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Sociology Versus Anthropology Research Methods

By Jeanette-Dennis Apr 12, 2015 688 Words

Sociology Versus Anthropology Research Methods
Jeanette Dennis
Western Governor’s University
Sociology Versus Anthropology Research Methods
Sociology is defined as “the scientific study of human society and social interactions” (Tischler, 2013). Anthropology is “the scientific study of the origins of the social, physical, and cultural development of humans” (Tischler, 2013). These two social sciences share many theories and concepts. The difference between these two groups is the study and the research methods they use. Sociologists usually study large, modern and industrial societies. They tend to utilize research methods that allow them quickly gather specific information about large sample of people within that society. In contrast, cultural anthropologists immerse themselves in another society for a prolonged period of time. By doing so, they try to learn as much as possible about that society and the relationships within it. Cultural anthropologists “tend to focus on the culture of small, preindustrial societies because they are less complex and more manageable using this method of study” (Tischler, 2013). Two common research methods used in sociological studies are participant observation and social survey. When a participant observation study is conducted, the researcher joins the group’s activities while also studying them. One advantage to this type of study that the subjects can be observed in their natural setting. The main disadvantage from a sociological study standpoint of this form of research is that it is very time consuming. When studies are done through social surveys, a random sampling of people within the society being studied are asked a series of questions in order to study a certain population. The disadvantages to this method is that certain answers may not be categorized and the survey answers may be influenced by what the person believes the researcher wants to hear. The philosophy of this research method is to gather a large amount of data in a short amount of time. Two common research methods used in anthropological studies are participant observation and secondary analysis. From an anthropology standpoint, participant observation varies from that of a sociology researcher in time and researcher involvement. Anthropology researchers actually live within the culture they are studying for about a year or more to get a more complete view of all elements of that society. The advantages to this method in anthropological research is the ability to study subjects in their natural environment and that theories/hypothesis can be changed as new research emerges. The disadvantages to this method in anthropology research is that results are subject to the researcher’s own bias and they can also have un-intended influence on the subjects. The philosophy behind participant observation in anthropological research is that by immersing themselves within the culture, they will get a real understanding as to how that culture functions. They are able to gather so much more information than if other research methods were used such as a survey, formal interview or simple observation. Researchers may alsoreturn, years to decades later to gather more data to compare any changes within the studied culture. The comparison of a previous studies data with current research is known as secondary analysis and is another research tool used by anthropologists(Haviland, 2011). Sociology and anthropology are related in that they both study of how society functions but differ in their focus. Sociology is focused on more of the big picture while anthropology is a subcategory that hones in on one specific culture within society. Sociology research is focused more on the big picture and so research methods tend to be more broad and far reaching. In sociological research, the goal is to gather as much data about the studied society in the least amount of time. In anthropology, a deeper understanding of another culture is sought and so more research is needed. Both sociology and anthropology research have important roles in our understanding of our own, along with different cultures around the world. References

Haviland, W. (2011). Anthropology: The Human Challenge [VitalSouce bookshelf version]. Retrieved from

Tischler, H. (2013). Cengage Advantage Books: Introduction to Sociology [VitalSouce bookshelf version]. Retrieved from

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