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Flashcards in Research Methods Key Terms Deck (60)
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What are Positivists?

Researchers who believe society shapes the individual, and approach research with a basis on the scientific method. They generally collect quantitative data below.


What are Interpretivists?

Researchers who believe the individual shapes society, and aim to understand motives and meanings behind behaviour. They generally collect qualitative data


What is Qualitative data?

data that is presented in a variety of forms that are rich in descriptive detail.


What is Quantitative data?

Data that is presented in numerical form.


What are closed questions?

A questionnaire that only allows the respondent to choose from a predetermined set of answers.


What are open questions?

A questionnaire or unstructured interview that allows the respondent space to answer as they wish.


What are questionnaires?

A questionnaire is simply a written list of predetermined questions that a sociologist wishes to put to a group of respondents.


Why are questionnaires important?

Questionnaires are very useful to researchers who wish to gather factual information and opinions on a specific issue.


Name one advantage of questionnaires

- Cheap
- Reliable
- Can be easily expressed in numerical form


Name one disadvantage of questionnaires

- Limit responses
- Pre-coded questions can be biased
- Low response rates could ruin research/conclusion of


What is confidentiality?

The need for researchers not to publish the personal details of respondents (without their consent).


What is the data protection act?

The law regarding the storage and use of personal information.


What are ethical considerations?

The need for researchers to ensure that their work neither causes harm nor necessary offence to participants, e.g. anonymity, confidentiality and informed consent.


What is a key informant?

A knowledgeable participant in sociological research.


What is a Pseudonym?

In sociological research, a name used to conceal the identity of an individual informant.


What is a Generic name?

In sociological research, a name used to conceal the real identity of a place or organisation, e.g. Cornerville.


What is a personality test?

A questionnaire that's supposed to reveal an individual's personality


What is Genocide?

Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious groups


Name one key feature of an experiment

- they involve controlling the variables in the experimental situation; factors that might affect the outcome of the experiment need to be identified, introduced and then excluded

- the aim of experimental research is to identify the factors that cause certain things to happen.

- experiments involve detailed observation, measurements and recording.


What is a Focus group?

A small group of people who are asked to consider a particular issue and discuss it in depth with an interviewer


What is Interviewer bias?

This occurs when interviews influence the answers given by a respondent


What is a Semi-structured interview?

This combines some of the features of structured and unstructured interviews


What is a Transcript?

A written version of the interview


One advantage of interviews?

- qualitative data can be gathered in depth from unstructured interviews, providing insight into various type social behaviour

-unstructured interviews are flexible, allowing the interviewer to pursue an unanticipated line of enquiry

- interviews can produce data in high validity


What is the Observer effect?

Group members alter their behaviour because they are being observed.


What is Participant observation?

The researcher takes an active part in the activities of the group while observing it.


What is Non-participant observation?

The researcher watches and observes without taking part in the activities of the group.


Disadvantage of interviews

- structured interviews do not allow for the collection of in depth qualitative data

- unstructured interviews are time consuming and complicated to analyse

- unstructured interviews can produce data that is low in reliability, as data from different interviews can be inconsistent

- interviewer bias can raise questions about the accuracy and truthfulness of response


Define survey

A marketing technique used to judge customer satisfaction or purchasing preferences


Define variable

Any factor that may differ and have an impact on the results of your research, e.g. gender, age and ethnicity


What are Postal and online questionnaires

- Researchers generally send these out in large numbers and expect quite a low returns.
- Response rate less than 50% for postal questionnaires is not uncommon
- No guarantee that response for online questionnaires would be higher


What do the postal and online questionnaires depend on in order for it to be successful?

