Research Methods in Sociology

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Research Methods
Kelli Willett WGU

Research is an important part of both anthropology and sociology. There are 5 main methods of research used by sociologists including participant observation, conducting experiments, conducting surveys, secondary analysis and conducting case studies. In case study research, the surveyor studies an individual or small group of people with a situation or condition. The scopes of case studies are normally clinical, and the sociologist uses self-report measures to accumulate quantifiable data on the subject being studied. A true comprehensive case study when including a long term follow-up can stretch to months or years. Strengths of the case study method include the ability of collecting useful information about the subjects, but on the negative side tends to only apply to subjects with similar characteristics and beliefs rather than the general population. Generalization is limited due to the likelihood of the sociologist’s biases affecting the subject’s responses. Hypotheses are often formed by surveying groups with paper and pencil questionnaires, telephone and face-to-face interviews and mailed self administered surveys. It is often referred to as cross section research with the key factor defining the survey method being that the independent variable is observed but the researcher does not have control over its variation. A randomly chosen group is selected and data is collected via a type of survey. A control group is not established for comparison and the independent variable is normally a naturally occurring incidence rather than being manipulated by the researcher. The data is always collected after the fact or phenomenon. Survey methods do not usually try to measure behaviors prior to the opening of an independent variable. Instead the independent variable and the other logically...
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