Sociology Methods


Qualitative data – data in form of observation or other published or broadcast sources (words).
Quantitative data – data collected from statistical charts and tables (numbers).
Primary data
Most common method of collecting primary data (data collected by the researcher) is:
By surveys normally involving questionnaires or interviews which mainly generates quantitative data
By observations which may be either participant (where researcher joins in the life of the group being studied) or non-participant (where the researcher remains detached from the group). It mainly generates qualitative data.
Secondary data
This refers to data that is already available to sociologists, which includes:
Official statistics collected by the government. (Quantitative)
Reports in newspapers, TV and radio. (mostly Qualitative)
Historical documents. (Quantitative and Qualitative)
Personal letters and diaries. (Qualitative)
Research done by private or business organisations.

Different approaches to research
Positivist approach
Some sociologists see society as a ‘structure’ which is made up of parts which form a whole. Durkheim and Marx both viewed society in the same way. Durkheim believed that the structure of society shaped and moulded the individual. This means from young children you were all socialised into society’s norms and values, and have become accustomed to its beliefs, rituals and traditions. He referred to these values as ‘social facts’ (ways of acting, thinking and feeling, external to the individual and endowed with a power of coercion, by way of which they control him). He also believed these things determined how we behave as individuals. To look at social behaviour we have to look at these social facts. ‘Durkheim and Le suicide’ is his now famous research where he tried to prove that suicide is cause by society rather than being the result of sickness of the individual.
Viewed as an ‘objective’ (quality achieved when a...