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Experimen ts
Type of Experiment Laboratory experiments Information Practical issues Ethical Issues Theoretical issues 1. Open systems Can 1. Informed consent A laboratory Positivists only 2. Harm to subjects experiment is experiments are good everything, including work with science. controlled and is in an because of their risks, must be Society is an open artificial environment. reliability. This is explained but what if system where the because There must be two you are Milgram? factors cannot be they can control the groups , an controlled. variables, produces experimental and 2. Individuals are quantitative data and control group. complex it is detached. However, We can discover cause is hard to match the it cant be and effect relationships members of the representative. this way. control and Interpretivists They are rarely experimental group. experiments are bad used in sociology. 3. Studying the past because we are Cannot different from the be used for the past plants, rocks and other as the variables natural things. Our cannot be controlled. actions can only be 1. Problems of access. 1. Personal effects Takes place in the subjects Rosenthal 2. Positivists they are not natural surroundings. Can the researcher control and Jacobsons experiment reliable as they cannot be may have affected the schoolrepeated again as lab Those involved do not know all the variables? 3. To what extent does the life of the other children told experiments can. They they are the subjects. can that they were The researcher manipulates natural environment change not smart the researched produce quantitative data the situation but the behaviour? enough. though but you cant 2. Informed consent. be in researched do not know this. control of all the variables. Interpretivists can Actor tests and -

Field experiments

The comparative method

A thought experiment. Relies on secondary data. Identify cause and effect. The most famous

Positivists past events and is reliable. Intepretivists letters may show the meanings.

Past question (a) Outline and critically assess the arguments for and against using experiments in sociology. Note that there are different types of experiment laboratory, field and comparative. Laboratory experiments describe their features and their usefulness. Compare these to field experiments and then do the same with this. Then go to thought experiments and how it avoids the pitfalls of them both. Illustrate points with reference to studies that have used experiments.

They compare this to other areas, making it called evaluation research. The tougher regimes is an example. Ethics There usually cant be informed consent. Can affect them if one group gets better treatment than the other.

Methods in Context: Crime and Deviance

Sociologists can use experiments to study: The nature of aggression Prisoners and prison guards The effectiveness of crime prevention policies

Laboratory experiments It is difficult to recreate society in a laboratory. They tend to examine general issues such as authority Zimbardos prison study. Ethics Crime related research issues are sensitive, involving danger or victimisation. Re-creating them can have harmful effects. Again, look at Zimbardo. Some groups cant be experimented on like children. Look at Banduras study. Validity Manipulation of variables tells us little about the real world. Bobo dolls are made to invite violent actions. Other techniques are better than this. Field experiments Used more often than laboratory experiments to research crime. Many government sponsored researchers use these to test policies.

The tougher regimes project the researcher has no control over the use of their findings. Reliability For the government, the purpose of evaluation research is to discover what policy works best so it can be applied elsewhere. It can be repeated again and again. Even though there wont be government sponsored research, sociologists can still use the same techniques to research in other areas. Nick Tilley and the Safer Cities thing is an example of this. However, no one of the 3 places he visited were implemented in the same way. Past question (a) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using experiments to investigate power and authority in prisons. A problem with studying prisons is that they are very hard to get into. Experiments dont have to deal with this problem. Experiments can only be used to widely so it might be good to study power and authority. If there is a simulation, there might be psychological problems. The Hawthorne effect might happen and if it doesnt, there are ethical concerns.

4. Interview s
Type of Interview Structured Interview Information Are like questionnaires but require a social interaction. The questions are usually closed-ended. Thus producing quantitative data. Practical Issues Ethical Issues Cover large numbers There are very view of people. Young and ethical issues with Wilmott interviews structured interviews. 933 people. The interviewee does not have to answer Suitable for every question. gathering The interviewee may straightforward be pressured into data. answering a certain Easily quantified. way. Response rates are a Interpretivism They should little higher. Only 54 guarantee Can be invalid little refused an interview anonymity and choice. out of 987 people that confidentiality. Little freedom Young and Wilmott There should be Lie or exaggerate. studied. considerations They are inflexible. They are interaction when interviewing situations and may The researcher must children. undermine the have some The only difference is that Allows the development of a -Same as above Positivism Is not reliable the questions do not come rapport empathy. pre-set. It is not a question Needs for training interpersonal Cant be quantified. with a little interaction. and Not representative. They may come with some sociological. idea of the questions to be Can take a long time. Interpretivism asked but may not stick to it. Large amounts of data Validity through produced. involvement. Can check each others Grounded theory can meanings. change hypothesis as we go along. Very flexible. Theoretical Issues Positivism Can test hypothesis and identify cause and effect relationships. The interview is reliable as it can be repeated again and again. Representative

Unstructured Interview

Past question (a) Assess the value of interviews in sociological research (33 marks) Write that there are two types of interview, with a great difference between them. Assess the structured interviews first with practical and theoretical issues. Assess the unstructured in the same way. Write that for both camps of research methods view, it is easy on ethical issues.

Past question (a) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using structured interviews to investigate the real rate of crime (15 marks) Many crimes are not reported by the police and so an interview might open that up but as long as it is agreed that there should be confidentiality between them. Retrospective research is not always good. Who are the victims? They can be replicated on a large scale though.

