the meanings attached to particular words and images (problem of interpretation).
Testing the usefulness of documents (Scott):
, is it genuine?
, can we believe the document and the sincerity of the author?
, how typical is the document of a wider social group?
, can we interpret the meaning correctly?