Assess the Value of Interviews in Sociological Research (33 Marks)

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Interviews are a face to face conservation (generally between two people or a group), usually involving a set of questions. There are two types of interviews; unstructured and structured. In addition, there are other types of interviews known as a semi-structured interview.

Structured interviews involve the interviewer following a set of questions, without the addition of anything that isn’t written down. The interviewer is given strict instructions and is told to complete each interview in the same order, word for word and cannot make any personal judgements. The practical advantages for this type of interview are that it is quick and fairly cheap in comparison to an unstructured interview. This is because the interviewer has to remain value free meaning that he/she is not allowed to ask any of their own, personal questions in response to the participant and each interview should last about the same length of time, if it overruns, then it could cost more money and become time consuming. In addition, the results can be easily quantified, as structured interviews use close-ended questions with coded answers. The practical disadvantage for this type of interview is that it may be time-consuming and may require a lot of money to employ dozens of interviewers and data-inputting staff.

Structured interviews are preferred by Positivists, including Marxists and Functionalists. This is because they believe society can be studied like a science, which means that they attempt to establish cause and effect relationship between the variables involved in this type of interview. They also favour quantitative data, as structured interviews provide the interviewer with the opportunity to identify the patterns and trends, as they can categorise the answers given to them by the respondent. This in turn allows for generalisations to be made, which could be then true for the entire population. In addition, structured interviews removes the risk of interviewer effect, as the...
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