Doing Sociology Research Methods - Solutions

 CBSE Class 11 Sociology

NCERT Solutions
Chapter 5
Doing Sociology: Research Methods

1. Why is the question of a scientific method particularly important in sociology?

Ans. Science is expected to be objective, factual and verifiable but this is relatively difficult in comparison to physical sciences.

Sociologists used scientific method to discover social facts. Like the physical and natural sciences, sociology also has developed various scientific methods in its subject matter.

Sociology being a scientific discipline, the main element is the method used to derive facts. For sociologists being social scientist, it is not very important how much they know or what they know instead of them, important is how they know? How do they derive facts?

Sociologists derive their facts through research methods, using different techniques and tools. Research is the 'aim' and the method is the means for sociologists to attain their aim.

Social research is an attempt made by sociologists in order to discover social facts, to study cause effect relationship and wherever possible to do predictions with certain limitations.

Therefore, in sociology, use of scientific methodology is very important, being a scientific discipline.

2. What are some of the reasons for' objectivity' being more complicated in social sciences, particularly disciplines like sociology?

Ans. Objective knowledge are unbiased, neutral views or views based on facts that every scientific method is expected to produce. However, in social sciences it is difficult to be objective because human world cannot be studied in isolation.

Human beings may develop bias views and influence the thinking about the group as being a part of it. The researcher who carries the research will also have his/her own values and prejudices about the social context they are studying and this may present as difficulty while gathering objective information.

Moreover, there are multiple versions and interpretations of the ‘truth’ in social world as things looks different from different vantage points. Hence, it becomes difficult for the researcher to eliminate the problem of objectivity.

This is the reason for' objectivity' being more complicated in social sciences particularly disciplines like sociology.

3. How do sociologists try to deal with these difficulties and strive for objectivity?

Ans. Since the problem of objectivity cannot be eliminated, a social researcher should try and reduce the problem of objectivity in the following ways:

  • By rigorously and continuously examining one’s own idea and feelings about the subject of research.
  • Through reflexivity: By taking an outsider’s perspective on the work and looking at the research through the eyes of others.
  • By consciously adopting the views of those who are the subjects of research.
  • Making a careful documentation of what one is doing, all procedures undertaken and formal citing of all sources of evidence
  • Objectivity should be approached as the goal of a continuous ongoing process and not as an already achieved end result.

4. What is meant by 'reflexivity' and why is it important in sociology?

Ans. Reflexivity refers to the fact that our sense of order is a result of conversational process.
It is created in talk. Yet we usually think of ourselves as describing the order already existing around us.

Reflexivity is one of the ideas of ethnomethodology which is a technique devised by Garfinkel. One of the practical aspects of reflexivity is the importance of carefully documenting whatever one is doing. It also ensures that others can retrace the steps we have taken to arrive at a particular conclusion and see for themselves if we are right. It also helps to check and re-check our own thinking or line of argument.

5. What are some of the things that ethnographers and sociologists do during participant observation?

Ans. The term 'Ethnography' is usually applied to the acts both of observing directly the behaviour of a social group and producing a written description there of. Ethnographers particularly social anthropologists do field work. Sociologists also involved in a community study would certainly do field work in any form of case study.

Basically it is participant observation. Sociologists spend a long time with the people being studied. They learn their language, follow their rituals and traditions and participate in their day to day activities, according to their lifestyle.
By and large by devoting so much time with that particular social group, they become insiders and learn about the whole way of life in a holistic way.

  • Unlike the social anthropologists the sociologists focus on various types of community in their field work.
  • To understand the lifestyle and any behavioural, cognitive or emotional characteristics, sociologists spend a lot of time with that particular group instead of staying with them.

6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of participant observation as a method?

Ans. Observation refers to the systematic process of collecting information through direct participation and the observation of group, tribe or community, included in the study. Observation may be participant or non-participant.

In participant observation researcher lives in the group of people as an active member of the group whereas in non-participant observation researcher works as a neutral observer. He/she may use CCTV cameras, video-cameras to get information.

Participant observation is a major method for the collection of required information. This method has its strengths as well as weaknesses which are as follows:

Strengths of participant observation:

  • Provides first hand information: Being direct study participant observation provides opportunity to study social phenomena, events and relationship scientifically from natural setting. The researcher may get real and true behaviour of the members.
  • Provides opportunity to get comprehensive and intensive study: An active member of the group may go in depth of the= problem and may get reliable information. Such information help the researcher in understanding their internal values.
  • Verifiability of information is possible: Whenever the observer is in doubt regarding any information it can be re-examined - and verified.

Weaknesses of participant observation:

  1. High level expertise required: Researchers have to be objective. Having been member of the group the individualistic bias is very much possible. The advantage of unfamiliar quality cannot be obtained.
  2. Time consuming: A lot of time is to be spent in establishing rapport with other members and have to wait for the events, the observer wants to observe particularly.
  3. Expensive method: It requires a lot of time and expertise, the method involves high expenditure.

