Social Trends - Research Methods

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Wheels “Wheelsdavis"
Created by Wheels “Wheelsdavis" about 4 years ago
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Sampling methods, data collection methods and research methods
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Quantitative Data Data which can be put into numerical form e.g. percentages, numbers, tables, graphs and charts
Qualitative Data Data that cannot be expressed using numbers. Instead it relies upon words to express feelings, values and attitudes
Random Sampling Sampling whereby the inclusion of a unit of population occurs entirely by chance. Like the lottery - unlikely to be an accurate cross-section of the population
Strengths of Random Sampling Aims to ensure that results can be generalised to the whole population Sampling errors can be assessed and quantified and mathematically Stratification can include the inclusion of small but important groups Stratification can minimise the chance of selecting biased samples
Weaknesses of Random Sampling Researcher must be able to obtain a sampling frame Simple random sampling may still give a biased sample Implementing random sampling method can be time-consuming Stratification requires prior knowledge about the proportions of different types of people in the population
Stratified Random Sampling Where units are randomly sampled from a population that has been divided into categories (strata). Aim is to get a mirror image of population studied
Strengths of Stratified Random Sampling Aims to ensure that results can be generalised to the whole population Sampling errors can be assessed and quantified and mathematically Stratification can include the inclusion of small but important groups Stratification can minimise the chance of selecting biased samples
Weaknesses of Stratified Random Sampling Researcher must be able to obtain a sampling frame Simple random sampling may still give a biased sample Implementing random sampling method can be time-consuming Stratification requires prior knowledge about the proportions of different types of people in the population
Quota Sampling A sample that non randomly samples a population in terms of the relative proportions of people in different categories. Stage 1 control categories of quotas of population are developed. Stage 2 sample elements are selected based on convenience or judgement e.g. interviewing 100 girls from a particular age range - wouldn't take other background factors into consideration
Strengths of Quota Sampling No need to obtain a sampling frame Refusals do not prevent the required sample size being achieved Can be a quick method to implement May be the only way to sample views on an exhibition or event
Weaknesses of Quota Sampling Not a truly random sampling method Interviewer's choice will influence sample selection Quota setting requires prior knowledge of the proportions of the groups in the population Misses people who are difficult to access; people who are housebound or are in hospital
Experiments An experiment is a procedure carried out to verify, refute or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated
Strengths of Experiments Designed to test very specific theories and hypotheses Experimenter can control the circumstances in which the experiment takes place Data collected is nearly always quantitative allowing statistical interpretation of the results Other researchers can duplicate the experiment and test the repeatability of the results
Weakness of Experiments Range of enquiry limited to the specific aims of experiment Difficult for the experimenter to control all factors affecting the behaviour or responses of subjects Artificial circumstances of the experiment may distort the subject's' behaviour scientific conduct of the experiment and presentation of the statistical results may give more weight to the work than it deserves
Questionnaires A set of printed or written questions with a choice of answers, devised for the purpose of a survey or statistical study
Strengths of Questionnaires Data can be collected cheaply from a large number of respondents No problem with the behaviour or appearance of the interviewer affecting results Respondents have time to consider answers and to consult others if necessary Postal methods may be the only way to contact certain groups May be more acceptable to some groups than an interview
Weaknesses of Questionnaires Postal questionnaires have a poor response rate Responses may be largely from people who have strong opinions on the subject No check on whether the respondents have understood questions No control over who actually completes the questionnaire No opportunity to observe respondents' reactions to the questions No control over the order in which questions are answered Questions limit the responses that are possible, even if there are a number of options given and the true views of the subjects may not be revealed
Structured Interviews A structured interview is a quantitative research method commonly employed in survey research. The aim of this approach is to ensure that each interview is presented with exactly the same questions in the same order
Strengths of Interviews Enables the researcher to examine the level of understanding a respondent has about a particular topic - usually in slightly more depth than with a postal questionnaire Powerful form of formative assessment. That is, it can be used to explore how a respondent feels about a particular topic before using a second method to father a greater depth of information Can be used to identify respondents, whose views, the researcher may want to explore in more detail All respondents are asked the same questions in the same way. This makes it easier to repeat the interview. In other words, this type of research method is easy to standardise Provides a reliable source of quantitative data The researcher is able to contact large numbers people quickly, easily and efficiently