- Both depend on people voluntarily giving up their time and their willingness to do so
- Access to the internet
- Subject matter is important to them
- How well designed the question is


Advantages of a telephone survey

- Relatively low cost
- Capable of reaching an impressive no.of people
- Cheaper and quicker than face-face interviews


Disadvantages of telephone survey and a critique for it

- Less representative as the young and the employed will be difficult to contact / less willing to devote time
- Researcher's dispute this as technological change, e.g. phones, computer generated calling systems etc... make it easier to contact people and obtain a truly random sample


Advantages of surveys

- Generate large amounts of quantitative data that can be used to identify patterns and trends
- Likely to provide representative picture of society or a particular aspect of behavior
- Cost effective


Disadvantages of surveys

- Large amounts of data can be difficult and time consuming to interpret
- Not as reliable as people may lie for a number of reasons


What is an Ethnography?

The scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences.


What is a Life history?

Qualitative research that provides on overall pictures of an informants or interviewee's life experiences.



A group selected for study by a researcher from a target population.


Mixed methods

Social research that combines a variety of methods like questionnaires.


Longitudinal study Definition and Advantages

A longitudinal study is a group of people who are linked by age (a cohort) that are studied by sociologists over a period of time. This is to observe the changes in the observee's economic circumstances and social attitudes.

Advantages and Disadvantages

A- These studies can be used to track lifetime changes in employment and social mobility.
A- These studies allow sociologists allow researchers to look in detail at the relationship between socio-economic class and educational achievement.
A- Researchers are able to look in detail at the influence of childhood on adult behaviour.
A- They provide researchers an opportunity to see why some people stay in poverty and why some people escape it.
A- They can be used to monitor changing social attitudes over time.


Triangulation of data

The accuracy of data gathered using one method can be compared with data gathered using alternative methods like secondary sources.


Primary Data

First hand data gathered by the researcher himself


name one disadvantage of ethnographic studies.

can't provide an in-depth analysis
it isn't very reliable and the observations can be misinterpreted.
there are ethical problems such as problems regarding privacy of the participant
it is often difficult to know how far the researcher has influenced the observation.
can be time consuming and expensive


Primary Data

First hand data gathered by the researcher himself


Secondary Data

Data collected by someone OTHER than the researcher


give an advantage of surveys

they can give large amounts of qualitative data that can identify trends and patterns.
can be reliable
can provide a representative picture of society.
they can be cost effective compared to other research methods such as face-to-face unstructured interviews
not all surveys require a large sample size


What is a limitation of experiments?

Ethical problems:
- Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments had the potential to cause harm to participants: emotional rather than physical in the Stanford case.
- The Milgram experiment involved deceit. There was no possibility of obtaining informed consent from the volunteers. If they had been made aware of the actual purpose of the experiment, it would have invalidated the results.


Cluster sample

a subject population grouped conveniently together in one place


Quota sample

subjects are selected because they represent groups in the total population (e.g. age, gender often used in market research)


Random sample

a group selected for research at random from a particular sampling frame. To be truly random everyone in the group must stand an equal chance of selection


Stratified sample

a sample selected to represent groups within the total population


Systematic sample

the systematic selection of names from a list, e.g. eveny tenth name


Snowball sample

each member of a group of respondents is asked by a researcher to recommend someone who is known to them and who is in a similar situation


Sampling sample

a complete list from which the researcher selects their sample, e.g. all the students in a school


give a disadvantage of surveys

it gives large amounts of data which can be difficult to interpret.
they're only useful if the researcher does not require as much detail that qualitative methods can provide.
some participants may not give honest answers for many reasons such as feeling like they will not be accepted or to make themselves look better


give the definition of a case study

a detailed examination of a single example providing qualitative in-depth data


Positives and negatives of primary data

- original data
- authentic
- up to date

- expensive
- hard to find
- takes a long time to gather


Positives of secondary sources

- Cost effective
- Provide the researcher with a model of practice (learn to avoid issues)
- Provide a unique perspective on social change
- Provide relatively easy access to data from other cultures


Longitudinal study- Disadvantages

D- Longitudinal studies are time consuming and expensive Eg. They will have to monitor people if they move house outside the country.
D- People can leave the study at any time for many reasons. Eg. Death, illness or they just don't want to be in the study anymore.
D- There may be a high attrition rate in the study which will affect the composition of the sample