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Explain with examples how the theoretical perspective of the researcher accepts choice of method

The choice of method used to collect data is used by the theory that the given sociologist accepts.Most sociological theories have certain types of data they tend to collect, and certain methods that they choose to adopt.

The two techniques used are quantitative and qualitative.Quantitative techniques are used to measure distribution and the extent of a social characteristic.

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This technique is also useful when comparing two social variables such as social class and educational achievement. The technique provides a percentage or numerical feedback, allowing a statistical approach to sociological research. This type of research relies heavily on secondary data, i.e. research not collected by other parties, such as official statistics and social surveys, especially ones involving a formal interview.

The Quantitative research technique is favoured highly by positivists who see measurement and statistics as a crucial element in making sociology more scientific. This technique can easily be duplicated, repeated and classified to achieve the same results, meaning the conclusion can be confirmed as fact. Positivists may also create their own primary material through creating questionnaires or structured interviews.

The second research technique is Qualitative. Qualitative research is not based on measurements or statistics, and is useful if the researcher does not require a quantified figure or if the subject that is being studied cant be precisely measured. This style works well with participant observation as the observer may want to simply observe behaviour rather than record it.

Interpretivists prefer the Qualitative technique as they employ methods such as in depth interviews, non-participant and participant observation. These methods are not easily repeated and no two observations may be the same, but that are still very valid.

Traditionally, those who followed positivism were the Structuralists, the Functionalists and to a certain degree the Marxists.

The Structuralists believe that the system of society took greater precedence than the elements within the system, so individuals are directed by society.

Functionalists like Durkheim and Parsons believed that the actions of the individuals in society were controlled by the cultural system that they belonged to.

Marx tried to apply more generalised historical social laws to his theories to try and predict society’s future. However, some positivists have criticised him for not being scientific enough, and claim that his ideas are merely theoretical.

The main body of interpretivism is made up of Phenomenologists and ethnomethodoligists. Phenomenologists are concerned with understanding how humans understand their environment and the world around them. The distinction between Phenomenology and positivism is often exaggerated. For example, Durkheim, the founding father of Functionalism did not stick rigidly to his own methodology. He made mental sketches of what it was like to be a Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Ethnomethodology looks at how humans categorise the world around them, how people give meaning to their social world. This approach is only concerned with the subjective approach.

Some sociologists do not fit directly into a category, interpretivist or positive. Symbolic interactionists such as Becker are commonly described as interpretivists as they understand they must appreciate the point of view of the actor, nevertheless, they still try to maintain a casual relationships. Some develop hypotheses and assess these against further evidence. Another example of a sociologist who crossed the boundaries was Cicourel, and ethnomethodoligist also used statistics to study juvenile justice.

In modern times, theoretical commitment is not seen as important as structure and action and a mixed of methods is employed. For example Lea and Young have both used in depth interviews and statistics when analysing crime.

Important points to take into consideration are that some techniques are better at analysing phenomenon than others. For example you would have great difficulty using social survey or official statistics to study police brutality or new age travellers. Some methods may be rejected as unethical such as covert participant research. Practical considerations are also noted. Time, money and number of collaborators may be affected if research is funded by a particular body.

In conclusion, tradition dictates that there are only two choices of research technique that are adopted by different social theories, but in reality however, many sociologists find that the best way to achieve reliable and valid results is by combining both qualitative and quantitative.

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