Sociological research is the systematic study of people, organisations, and phenomena, including different measurement techniques. In relatively simple words, sociological research is one in which researchers investigate people’s behaviour and societies from different perspectives in order to design services or products that can better meet the needs of people. Different social workers working in different parts of the world use different perspectives, methods, and theories to explore different people’s behaviours or societal aspects. This article will describe some important perspectives, methods, and theories that are vital to know for all social researchers before conducting an impactful sociological study.
Different perspectives in sociological research:
Sociologist considers three main theoretical perspectives, including the functionalist perspective, the conflict perspective, and the symbolic interactionist perspective. The following is a brief description of all of these three perspectives:
1. Functionalist perspectives or functionalism:
It includes the macro level of analysis. According to this perspective, all aspects of society are interdependent and contribute to the overall functioning of a society. For example, the government or state provides education to children and the public pay taxes in return to keep the state running. It is a systematic process that helps society produce order and keeps it in stable condition. Likewise, if all goes well, the state introduces new policies to increase interdependence between other aspects of society to see further increases in order, productivity, and stability. All in all, functionalism is the perspective in sociology that aims to build an order and increase stability or productivity.
2. Conflict perspectives or Conflict theory:
It includes the macro level of analysis. Conflict theory became popular after Karl Marx’s writing on class struggles. It presents an entirely different picture of society than functionalist and symbolic perspectives. These two perspectives focus on the positive aspects while the conflict pays attention to the negative aspects of society. The conflict theory focuses on the conflicts and ever-changing nature of society as a society is composed of unequal distribution of resources. This limited or unequal distribution of resources benefits the minority at the expense of the majority; hence, it is a leading cause of conflicts in societies. Thus, this theoretical perspective of society discusses societies as a constant place of conflict.
3. Symbolic interactionist perspective or Symbolic Interactionism:
It includes the micro level of analysis. It suggests sociologists consider the symbols of everyday life. The meaning of different symbols and people’s understanding of them is the main thing to consider in this perspective. Originally, this perspective has its roots in Max Weber’s assertion that in society, people react according to their interpretation and meaning of the world. Simply, the symbolic interactionist perspective suggests that people conceive different meanings from some everyday symbols and act accordingly.
Different methods in sociological research:
Sociological research can be conducted in a number of different ways on different aspects of society and people’s behaviour. The most common design in sociology includes ethnography which involves field work to study various characteristics of a population. However, methods common to sociological research include observational, correlational, experimental, and cross-cultural methods also to conduct academic research. The following section will provide only a brief introduction to a different method of sociological research. To get help about which method will be the most suitable for you, you can get masters dissertation help
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1. Surveys research:
Survey research includes interviewing participants through questionnaires and written surveys. Surveys give a lot of valuable information about the trends, similarities, and differences between different variables involved in a study. By analysing surveys, one can easily make predictions about the population under study. It is extremely important for collecting information from a large group of individuals; however, its biggest disadvantages include interviewer bias, volunteer bias, and distortion.
2. Observational research:
Sociologists working on critical social aspects extremely sensitive to respondents’ bias must get benefit from the observational research method
. It involves the collection of data by directly observing the reaction of the subject, either in laboratories or natural settings. It decreases the risk of biasness as it does not give the opportunity to respondents to share dishonest experiences or show non-serious responses. The only limitation associated with this method of sociological research is that the subjects may or may not be good representatives of the whole population.
3. Correlational research:
Sociologists exploring the interdependence of different sociological or behavioural aspects of a society can use this method of research. The factors affecting the overall process or phenomenon can also be explored by conducting correlational research. Two things: any possible connection between two variables and the degree of interdependence are the major concerns of correlational research. Furthermore, correlational research cannot explore the cause-and-effect relationships between variables.
4. Experimental research:
Experiments are designed to describe why and how something happens. It usually manipulates the set of dependent variables to see its effect on the independent variables. Thus, experiments are the most sought-after sociological research method for investigating the cause-and-effect relationship between different variables. Subjects for experimental research can be living as well as non-living, and the grouping of participants can be done either randomly or based on certain characteristics. Based on the participant’s grouping technique, the experiments may be quasi-experiments and true experiments.
5. Cross-cultural research:
As suggested by the name, these are the researches that compare people’s behaviour across different cultures. As stated in another way, cross-cultural research is a systematic method of comparing different cultures to understand variations in behaviour among humans. The core purpose of conducting such research is to gather knowledge about how our understanding of one culture can be employed in another culture.
All in all, sociological research demands sociologists to investigate different aspects of societies, including culture, norms, and brief and human interactions based on these norms. To study it, sociologists must be aware of three theoretical perspectives, including conflict perspectives, functionalist perspectives, and symbolic interactionist perspectives. Within the constraints of any of these theoretical perspectives, one can select research methods for sociological studies such as survey, observational, experimental, correlational, and cross-cultural studies.