Methods in Context: Crime and Deviance

Sociologists use interviews to study: Victims of crime Fear of crime Crime networks Perpetrators and victims of domestic violence Police attitudes Language Literacy levels are often lower in prisons. Interviews are better as the Interviewer can explain the questions properly. Recording interviews Writing notes during an interview may put some off talking. Many may also feel uncomfortable to talk when they know they are being recorded. Maguire said it would ruin the crucial trust needed. Safety Direct contact with offenders might be dangerous. Although with high security they are quite safe. Access Some groups are hidden such as victims of domestic violence. Finding a time or place is difficult. Reliability Difficult to replicate an interview. Structured interviews are different. Validity Pamela Davis said that slang expressions are easily picked up in interviews and can be used to clarify meanings. The rapport may help this though. What about fitting in. Ethics Unstructured interviews require trust and give guilty knowledge. What are they supposed to do about this?

5. Observatio n
Participant observation Whenever sociologists carry out a participant observation of any kind, there are problems with getting in, staying in and getting out. 1. Getting in Some groups are easier to enter than others such as wanting to join a football crowd. Joining a gang is far harder to do. Once a researcher is in a group, it is difficult to win over their trust. A researcher might have to look a certain way. Sometimes people need to take sides. 2. Staying in The researcher must become involved in the group, yet remain detached. If they are too attached, they risk going native. William F.Whyte said that I started as a non-participating observer and ended as a non- observing participator. 3. Getting out The researcher sometimes can just leave. The researcher may have loyalties to the group and cant disclose everything or they might be attacked. Practical issues in participant observation Insight It is the best way to truly understand somebody by seeing how they work. This is called verstehen. It gives the researcher a feel. Access Groups of deviant behaviour may act suspicious around the newcomer who is asking questions. Participant observation deals with this problem. Flexibility There are no set questions but the researcher has to have an open mind. Limitations There are many limitations to participant observation: It is time-consuming. Needs to be sociologically trained. Personally stressful and demanding. Requires observational and interpersonal skills that not everyone possesses. Overt Covert The researcher can behave normally and not put on an act The researcher must keep up an act. They dont need any special knowledge Need detailed knowledge of the group. Group may refuse to let an outsider join them May be the only way to obtain information Can ask more questions Has to rely on memory Doesnt have to rely on memory Cannot combine other research methods Risks creating the Hawthorne effect Engage in dangerous activities Less risk of altering behaviour Theoretical issues in participant observation Interpretivism Validity through involvement Flexibility and grounded theory

Positivism They are not representative Not reliable Not objective Lack of validity The Hawthorne effect

Exam question (a) Assess the usefulness of observation in sociological research (33 marks) Note the different kinds of observation Assess the theoretical, ethical and practical issues of sociological research

Methods in Context: Crime and Deviance

Sociologists use observation to study: Delinquent youth subcultures Police and policing Outsider groups Court processes Minor crime such as shoplifting Practical Issues Advantages Criminals are likely to be secretive and antiauthority. Build a rapport with the group and gain its trust. Sometimes, questioning would be ineffective.

Disadvantages May not want to be studied in this way. Access is difficult. What if they found out? Going native. Observation can take a long time Personal characteristics Might have to join in Laud Humphreys

Past question (a) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using observation to investigate the judicial process (15 marks) Observer would have no control Unwillingness of those involved in the judicial process. How are you supposed to get in? Lots of courts are open courts unless there are military courts.

3. Questionnair es
Information Questionnaires: Practical Issues Questionnaires can have Strengths two types of question: They are quick, cheap 1. Closed-ended way to gather large which are also amounts of qualitative called forced data. choice. There is no need to 2. Open-ended recruit and train Respondents are interviewers. free to answer Data is usually easier however they wish, to quantify and some in their own words. can be computerised. Weaknesses Data is often limited and superficial. May need to offer incentives. Postal questionnaires we can never be sure if a questionnaire was received by the recipient and cant be Theoretical Issues Positivism Reliable Objective Produce quantitative data Develop causal laws of behaviour Representative Many choose not to return them. May ask leading questions. Interpretivism Detached means the researcher cant get a hold on the meanings as usual. People may lie, forget or try to impress. The researchers meanings may be Ethical Issues There are few ethical issues with questionnaires which makes it a heavily used research method. They cant be used for children. Informed consent is filling it in but there may not be consent for the way in which the answers might be used.

Past question (a) Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using questionnaires in sociological research (33 marks) Look at the practical issues Theoretical issues should take up the bulk and evaluate together. Look at the different type of questionnaires. Look at how there are few ethical issues with questionnaires.

Detachment and objectivity Most large scale crime research is done through the government. Official interests dominate research.

