Moser defined Social Research as ‘Planned, systematic investigation of social incidents and issues to get new knowledge’.
Social Research is the systematic study of various social communities, institutions and their inter-relationship.
Objectives of Social Research
- General knowledge
- Study of social norms
- Study of functional relationship (e.g. relationship between poverty and illiteracy)
- Building social concepts (e.g. social gap, cultural irony)
- Solving social problems
- Regulating social control
- Implementation of social schemes
Characteristics of Social Research:
- Sociologists try to take view of people studied (an outsider’s perspectives) (this technique is called ‘Reflexivity’).
- Observations made are bound by scientific canons of procedure (e.g. careful documentation, sources of evidence, etc). They can be checked upon by others.
- It is based on current findings without bias, even without the likings of the researcher.
- To deal with the ‘unconscious bias’ they explicitly mention those features of their own background that might be relevant (this alerts readers and allows them to ‘mentally compensate’).
It is an observable fact or event which influences or influenced by the people in the society.
Use of Scientific Method to Study Social Phenomena
- Positivist (Quantitative) and Interpretative (Qualitative)
- Every aspect of human behaviour is possible source of investigation. Sociologists question the world that humans have created.
- They notice the pattern of behavior as people move in the world using scientific methods.
- Whatever research approach is used, study’s Reliability (replication of results on repetition) and Validity are important for the researchers.
Scientific method involves a series of prescribed steps that have been established over time
Problems involved in Social Research
- Objectivity and subjectivity:
- Objectivity: unbiased, neutral, based on facts
Subjectivity: based on individual values and preferences
- Bias is obvious as researchers are also a part of society with their own experiences and prejudices.
- There are many versions of truths; things look different from different vantage point.
- Presence multiple points of view in social sciences (schools of thought) create many versions.
- Choice of methods:
- Multiple methods are available for different situation (selecting suitable method is called ‘appropriateness’)
- Sample size and setting are different in micro methods (like interviews) and macro methods (like surveys).
- Different methods rely on different sources of knowledge- secondary sources (already existing data) and primary sources (new data).
- Triangulation: it is the recent trend to advocate the use of multiple methods to bear on the same research problem from different vantage points.
Tools and Techniques of Data Collection
Methods distinctive of Sociology are those that are designed to produce primary data.
e.g. Observation, Interview, Questionnaire, Schedule, etc.
- It involves a long period of interaction with the subjects of research.
- Sociologists spend time living among the people being studies as a ‘non-native outsider’ by learning their language and skills of the ‘insider’.
Type of Observation:
- External observation (e.g. class room)
- Non-participant covert observation
- Participant observation
- Covert observation
Advantages of Observation:
- It is naturalistic in nature.
- It has a good rapport with the subject groups, so gives more valid useful data.
- It involves less subjectivity, so more reliable.
- It involves in-depth recording in natural environment
Disadvantages of Observation:
- Outsiders may influence behaviour of the groups.
- It is not replicable as every time data differ.
- Sample size is small, so result can’t be generalized.
- Researcher may go ‘native’ and may be biased.
It is a guided communication between researcher and respondent.
Types of Interview:
- Structured (formal) Interview: involves same questions to different respondents
- Unstructured (informal) Interview: involves guided conversation with freedom to vary the questions
- Semi- structured: respondents are given a list of questions and further questions may be asked
- Group interview
Advantages of Unstructured Interview:
- It is respondent led and further questions based on reply may be asked.
- There is flexibility in asking questions.
- It involves rapport and empathy with respondents and it good for sensitive topics.
- Respondents are empowered as both are at equal footing.
- It is a quick method in gaining in-depth knowledge.
Disadvantages of Unstructured Interview:
- There is lack of reliability as each interview is unique
- Difficult to repeat as rapport with the respondent may not match every time.
- Interview may bias the interview with his approval and disapproval might change the mood and responses.
- Sample size is very small and results can’t be generalized.
It consists of a series of questions from the purpose of gathering information from the respondents.
e.g. Exit Polls, Surveys, etc.
Types of Questionnaire:
- Open-ended Questionnaire:it has no pre-set choice of answers
- Closed Questionnaire: it has few set of answers to choose from
- Postal or self complete Questionnaire: participants fill the answers themselves
Advantages of Questionnaire:
- It involves more depth.
- There is more flexibility with less bias in answering.
- It is quick to complete and cheaper to organize.
- It can be used for quantitative data and can be easily repeated.
- There is flexibility of time and is has more privacy.
Disadvantages of Questionnaire:
- There is no explanation and so can be confusing.
- Can’t be used for subjective issues.
- It is less expressing.
A formalized set of questions which are filled by enumerators appointed for data collection
e.g. Population Census
|1. Questions with alternate answers||1. Questions with space for answers filled by enumerators|
|2. Low response rate||2. High response rate|
|3. Can cover large area||3.Covers small area|
|4. Comparatively cheaper data collection||4. Expensive data collection in appointment and training of enumerators|
|5. Requires educated and cooperative mass||5. Can be used for all classes of people|
|6. Framing of questions affects data||6. Bias of enumerators affects data|