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Flashcards in Methods Deck (29)
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What are the six different types of sampling?

  • Random
  • Systematic
  • Stratified
  • Quota
  • Snowball
  • Cluster


What is random sampling?

Where everyone has an equal chance of being chosen. For example you would use a random way of getting names like a generator or pulling them out of a hat.


Ethical disadvantages of participant observation?

  • Dangerous situations e.g committing crime to ‘fit in’
  • If covert you will not have consent
  • Reports may lack confidentiality


What is stratified sampling?

Where the population under study is divided into sections, such as gender or age group. Within it, people are chosen at random. For example, if 30% of the studied population is female, 30% of the sample will be female.


What are two benefits of unstructured interviews?

  • Unstructured interviews are more flexible
  • The interviewer can change questions to suit the situation
  • Provide more qualitative information
  • Favoured by interpretivists


What is a structured interview?

Each interview is presented with exactly the same questions in the same order.



What are the advantages & disadvantages of official statistics?

These are some points there are many more:

  • Advantages: cheap and easy resource, data is usually reliable.
  • Disadvantages: statistics might be outdated, may not find accurate statistics.


What is snowball sampling?

This is where already existing participants in the research recruit future subjects from acquaintances for the next part of the study, thus the name snowball as the sample size gets bigger over time because more people tell even more people and the data will eventually be enough to use.


What is systematic sampling?

Where every nth name on a list is chosen. For example every 10th person on a list of 200 people are chosen.


What is participant observation?

Where the researcher joins the group being studied e,g joining a gang and pretending to be a member


What are the different types of interviews?

Structured, unstructured and group interviews


What are the benefits of groups interviews?

Interviewer can observe interaction

They are closer to a normal social interaction than a formal interview


What are some practical issues with interviews?

Time consuming

Interviewers need to be skilled to do the job well and get people to open up to them

Hawthorne effect - interviewee might say what the interviewer wants to hear not their real response

Difficult to analyse


What are the disadvantages of group interviews?

Respondents might be influenced by the desire to conform to the majority and so might not say what they think

Difficult to analyse


Ethical disadvantages of non participant?

Difficult to conduct in a covert manner

Mentally demanding

The impact of being observed may have an effect on who somebody behaves (the Hawthorne Effect)  


What are some of the practical disadvantages of questionnaires?

Inflexibility - if you print out a load of questionnaires and then realise there is a mistake...

Cost - expensive if you are sending them out



What do interpretivists say are a theoretical disadvantages of questionnaires?


  • Interpretivists argue that the researcher will not know what is important prior to beggining research.  By writing questions, prior to researching, they are imposing their own priorities onto the world.
  • This will effect the validity of the results


What do we mean by 'reliability' of research?

If the same piece of research was repeated then it should produce the same results


What do we mean by 'validity' of reseach?

The extent to which the research is valid.  Does it give a true picture of the subject being studied.


What do we mean by 'representativness' of research?

Refers to whether the sample of chosen people for the research reflect a typical cross-section of the group or society the researcher is interested in gaining information about.  For example, if sociologists wish to comment on the population as a whole then the chosen group must be representative of society as a whole.


Define 'intepretivism'

Interpretivism is concerned with how individuals interpret the world around them.  It asks why people behave in certain ways as well as looking at how they behave.


What are the advantages of non-participant observation?

  • Creates quantifiable data
  • Patterns and trends can be noted
  • Less time consuming than unstructured observation
  • It is replicable (can be repeated)
  • Verifiable (testable by others)
  • Overt and ethical


What are the disadvantages of non-participant observation?

  • Difficult to conduct in a covert manner
  • Overt observation can affect the behaviour of the observed
  • Data isn’t valid – says little about meanings and motives of people
  • Categorising of observable behaviour is subjective
  • Mentally demanding


What are some of the theoretical advantages of particpant observation?

  • Experience of situations through seeing things through the eyes (and actions) of the people in the group
  • Validity - seeing the person in action
  • Deep research - can create a close bond with people researching
  • Dynamic - seeing things over time as opposed to on one occasion


What are the different types of secondary data we can use to support sociological research?

Previous sociological research

Official publications (including statistics and reports)

Diaries and letters

Novels and other works of fiction

Oral history and family histories

the media

Documents relating to businesses, charities and pressure groups

the content of the internet


Why do sociologist use secondary sources of information?

Information exists already - so saves time and money

Some data beyond researchers capabilities to collect (e.g. census data)

Can use information from the past to track social change over time

Researcher may be unable to visit places to collect data first hand

Primary research would involve illegal activities and not willing to break law

People may not be willing to provide personal information (e.g. wages or religion), this info could have been recorded via tax office or by census


What are the potential problems of using secondary sources?

  • The person who produced data may have been biased e.g. a diary
  • Official statistics may have been constructed to put government in positive light
  • Data may not have been collected without rigour that sociologists would like
  • They may use categories or concepts that do not fit with sociological theories
  • Secondary data may contain errors


What was Durkheim's view on using statistics?

Positivist view: Durkheim (1970) argued that some stats are useful.  However, many unreliable e.g. crimes may not be reported


What are the advantages of structured interviews?

Can collect more complex and detailed data

Reach a wider range of respondents (overcome the literacy problem)

Have an improved response rate (70-80%)

Quick to do (as not dependent on postal return)

Individual attention can be given to help respondents (explain/repeat questions)

Can be used with all sections of the population (more representative)

Interviewer presence can make answering questions more interesting for respondent.  Fewer ‘don’t knows’ when face to face