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Sociologists tend to use surveys to study issues but this is not suitable for ALL subjects:
For example, Historical topics cannot be investigated unless there are survivors.
Sociologist wants to study some aspect of WWI-- there are so few survivors of WWI that this I nearly impossible now.
Forming an Aim
Most survey have at least a general aim .
Is a statement that tells us what the sociologist intends to study & what they hope to achieve in doing the research.
What/Why? Often just about collecting data: like leisure patterns, religious beliefs or attitudes about cohabitation.
How? Typically thru government census about every 10 years, which surveys all sorts of lifestyle/opinion info from the British public.
Or Forming a Hypothesis
Or… they want to test a specific hypothesis .
A Hypothesis is…
more specific than an aim &;
Research is done by collecting evidence that prove it true or false.
Example Educational Achievement.
May think it is affected by family size.
Form a hypothesis such as ‘differences in educational achievement is due to differences in family size’.
Then we collect data to see if the statement is true or not.
Advantage? It gives the researcher a direction or focus to their investigation.
Is a working or ‘operational’ definition of a concept that a sociologists wants to measure.
Here’s how you do it: Start with a…
Hypothesis: working-class pupils achieve lower qualifications than middle-class pupils due to lower parental income.
Social class is an abstract concept (we know it exists, but we cannot literally see it)– but most Sociologist would probably use the parents occupation as an indicator of social class to measure their hypothesis.
Once we have that all sussed, then we would begin writing appropriate questions that measure this, like asking the pupils’ parents: ‘what is your job title?’
Then we’d correlate the parents info with students qualifications to see if our hypothesis was in fact correct.
Operationalising: Straight-forward or Problematic?
Many think that operationalising a concept is easy, but then it can run into serious problem, such as:
It is not always obvious what type of job fits into what category of social class.
Typical office worker–
are they working-class (lower) or middle-class?
Disagreements such as this can make it hard to compare findings of different bits of research.
Operationalising Activity (15 minutes)
Get into small groups and discuss how you might operationalise the following concepts:
Poverty (5 min)
Disability (5 min)
Educational achievement (5 min)
Record your answers and any problems you incur during your work.
Pilot Study: What is it & Why Do We Use it?
It is a trial run of the test questionnaire or interview questions you formulated based upon your hypothesis.
We use pilot studies to iron out any problems such as confusing or vague language, to add clarity & to give interviewer practice so they ‘real’ survey goes to plan.
After a pilot study, most of the time it is possible to settle on a set of questions, or an interview schedule.
What is the Purpose of the Research According to the Researcher?
Often it is the aim of the Sociologist to produce generalisable statements based off their research.
Example: Educational Achievement
If we are studying educational achievement, we would want our study to explain the achievement levels of ALL pupils, not just the ones who were in our study.
Since Practical Matters such as Time & Money are of concern, we cannot include every pupils in Britain, so…
we must choose a random sample (also known as research population ) of pupils, ensuring to the best of our ability that they are representative, or generalisable to the wider pupil population.