Sociological Methods Of Research

Sociology studies the social structures and influences society has on people, their activities and interpretations of the world around them. Sociology provides information how human societies are constructed, where our belief system may stem from, our daily routines and how social identities are formed. This essay covers a small fraction of sociology; Quantitative and Qualitative methodology, its advantages and limitations. What will also be covered is quantitative method of suicide by Emile Durkheim (1897) and his critic, J. D Douglas' qualitative approach to suicide. (Tutor2U 2010)

Emile Durkheim (1938) advocated Comte's methodology and agreed that social factors should be studied rather than what goes on internally; his rule was to 'consider social facts as things', he believed social facts make individuals behave in a certain ways (Haralambous).

Sociologists use different methodologies to attain their conclusion; ways of producing and analyzing data therefore the theories can be tested that are then accepted or rejected. Durkheim adopted the techniques of natural science through the use of the use of quantitative methods in his suicide study.

There are two ways in conducting a research, primary and secondary research. Primary research is where sociologist has to begin from scratch as there is absolutely no data available, for it to be studied from. In order to do this the researcher needs to design they method of collecting data and analyze the results. Primary research is only validated if the study gives true measurement, descriptions or explanation of that which was being studied. Unfortunately there's a likely hood these finding might not be actually explain peoples everyday settings or actions. (Haralambous p815-16)

Secondary research is data that has already been made by a previous researcher(s); Organizations such as companies, charities, trade unions are useful sources of data as well as documents such as letters, autobiographies and dairies. Secondary research might not be specific enough for researchers needs which if so means they could have to check out more than one source to come quickly to a conclusion and not only that but more than necessary time is taken up, also information distributed by the secondary data are occasionally questionable which is why the research must be alert to this disadvantage (Haralambous 838-9)

Quantitative research, in sociology, contains measurements of variables within society; people and groups. In order to get people's opinions, a survey may be completed; fieldwork, experiments or documentary research. When these methods are completed, the researchers are usually avoiding being biased. In order to be unbiased as is possible questions that are asked in a closed question form, therefore the participant's replies are extremely limited or generalised observations are then conducted. Researchers who undertaking quantitative research do not want to get distracted from the intent of the research; they know precisely what they are looking for so their researches are controlled, with closed questions or only statistical information (McGuigan 2010).

Alternatively, qualitative research, in sociology, attempts to assemble more in depth knowledge of individuals or groups actions in the context of social life (Giddens 2009). There usually is not any scientific evidence and if there is, it is rather little evidence. When using qualitative methods of research the investigator is more considering deeper truths; they prefer to see things in their natural settings, make sense of things and interpret the info gained; to be able to get information they could interview people or observe them in non artificial settings. Qualitative is more theoretical rather than statistical. Information gained explores deeper into their interest and then data is collected by either observing or interviewing and from the data gain helps generate a hypothesis. Qualitative research digs deeper into reasons of why people may act the way they are doing.

A survey is a method employed by researchers to gather information from an example of individuals be it from a certain gender, age, race etc where in fact the researcher's interest reaches and changes with respect to the purpose of the study. These samples of individuals are questioned on the information that will assist the sociologist conclude, questions can be quite much closed questions or open, these are sent out to participants or administered directly; surveys can have a variety of purposes and questions are asked in standardized procedures therefore the same questions are asked; Surveys help obtain a composite profile of the population. In every reputable survey organizations, organisers should present their results anonymously (Scheuren). Surveys are an advantage for generalizing a big group by getting smaller groups to answer the questions once there is an efficient amount of results. Unfortunately there's a risk of answers to the questions being answered falsely, might not exactly actually reflect their true feelings or may even seem to be superficial. Surveys can be used to either get quantitative or qualitative data, solely depends on the wording of the question, whether it's a open question or a closed question.

