Describe two research methods used in sociology.
Two popular research methods adapted to be used in sociology are classified as quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative research methodology encompasses collecting numerical data to analyse a phenomenon. It also involves interpreting findings through statistical applications. The foundations of quantitative research design/methods emerge from the philosophical premises of realism; subjectivism and paradigm wars. From a sociological, perspective quantitative research methods focus on a systemic empirical approach in its investigation of social issues (Hunter & Leahey, 2008).
Qualitative research method investigates the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a phenomenon without utilizing any mathematical tools. In this sense it is considered the inversion of quantitative research method. Data collection is often through surveys; interviews and participant observation techniques. Qualitative applications with reference to the sociological methodology encompass data exploration aligning findings to existing theories. This method also produces theories explaining phenomena investigated (Savin-Baden & Major, 2013).
Surveys require that the researcher administers questionnaires to a sampled population and analyzed data retrieved. Questionnaires must be pretested for reliability and validity discrepancies. Interviews involve interactions between and interviewer and interviewee whereby the interviewer designs a schedule of questions to ask the interviewee. Both nonverbal and verbal responses are observed and recorded on the schedule (Savin-Baden & Majo, 2013).
The philosophical justifications for qualitative sociological research methods emerged from researchers’ rejection of positivism. Claims used that are supportive of this change centered on the theoretical assumption that data retrieved during any project offers an objective world view of the phenomenon. Further, data is verified through empirical validation. Also, passive observation was rejected being replaced by participatory observation. Even though this technique initiated much criticism pertaining to subjectivity the philosophical justification that the method is more appropriate in explaining social phenomenon gained acceptance because scientists have acknowledged that despite obvious subjectivity issues the process offers more profound validity and eliminates reliability concerns (Savin-Baden & Majo, 2013).
Significantly, another validation for adapting qualitative methods in sociological research practice was confirmed through applications of grounded theory designs, ethnography, naratology, action research, storytelling and shadowing, which cannot be represented when quantitative methods are utilized (Savin-Baden & Majo, 2013).
Cultural anthropology is a science concerned with investigating cultural variations occurring among humans from the perspective of conceiving variables as independent rather than dependant. Cultural anthropologists contend that culture is human nature. It is an independent entity free from speculations offered by other philosophers. Two research methods used in cultural anthropology are participant observation/ ethnography and cross cultural studies. Participant observation encompasses a wide range of techniques. The method was developed by Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) with the primary focus being obtaining data through actively engaging in the phenomenon (Stocking, 1968).
Strategies used for this data collection process include collective discussions; retrieving information pertaining to life histories; documenting interactions from both verbal and non-verbal interpretations, and self-analysis. The structures and procedures are very lengthy taking years to complete. However, a major advantage of this method is the opportunity it offers for evaluating discrepancies between what participants say and that which actually occurs in a real life situation. Importantly, analyses of social system conflicts are profound due to privileges of observing actions and categorizing them from diverse theoretical premises (Stocking, 1968).
Cross cultural studies are also classified holocultural or comparative studies. Researchers compare case studies across cultures using distinct data collected through various processes. Even if observation is utilized as part of the data collection process ultimately the focus is mainly comparing one cultural practice with the other from case study analysis using controlled variants or a sampled case (Stocking, 1968).
The ethnographic data collection technique embraces living with people in their communities for the purpose of observing culture. Unlike participant observation this does not require the researcher to engage in any cultural activities, but dwelling among distinct groups documenting customs, values and ways of life. Data collection is more accurate if members of the community are unaware of the anthropologist presence and purpose. A major advantage of this method is that while it takes a long time the researcher has access to interpreting climate; physical geography, and infrastructural development of the environment (Stocking, 1968).
Philosophical justifications for the ethnography anthropological research method are enshrined in the ethical predispositions embodying its technique application. For example, classic virtues embrace descriptions of ther kind, friendly and honest ethnographer. Kindness is justified through establishing relationships, which mask the true personality, but is relevant to the research process and purpose in itself. Friendliness pertains to extending warmth and affection to all in the community to facilitate communication. Honesty insists on concealing what is known to prevent rejection (Stocking, 1968).
In justifying technical skills ethnographers understand that the closest they can get to reality through interactions is an approximation of the truth. It is difficult to document what just presents as facts and label them truth since scientific evidence may be obscure. Here implications of the self surfaces regarding who this ethnographer really is within the scientific paradigm. Is he/she candid, fair, chase and literary? (Stocking, 1968).
In comparing and contrasting sociological and anthropological approaches to research conduct based on the methods described in this essay; first it must be identified where sociology is similar to anthropology and the visible differences. Sociological methods investigate social phenomena occurring within society as reflected in human behavior. While both scientific disciplines focus on human interactions anthropology further investigates specific cultural phenomenon and physical environmental factors as well. Qualitative and quantitative sociological methods are employed when interpreting participant observation data retrieved from ethnographic studies (Stocking, 1968).
Typical ethnographic methods aim at offering holistic explanations of human existence and behavior from either social or cultural paradigms. Consequently, they embody case studies unlike sociology even when participant observation techniques are utilized. The major difference lies in the purpose for research. Sociologists focus on exploring phenomenon either through statistical measurements (quantitative) or grounded theory designs (qualitative). Precisely, ethnographic methods adapt a distinct outline inclusive of a brief cultural history followed by a physical geographic analysis. Sociological methods do not embrace this pattern (Stocking, 1968).
Hunter, Laura; Leahey, Erin. Collaborative Research in Sociology: Trends and Contributing
Factors. The American Sociologist 39 (4); 2008; 290. Print
Savin-Baden, M. & Major, C. Qualitative Research: The Essential Guide to Theory and
Practice. London: Routledge.2013. Print
Stocking, G. Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the history of anthropology.
London: The Free Press.1968. Print