Methods in Context: Crime and Deviance

Sociologists may use questionnaires to study: Attitudes to crime and policing Experiences of being a victim Self-reported offending Practical issues: Quick, cheap way to gather large amounts of quantitative data. Sandra Walklate took 6 months to carry out 596 interviews and just a few weeks got back over 300 questionnaires. The degree of co-operation is different. Victims may do it in order to make things better but criminals may not see it in such the same light. Question order can make a difference. Some groups have low literacy levels. Officers and criminal gangs may be tight knit. Funding bodies impose time limits. Formal nature accords it with authority Venkatesh. Ethical issues: Few ethical issues if delivered by post or by email. Under 16s require consent though. It may be inappropriate to ask questions about sensitive subjects. Reliability and representativeness It is replicable because the questions are fixed, they may have different answers. Disagreement over what crime should be asked about. There is no list of unconvicted criminals. Low response rates.

Validity Does not always produce valid data. Self report studies are retrospective. Some may exaggerate their crimes or want to hide their crimes from the police. Past question (a) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using questionnaires to investigate violent crime (15 marks) Questionnaires can keep the distance between the researcher and others so there is no chance of attack. All of it has to be retrospective. How to obtain a sample? Low response rate Accord with authority

6. Secondary sources
Official statistics Practical issues Advantages Free source of quantitative data. Only the state has enough money and resources to carry out big surveys. Only the state has the power to compel individuals to supply data 5% refused the census in 2001. Collected in regular intervals trends and cause and effect relationships. Theoretical Issues Positivism Representative Reliable the census questions have changed largely over time though. They do follow standard procedure. Interpretivism Statistics are social constructs. They are not the real rate of anything. They distinguish between hard and soft statistics. Soft are those created from other things. Disadvantages The state creates the statistics for their own purposes. The French government doesnt collect statistics on race or religion. Mismatches in sets of statistic. The definitions may be different. Some are infrequent, such as the census. Marxism May perform ideological functions. Showing that things arent as bad as perceived. Definitions are different. Critics say that not every statistic Feminism Created by the state - conceal inequality. Housewives are economically inactive. Masculine approach. Changing definitions a familys class was defined by the male. Now it is the person whos name

Documents Sociologists use the following type of documents: 1. Public documents 2. Personal documents 3. Historical documents Practical issues Advantages Only available source of information Free or cheap source of large amounts of data Saves time Disadvantages Not always possible to gain access to them Create documents for their own purposes, not the sociologists. Therefore, the may not contain answers to the kinds of questions the sociologist wants to ask.

Theoretical issues 1. Validity Interpretivists may prefer these as they can give a valid picture of the writers meaning. Look at William Thomas and Florian Znanieckis The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. A document can only be valid if it is authentic. Sociologists may misinterpret. 2. Reliability Positivists see them as unreliable as they cant be repeated. 3. Representativeness

Type of content analysis Formal content analysis

Thematic analysis

Content analysis What is it? Advantages/Disadvantages 1. Select a representative Positivists say it is objective, sample of representative and produces a quantitative magazines or newspapers. data. Can repeat the study. 2. Decide the categories Interpretivists say that it has we are going to use. 3. Study the stories and place a the lack of validity. characters into the Not objective the categories drawing of categories. coding. 4. Quantify how something is Doesnt Qualitative analysis of the content attempt to be of media texts. representative. Tendency to select Select a small number of cases for evidence that in-depth analysis. The aim is to supports the sociologists perspective. find the meanings. No proof that the meaning the sociologist fives to the document is the true one. Time consuming

Exam question (a) Outline the sources of secondary data that sociologists use and assess their advantages and disadvantages (33 marks) Look at the three sources of secondary data typically used. Consider the practical, ethical and theoretical advantages and disadvantages of the sources.

Methods in Context: Crime and Deviance

Using official statistics Sociologists use official statistics to study: The level of crime in society Patterns of offending Effectiveness of the police Work of the courts and probation services Patterns of suicide Practical issues The government collects a huge amount of data on crime. Heavily biased towards notifiable offences or more serious crimes. Summary offences such as many motoring offences and parking tickets were not recorded before 1998. Differences between official and sociological views of a particular crime. Representativeness The purpose of statistics is that they monitor police activities and patterns of crime in order to inform policy. They might have to be representative. There are changes in the law cant be comparable. Reliability Counting criminal offences is problematic and lead to inconsistencies. The police operate the rule of thumb that if there is a social relationship between offender and victim, a series of acts counts as one offence. Validity

90% of crimes are discovered and reported by the public, rather than by the police.

Victims report nearly all vehicle thefts but only a minority of abuse cases are reported. Police dont record all crimes submitted to them. May be defined as cleared up. Using documents Sociologists may use documents for studying: Offenders motives and experiences The work of probation, police and other services The process of law making The motives of suicides The history of crime and law Practical issues The coverage is not comprehensive. A lot of it is in the public domain. Easy to access if it is the government. Crimes can lead a paper trail credit card fraud. Venkatesh handed the company accounts. Ethical issues Relatively few ethical issues When there are personal things involved, like criminal records, then there can be ethical issues. Media documents The amount of research material is considerably a great deal. Pictures presented are very different from what the official statistics say. Media might ruin research Robert Holland. Past question (a) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using public and personal documents to investigate corporate crime (15 marks) Corporate crimes have low visibility. Personal documents may show otherwise and public documents might show the governments involvement in the crime. Corporate crimes dont really leave personal information behind. What about diffused responsibility?