Weaknesses of Interviews Time-consuming if sample group is very large; this is because researcher or their representative needs to be present during the delivery of the structured interview Quality and usefulness of information is highly dependent upon the quality of questions asked. Interviewer cannot add or subtract questions A substantial amount of pre-planning is required Format of questionnaire design makes it difficult for the researcher to examine complex issues and opinions. Even where open-ended questions are used, the depth of answers the respondent can provide tend to be more limited than with almost any other method Limited scope for the respondent to answer questions in any detail or depth
In-depth Interviews In-depth interviewing is a qualitative research technique that involves conducting intensive individual interviews with a small number of respondents to explore their perspectives on a particular idea, program, or situation
Strengths of In-depth Interviews Subjects have the freedom to give an answer in their own words Large amount of information can be collected from each respondent Answers can be a valid representation of the respondents’ own thoughts and feelings Respondents have time to open up on sensitive issues Interviewers are free to explore any interesting issues that arise
Weaknesses of In-depth Interviews Interviewers must have well-developed communications skills Each interview is time-consuming and it is only possible to carry out a few Personal characteristics of the interviewer can affect the answers given Time and privacy are needed to carry out the interview Qualitative nature of the data collected and small sample size limit the possibility of making any generalisations
Observation (Covert/Overt) Observation means studying by looking, but observation in research needs to be structured. The data collected must be organized so that relevant and useful information is sought and recorded
Strengths of Observations Observers see what subjects actually do, not what they say they do Subjects are studied in their natural environment Can detect behaviour that subjects are unaware of Can look at group behaviour and interactions between group members May be the only suitable method with non-literate subjects, e.g. children
Weaknesses of Observations Observers may miss important behaviour while note-taking Secretive observation leads to significant ethical problems Incorrect inferences can be drawn from observation behaviour Lack of control over the sample observed limits broader applicability of results
Participant/Non-participant Observation Participant observation is one type of data collection method typically used in qualitative research. Participant observation means that the researcher becomes part of the group being studied
Strengths of Participant Observation Produce very valid and accurate data May be the only method with closed or hostile groups Less likely to misinterpret data
Weaknesses of Participant Observation Researcher needs time, commitment and excellent interpersonal skills Researcher needs skills of objectivity and detachment from the group being studied Researcher's influence on group behaviour could be a problem Observers may be unknowingly ignorant of important aspects of the group's behaviour Secretive participant observation leads to serious ethical difficulties
Reliability The extent to which a measurement yields the same answer each time it is used
Validity The extent to which a measurement truly reflects the phenomenon being studied. Refers to the quality of research results
Bias The distortion of results of research caused by undue influence of a specific factor
Problems with methods used for collecting data All data collection methods have their drawbacks; for example, it can be very difficult to construct an appropriate and ethical experiment; direct or participant observation might prove to be more time-consuming and less reliable than questionnaires and interview
Ways of overcoming data-collection problems One way of improving both reliability and validity of research is to use a range of methods. Another way of dealing with problems of interviewer bias in interviews is to show the transcript to the subject and ask them if this is a true reflection of their account. In observation studies, the researcher should always use two researchers so that data collected can be cross-checked
Ethical issues involved in collecting data and researching families and individuals There are two main ethical issues involved in doing research – preserving the subject from harm and distress, and confidentiality. The subject should have a free choice whether or not to take part, and should be able to stop at any time if they wish to. The researcher must explain the research fully and truthfully so that the subject understands what will happen and can give their informed consent to the research. Researchers must not coerce people into taking part, by using their position to influence the decision, for instance. The subject has a right to confidentiality. Research reports should never identify the subject personally and should be written in such a way that the person cannot be identified. In most studies, subjects are given another name or number so that they cannot be identified. The Data Protection Act (1998) safeguards people’s rights when data about them is collected and processed
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