Major Research Methods in Sociology
Method Characteristics Advantages Disadvantages
Survey Selecting a representative sample of people and asking them to fill out questionnaires, interviewing them in person or on the phone Self-administered questionnaires inexpensive and useful: greater response from subjects in personal interviews: phone interviews convenient Questionnaires not returned” personal interviews costly in time and money: phone interviews discourage subjects’ cooperation Observation Observing subjects’ activities as a detached outsider or as a participating member identifying or concealing oneself as a researcher to subjects Provides firsthand experiences with natural, real life situations: useful for developing new theories Findings largely relevant to one particular case: not generalizable to other cases or useful for testing theories Experiment Manipulating variables to determine their influence on subjects in the field or laboratory Relatively easy to test theories by determining the relationship between independent and dependent variables Observer’s presence in the field may influence subjects: subjects may not behave the same outside laboratory as inside Analysis of existing data Secondary analysis involves studying someone else’s quantitative data: content analysis entails examining and converting qualitative into quantitative data Both secondary and content analysis save much time and money: content analysis also unobtrusive to subjects and uniquely suitable for historical research Both secondary and content analysis not sufficiently valid and reliable because interpretation of data tends to be subjective.
My tutor at Goldsmiths was Paul Gilroy and my passion in Sociology was predominately around race, gender and politics so along with Paul Gilroy, tutors like Caroline Ramazanoglu and were deeply important to me in helping me to explore my thinking and develop my own theoretical perspectives. My life experiences influenced me hugely in wanting to make a difference and work with people in distress in a more meaningful way and this led me on a career path in social work, education and social inclusion. What I truly learnt to value and love even more now that I work for myself , is how I can connect the theory with the practice, the personal with the professional, and the excluded with the included. We are all of it; not just some of it or one side of it. We are everything and nothing all at once.
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