• Social surveys take 2 basic forms: written questionnaires and interviews.• Whichever method of survey we choose, our questions are either open- ended or closed-ended.• Closed-ended questions= is where the respondent must choose answers from a limited range of possible answers, that the researcher has decided upon in advance, like yes, no, not sure or multiple choice. Close-ended questions are often pre-coded, which helps to ease analysis after, data collected from this type of question is easy to quantify.• Open-ended questions= is when the respondent is allowed to give whatever answer they wish, in their own words, without being offered any pre-selected choices.
Choosing a topic . . . Choosing a topic is the first step for research. Sociologists use surveys to study a wide variety of issues, however they’re not suitable for all subjects. E.g. historical topics can’t be surveyed unless they’re any survivors.
Formulating an aim orhypothesis Most surveys have a general aim or seek to test a specific hypothesis for the research. An aim is the holistic statement which states the intention of the study or a statement which is to be tested. The census of the entire population is conducted by the government every 10years and is designed to collect large quantities of data about many aspects of British society. A hypothesis is more specific than an aim . Its an explanation that can be tested by collecting evidence to prove whether it’s true or false. Hypothesis gives direction to research, it gives a focus and questionnaires and interviews are based around as the aim is to either prove or disprove the hypothesis. From our research, if the evidence suggest that the hypothesis, is false we must discard it, but this helps us to rule out factors and allows us to formulate new hypothesise.
Operationalizing concepts Means turning a sociological concept/theory into some thing which can be measured. Defining: key concepts/ your terms
The pilot study Is the same idea as a ‘prototype’ it’s a study based on your research to test first, so that you’re research is carried out well and all things to take into consideration can be adhered to, pilot studies are used to indicate any problems which need to be dealt with or that may arise, when conducting the research. The basic aim of a pilot study is to iron out any creases(problems), refine/ clarify questions and they’re wording and give researcher/interviewers practice, so that the actual survey goes as smooth as possible. Pilot studies indicate issues which need to be altered, after the pilot study is carried out, it is then possible to finalise the research preparation and then to carry it out.
Sampling Because sociologists often want to establish generalisations, so that they’re theory can be applied to everyone in the population and because we can’t study everyone within the population, we therefore need to have a sample. A sample is a small group drawn from the wider group(all the people relevant to our study). This is known as sampling (selecting + creating sample).
The sampling frame… In order to select a sample to study, we first need a sampling frame. A sampling frame is all those people who are relevant to the study. It’s important that our sampling frame is as complete and as accurate as possible, otherwise the sample chosen from it may not be representative. Once we have our sampling frame, we then need to select our sample, though we must ensure that our sample is typical of the wider population which is of interest to us.
Sampling techniquesSociologist use various techniques to attain arepresentative sample:Random sampling:It’s the simplest form of sampling, where the sample isselected purely at random e.g. names drawn out of a hat.Quasi-random sample:Is similar, but it’s a method like selecting every tenthperson on a list etc.
Sampling techniquesHowever, with the above 2 techniques there is always the possibility ofachieving an un-representative sample. There are other moresophisticated ways to achieving a truly representative sample like: Stratified random sampling: Involves dividing a main variable into groups and then picking equal numbers from there e.g. if the study is concerned with gender that means splitting males and females and then selecting an equal number from each of these sub groups, this can be applied to other important variables in a study such as age, income etc. Quota-sampling: Is similar, to the above method of sampling, but rather from choosing from the sub- divided groups, the researcher goes out and collects the write amount of participant they need e.g. 500 men and 500 women.Whatever sampling technique a researcher may use, they will often create areserve sample, so that in case anyone in the selected sample cannot becontacted they can rely on the reserve sample to compensate, yet still attainrepresentative data.
Non-representativesampling The purpose of sampling, is generally to ensure that people we include in our study are typical of the general research population. However, for both practical and theoretical reasons not all studies use representative sampling techniques.
Practical reasonsThere are several practical reasons which may limit achieving arepresentative sample, even if the researcher wishes to.o The social characteristics of the research population, may not be known e.g. age, class, gender, therefore it’s impossible to get a sample which is an exact cross-section of society.o It may be impossible to find or create a sampling frame, in the area which you choose to study as not everyone is included in that frame.o Potential respondents may refuse to participate in the survey, e.g. criminals may not want to participate if they believe that information will be passed onto the police.
Sometimes it is not possible to get a representative sample, in suchcases sociologists use 2 alternative types of sampling.Snowball sampling:Involves, collecting a sample through contacting a number of keyindividuals. Who are than asked to suggest other people who mayberelevant to the study, in this way the sample gets bigger and biggeruntil enough data is collected. This method allows people whowould otherwise be reluctant to be studied.Opportunity sampling:Is based on convenience, it involves choosing a sample from thosewho are easiest to access, e.g. selecting passers by or a captiveaudience, like a class of pupils.In neither case is the sample likely to be representative ofthe target research population.
Theoretical reasons Even when it’s possible to create a representative sample, sociologists may choose not to, due to their sociological perspective. For example, interpretivists believe that it’s more important to gain valid data and a true understanding of social actors’ meanings than to discover general laws of behaviour. Because theyre less concerned with making generalisations, they therefor don’t require a representative sample.