7. What are the basic elements of the survey method? What is chief advantage of this method?
 A survey is a quantitative macro research method. It is an attempt to provide a compressive perspective on same topic.

  1. It is used to collect information about people's attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.
  2. It involves the collection of standardised information from the population being studied.
  3. Standardised information is gathered by asking same questions to all respondents in exactly the same order.
  4. Surveys rely on questionnaires as the main technique of data collection.

Surveys are of two types:

  1. Descriptive survey: It provides an accurate measurement of the distribution of certain characteristics in a given population. For example, income distribution, extent of literacy in a particular area.
  2. Analytical survey: It is concerned with different variables. For example, a researcher may want to look at the relationship between level of prosperity and sex ratio.

    Advantages of survey
  • The information collected through a questionnaire in a survey is statistically analysed to reveal the pattern of regularity. These findings are presented as pie charts.
  • Survey research is usually done by large teams consisting of those who plan and design the study (the researchers) and their associates and assistance who may get the questionnaire filled up.
  • If the population of the study is too large, the survey will be based on information gathered from a representative sample of the population.
  • The small sample that is carefully selected using the above mentioned principles is such that the sample represents the entire group of population under study. The results obtained from the study of the sample are generalised to the entire population.
  • It allows to generalise result for a large population by actually studying only a small portion of the population. Therefore, with the help of survey one can study -with manageable investment of time, efforts and money.

8. Describe some of the criteria involved in selecting a representative sample.

Ans. Sample selection process depends on two main principles:

  • Representation of relevant sub groups of the population to be surveyed
  • Actual sample units selected

Representation of relevant sub groups : Large population are not homogeneous and belong to distinct sub-categories. They are stratified statistically. Hence, it is necessary that all the relevant sub-groups in the population should be recognised and represented in the sample.

Representativeness of the sample depends on its being able to reflect the characteristics of all relevant strata in a given population

Selection of actual sample unit : Selection of the actual sample unit should be based purely on chance. This is referred to as randomisation and depends on the concept of probability. Sample selected randomly can only be considered as a representative sample. It is the mostly commonly used method.
In random or probability sampling all the members of a population have a chance of selection. For instance, all schoolchildren of a particular age in a particular area can be the population for study and 1 child out of 100 can be the sample size.

Different techniques such as drawing of lots, rolling of dice, use of random number tables produced for the selection purpose are used to choose the random samples.

Another method is referred to as quota or stratified sampling. It is also known as non-probability sampling because the sample is selected deliberately by splitting the population beforehand, usually into categories such as sex, age or class and then selecting a certain number for investigation from each category.

9. State some of the weaknesses of the survey method.

Ans. Weaknesses of survey

  1. In a survey it is not possible to get in depth information from respondents. This is because the time spent on each respondent is very limited.
  2. Since a survey involves a large number of investigators, it becomes very difficult to ensure that the complicated questions are asked from all respondents in exactly the same way.
  3. Questions that are asked in survey cannot be of personal or sensitive type. This is because there is no long-term interaction between the investigator and respondents.
  4. In a survey unlike what is in an observation method, it is very difficult for the investigator to know for sure whether the response given by the respondent is true or not.

10. Describe main features of the interview as a research method.

Ans. Features of interview include:

  • Purposeful conversation through face to face interaction.
  • A social interaction which results in transfer of information from the interviewer to a researcher.
  • Interview may be personal, conducted face to face, or by telephone (which has certain advantages for more sensitive topics), or may be conducted through a postal questionnaire (which gives people more time to consider their replies).
  • The questions put to interviewees may treat them as a respondent who supplies information about their own circumstances, activities and attitudes, or as an informant who supplies factual information about social phenomena within their experience and knowledge, such as the number of rooms in their home, an estimate of their total household income, characteristics of their local community, trade union or employer.
  • Less commonly, people are invited to be proxy informants for a respondent who is not available, such as a wife answering questions on her husband's job.
  • Interviews vary in style and format, from the structured interview based on a questionnaire (which is typical in sample surveys), to the unstructured interview based on a list of topics to be covered, to the depths. Interview or qualitative interview which may last hours and range widely around the topics is an interview guide.
  • A somewhat different approach to interviewing consists of the group discussion, in which four to twelve people discuss the topic of interest to the researcher, under the guidance of the researcher.
  • The research interview has some similarities to other interview situations, such as job selection interview, in that it is an interaction between unequal rather than an ordinary conversation: the topics are chosen by the researcher and interviewers must reveal nothing of themselves in case this biases responses.
  • Researcher's control over the interview is greatly increased by the use of computer¬based questionnaires for personal and telephonic interviews, such as Computer¬Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) system.