The Many Methods Sociological Research – Sociology Essay
In sociology, there are four social research methods used to perform experiments. After a researcher has identified what he or she will be researching, the researcher will choose the best method to use to test their experiment. Each method has different strengths in completing a research. At times, a combination of two will enforce a better result.
The four research methods a researcher could use would be experiment research, survey research, field observation, and use of existing data sources.
At first, the researcher has to come up with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a single statement about reality that can be tested (Farley25). This is then used to test a piece of a theory. It is possible to observe whether things happen the way the hypothesis claims that it will occur. A hypothesis is always a statement, never a question (25). There are very many variables, which are used in an experiment. A variable is a concept that can either take on different values or has two or more categories.
There are two kinds of variables: independent and dependent. An independent variable is a variable that the researcher thinks is a cause, which influences the other variable. The cause must always come before the effect. For example, a person cannot do something today that will cause something to happen yesterday (26). A dependent variable, on the other hand, is a variable that the researcher thinks is the effect.
The first research method is an experiment research. This is research that is carried out in a situation that is under the control the researcher (Farley28). This method is used when the research is based on how a situation may change if and independent variable is added to the situation. An experiment must have two groups that are similar in education, race, and age. There needs to be a control group and an experimental group. An experimental group goes through an experience while a control group goes through the pretest and posttest. Both groups need to be measured before and after the experiment. The control group is measured at the beginning of the period and then measured at the end of the period. But the control group is not put in a different situation that the group began in. The experimental group is measured at the beginning of the period, and then tested through the experiment, and then the group is measured again at the end of the period to see if there was any change to the group.
The second research method is conducting a survey to gather information to test a hypothesis. A survey research is any research in which a population is asked a set of questions that are worked out in advance by the researcher. This method is used with a large population or a sample of the population. A sample is a subset of a population that is used to represent the entire population. The survey can consist of a questionnaire, a telephone interview, or a personal interview. Each survey will give a different result because of non- personal interaction and personal interaction. There are two types of questions.
The first is a fixed response that is multiple choice and easy to process. The second one is open ended which the person writes his or here own answers in his her own words to the question.In a questionnaire, the people answer the survey by marking answers on the survey form. Theses surveys are very simple and inexpensive but the researcher might not always know when people have a problem understanding the questions. Another disadvantage of a mail- out/ mail- back questionnaire is the low rate response. How many people do you really think would take the time to fill out survey in the mail? A response can be improved if handed to a group to fill out right there on the spot. They can be given out perhaps at work or even in a classroom.
A telephone interview has quick results. While the researcher is on the phone, he or she can type in the answers that are given and have results within seconds. Telephone interviews have a better response rate than questionnaires.
Out of all of these, a person interview would be the most reliable method to use. The researcher can see the expressions on a person’s face or they can even explain the question better than in a questionnaire. There are some disadvantages in a personal interview, for example, the actual time that has to be spent in doing the interview and the amount of money it cost for the procedure to happen.
Surveys and experiments produce numbers that can be used to test a hypothesis. A participant observation is often more subjective in nature and has fewer numbers but a greater knowledge (Farley35).
The third research method is field observation. Field observation is where researchers observe human behavior as it occurs in ordinary real- life situations. This method is used to study and observe human behavior in natural setting. There are two main types of field observation: participant and unobtrusive.
In participant observation, the researcher contributes in some way in the behavior observed. The researcher may continue by attending meetings or being involved in some types of group activities. A question asked in a participant observation is: should the researcher reveal his or her identity? Some researchers are against identifying his or her identity because when people discover that they are being studied, it can cause them to behave differently (Levin). On the other hand, some researchers consider identifying themselves because they believe people have the right to know that they are being studied.
In an unobtrusive observation, the researcher does not in any way become involved in the behavior being observed. The researcher is in a position out of sight, for example, through a window or across the street. An inconspicuous measure is then taken by percentages, for instance, the percentage of male or female that get on a subway.
An instance of field observation is how to study how parents treat their children when the child misbehaves. This method allows the researcher to observe the family without conversation. If parents were asked how they discipline their children when misbehaving, the conclusions would be incorrect. Therefore it is understandable that field observation would be the most precise method to use in situations comparable to this one.
The last research method would be the use of existing data sources. The researcher does not collect original data because data has already been collected. Researching old documents or studies that have already been done use this method. There is no use of another human, just past information that now may be studied to find changes from then and now. There are three main sources that are used, one of which is archives. Colleges, organizations, and corporations have collected the data already. This has resulted in computerized data archives that are open to anyone (Farley38). Government data would include records of births, deaths, marriages, and even divorces. The information is directly available over the Internet to anyone who wants to use the information. The second source is the U.S. Census, which is updated every ten years. The data is on the population, housing from a street block to the entire country, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Content analysis would be the last source.
This involves some type of systematic examination of the content of books, articles, speeches, movies, and/or television programs. For example, compare the number and types of roles filled by male and female characters in a set of television programs. It can be either quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative is counting the number of words devoted to female characters as opposed to the male characters. Qualitative is a detailed description and analysis of how male and female characters is presented (Farley39).
These four social research methods are all used differently in experiments. As explained, experiment, survey, field observation, and existing data are very useful in each type of situation that may be presented to the researcher. The researcher just must know what he or she is studying and what type of research he or she is going to use. Every time research is involved, a method has to be used.