Field work is when the investigator hangs out, works or lives with a group, organization or community and lives the realism of the environment by firmly taking direct part in their activities; quite simply 'real world' experience. Investigators who take part in this will probably have an improved knowledge of those who are actually a part of what they are investigating. This technique is much more likely to be utilized to truly have a qualitative outcome.

There are two types of experiments, one being laboratory and the other being field experiment. Experiments are used to check the hypothesis and the relationships between the two variables are tested. It really is conducted in a managed environment where in fact the variables are isolated and the correlation between things can be discovered. In sociology laboratory experiments are barely used as they believed variables cannot be controlled, the environment people are put in are artificial which will lead to the actions of individuals being artificial too and they do not believe its right to put laboratories just to measure the effect of variables. Field experiments have been proved to be more used and affective in sociology as they are conducted in normal everyday situations and environments; variables cannot be controlled. Although field experiments aren't conducted in laboratory they remain not exact but are more valid than lab experiments as the actions from people are real; less artificial. But if people are aware they are getting involved in a experiment their actions may become artificial, for an example staff may work harder in normal conditions because they know they may be being observed.

Emile Durkheim (1897) did a socially confusing study on suicide based on the hypothesis; as the individual's social unity decreased it was found there was a rise of suicide rates. Durkheim (1897) did not believe reasoning for suicide was a person act, he believed suicide was a social fact that may be proved by other social facts; the bigger social forces can take into account social facts. Durkheim (1897) employed quantitative research to his study of suicide, to make it have a scientific backbone as he believed it to be more rich and valid, by examining the state suicide statistics in France; these official statistics were secondary sources produced by the government. He believed that patterns of suicide were linked to the way which individuals were integrated and regulated by society and exactly how they managed them, he discovered there were four types of suicide, and he generalized these four types of suicide to everyone; the four were Egoistic, Anomic, Altruistic and Fatalistic suicide. Egoistic suicide is when a person is isolated or their ties to an organization is broken or weakened; Catholics and Protestants. Anomic suicide is when a person feels his life has a lack of meaning and feels as they are worthless, this can be a result of a divorce. Altruistic suicide is when an individual values others more for a good example a mother who pushes their child out just how of the oncoming car and hurts herself or a suicide bomber. Fatalistic suicide is when a person feels hopeless about their fate or feels excessively restraint for an example an individual might take their own life prior to the police arrest these to don't be in a cell for the rest of their life or many years. Egotistic and Anomic are the two most frequent occurred, of the four.

In contrast to Durkheim's study of suicide Douglas (1967) is one of the numerous interpretive sociologists; interpretive approach strongly advocate qualitative data as they believe sociologists can understand and interpret the meanings and motives of actions and quantitative data does not help discover meanings and motives. Interpretative sociologists reject studying social facts as things, they say natural sciences deal with matter and matter does not have a mind which if so does not have any consciousness which in that case there is absolutely no meaning in behaviour. Interpretive approach acknowledges that individuals have consciousness, it is believed that individuals will interpret the meaning of an stimulus and then react to it; meaning is mounted on the stimulus.

J. D Douglas (1967) conducted his study 'Social meanings of Suicide', he believed that the state statistics were systematically biased and may have been made up by friends, families, and coroners. He disputed that Durkheim (YEAR) neglected other meanings attached to just why an individual may commit suicide, he believed it to be wrong that Durkheim (YEAR) would treat all suicides the same without investigating other reasoning's. Douglas was concerned with meanings of suicide and believed there to be different reasons for a suicide than the four generalisations Durkheim (YEAR) had made. In Douglas's (1967) study of social meanings for suicide he believed there to be four different meanings of suicide. Douglas (1967) believed in qualitative research methods to find his answers to just why an individual would commit suicide; his methods were conducting case studies, unstructured interviews and diaries, from his investigations he found four types of suicide, the four are Transformation of the soul, that's where it is used as a way to getting into heaven, transformation of self, that's where the individual will need others to think differently of them, suicide where an individual wants sympathy and suicide where the individual tries to get revenge by leaving your partner feeling guilty.

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