Sensitivity to others' norms, folkways, values, mores, attitudes, customs, and practices necessitates knowledge of other societies and cultures. Sociologists may conduct cross‐cultural research, or research designed to reveal variations across different groups of people. Most cross‐cultural research involves survey, direct observation, andparticipant observation methods of research.
Participant observation requires that an “observer” become a member of his or her subjects' community. An advantage of this method of research is the opportunity it provides to study what actually occurs within a community, and then consider that
information within the political, economic, social, and religious systems of that community. Cross‐cultural research demonstrates that Western cultural standards do not necessarily apply to other societies.
What may be “normal” or acceptable for one group may be “abnormal” or unacceptable for another.
Research with existing data, or secondary analysis
5. Some sociologists conduct research by using data that other social scientists have already collected. The use of publicly accessible information is known as secondary analysis, and is most common in situations in which collecting new data is impractical or unnecessary. Sociologists may obtain statistical data for analysis from businesses, academic institutions, and governmental agencies, to name only a few sources. Or they may use historical or library information to generate their hypotheses.
SummaryApproaches to Sociological Research Using the scientific method, a researcher conducts a study in five phases: asking a question, researching existing sources, formulating a hypothesis, conducting a study, and drawing conclusions. The scientific method is useful in that it provides a clear method of organizing a study. Some sociologists conduct scientific research through a positivist framework utilizing a hypothetico-deductive formulation of the research question. Other sociologists conduct scientific research by employing an interpretive framework that is often inductive in nature. Scientific sociological studies often observe relationships between variables. Researchers study how one variable changes another. Prior to conducting a study, researchers are careful to apply operational definitions to their terms and to establish dependent and independent variables.
Research Methods Sociological research is a fairly complex process. As you can see, a lot goes into even a simple research design. There are many steps and much to consider when collecting data on human behaviour, as well as in interpreting and analyzing data in order to form conclusive results. Sociologists use scientific methods for good reason. The scientific method provides a system of organization that helps researchers plan and conduct the study while ensuring that data and results are reliable, valid, and objective. The many methods available to researchers—including experiments, surveys, field studies, and secondary data analysis—all come with advantages and disadvantages. The strength of a study can depend on the choice and implementation of the appropriate method of gathering research. Depending on the topic, a study might use a single method or a combination of methods. It is important to plan a research design before undertaking a study. The information gathered may in itself be surprising, and the study design should provide a solid framework in which to analyze predicted and unpredicted data.
Main Sociological Research Methods. Sociological research methods have advantages and disadvantages.
Yields many responses
Can survey a large sample
Quantitative data are easy to chart
Can be time consuming
Can be difficult to encourage participant response (low response rates)
Captures what people say they think and believe but not necessarily how they behave in real life
Yields detailed, accurate real-life information
Data are often descriptive and not conducive to generalization
Researcher “bias” is difficult to control for
Qualitative data are difficult to organize
Deliberate manipulation of social setting to compare experimental and control groups. Tests cause and effect relationships
· Hawthorne effect
· Artificial conditions of research
· Ethical concerns about people’s well-being
Secondary Data Analysis
Analysis of government data (census, health, crime statistics)
Research of historic documents
Makes good use of previous sociological information
Data could be focused on a purpose other than yours
Data can be hard to find
Taking into account the historical or cultural context of texts
Questions for Review:
1.Which materials are considered secondary data?
2.Why is choosing a random sample an effective way to select participants?
3.Which research approach is best suited to the positivist approach?
4.Which best describes the results of a case study?