Studying Sociology GCSE and Sociology A Level: 7: Research Methods – Quantitative Methods


 

Here is the 7th in our series of study blogs for those studying A level Sociology and GCSE Sociology.

Research Methods – Quantitative Methods

In the last blog we looked at quantitative data, which is data collected in the form of figures and numbers. So here we are going to look at the quantitative methods in a bit more detail.

Quantitative data produces data in the form of figures,which can be used to produce graphs, tables, pie charts and so on.

The results are also presented with comments from the sociologist.

Two of the main forms of collecting quantitative data in sociology are –

  • Structured interviews
  • Social Surveys

Structured Interviews

  • Structured interviews use standardised questions that the interviewer asks all respondents.
  • Any differences are therefore thought to be due to differences in the respondents’ attitudes and opinions, rather than because the question is asked differently to different people.
  • Structured interviews can also be repeated to check their reliability.
  • Sociologists can then generalise the results from the representative sample that they have studied.

BUT

  • The use of standardised questions assumes that the sociologist is skilled in writing and deciding on the questions and deciding how to design the questionnaire.
  • It also does not allow the respondent to raise any new issues.
  • Another difficulty is the idea of Interview Effect, where the respondent may give answers that are socially acceptable or that show them in a positive light. This can bias the results.
  • There is also the impact of the Interviewer Effect, where the age, gender, class, etc. of the interviewer can affect how the respondent answers the questions.

Social Surveys

  • Social surveys are used to obtain information from a large number of people.
  • They are usually based on questionnaires or structured interviews.
  • The questions are also standardised, so the same questions are used in the same order.
  • There are different types of social surveys –
    • Postal questionnaires
    • Structured interviews
    • Hand-delivered questionnaires
    • Postal questionnaires are emailed or posted to respondents, then have to be returned to the sociologist.
    • Hand-delivered questionnaires are delivered to the person’s home, then the researcher returns and collects the forms.
    • Structured interviews can be face to face or over the phone.

So what about qualitative methods? The next blog will talk about those.

Tracey Jones

Tutor

 

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