1. Evaluation and analysis of research methods, as well as, their uses, strengths and limitations
A research method is a systematic way of investigating or searching for new knowledge. In sociological research, there are many different types of research methods. Two of these include correlation method and meta-analytic method. Correlation method is a statistical relational technique wherein it requires the determination of the strength of relationship between or among variables, such that a systematic change in the value of a variable is accompanied by a systematic change in the other. The strength of the relationship between two or more variables provides an indication of how one or more of the said variables can predict another from occurring. The reciprocal association is often represented as to how closely variables vary in the same time period (or simply co-vary). A variable can deviate from no correlation, perfect negative correlation, or up to perfect positive correlation.
The advantage of correlation research method is that it can make predictions about variables being correlated. For instance, university academic success and scholastic admission test (SAT), which predicts applicants’ greater chance of succeeding in their studies, are known to be positively correlated. Admission officials thus give much weight to high SAT scores for prospective students as likely candidates for admission, without implying the exclusion of other admission criteria. However, the limitation of this research method is that correlation is not necessarily equivalent to causation (that is, cause and effect).
On the other hand, meta-analysis, or conducting analysis about studies, involves finding out the average or combined impact of individual research results on a hypothesis or specific question. Meta-analytic research method also combines and contrasts results from multiple studies to identify patterns among findings, interesting relationships, or sources of disagreements. Sociological researchers typically use this method to determine a common effect size measure. The advantages of using this research method is that it provides critical evaluation and analysis of the combined results of comparable research findings for the purpose of increasing the power of observation in providing specific social intervention. Its limitation, however, is that meta-analysis can yield misleading inferences because of insufficient rigor caused by lack of access to the original information gathered. There are also the pitfalls of agenda-driven and publication biases.
The use of a particular research method in sociological research is dependent on the research questions, research focus, study direction, and purpose of the study. For finding the correlation between or among variable, correlation method is preferable. Likewise, a researcher who wants to investigate the effect sizes of a particular social intervention, services or programs, a meta-analytic research technique is also desirable and appropriate.
2. Importance of two ethical issues
In conducting sociological research, two important ethical issues are regarding the need for informed consent and privacy of human participants. If the respondents are minors (that is, under legal age), the researcher has to obtain the consent of parents or legal guardians. This is because interviewing immature children, without approval from their guardians, is not only unethical but also unlawful given that they still cannot make informed decisions. However, when their adult guardians give their consents, they are made aware of the nature and objectives considering their maturity to make decisions for themselves and their family members.
Another ethical issue is regarding the privacy of the respondents and confidentiality of information. Before the data gathering proper, participants are informed of the aims and usefulness of the research. They are informed that they do not just participate voluntarily and that they can back out anytime they want; but more importantly, the information that they will share will only be used for research purposes. Thus, research participants’ anonymity remains enforced prior, during and after the publication of the research findings or research paper.
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