Assess the relative importance of the different factors that affect sociologists' choice of research methods and of topics to investigate Essay

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There are different factors that influence sociologist's choice of research. Sociologists have to firstly decide what particular area or topic they want to study, in order for them to carry out their research. When sociologists choose a topic, there are two types of sources available to the sociologists, they are Primary and Secondary. Primary is the data collected by the researchers themselves, usually in the form of questionnaires or interviews. Secondary is the data that is already available e.g. official statistics, diaries, historical documents etc. The researcher then has to decide what type of method they will use for their research.

The topic chosen for research will indicate the method to be used e.g. voting would involve the
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The way people interpret these social interactions is centrally important to the understanding of social behaviour.
Interpretivists prefer methods such as unstructured interviews and observation because these uncover the meanings behind action and emphasise validity. Such methods attempt to see the social world through the eyes of the people who inhabit it by studying their everyday life (verstehen) or by letting those being studied speak for themselves.

In addition to the theoretical, there are also practical reasons why a particular research method might be chosen.
Funding – if the sociologist does not have access to large funds, a cheap method will be required. Secondary data is cheap because it has already been collected. Postal questionnaires are cheaper than interviews, which are probably cheaper than observation studies.
Time – if you have years, observation may be possible. However if you only have months, you need a method that results in a quick response like questionnaires and/or interviews.
The subject matter is going to influence choice of research. For example, research into trends may suit quantitative research whilst research into attitudes may suit qualitative methods.
The research population may not be accessible because it is regarded as deviant and may feel threatened. If this is the case, covert observation may be necessary.
The research population may be geographically dispersed. If it is, a postal questionnaire may be necessary,