A sociologist’s goal is to identify recurring patterns of and influences on social behavior. Sociologists use nearly all the methods of acquiring information, from advanced mathematical statistics to the interpretation of texts to study social behavior. The sociologist use surveys, direct observation, experiments, and existing sources. They use these methods to solve problems about social behavior in human groups as well as individuals. In their research, they look for primary resources. These primary resources can be census and vital reports from the government.
The first method is the survey. A survey is a study, generally in the form of an interview or questionnaire, which provide sociologists with information concerning how people think and act. It is often a collection and analysis of responses of large samples of people. The survey polls are designed to elicit people’s opinions, attitudes, and sentiments about a specific topic. A survey should be precise. The only way to make sure a survey is precise is to make the question specific. An effective question must be clear and understandable. This will eliminate problems and give sociologists the type of information desired.
There are two main types of surveys. They are the interview and the questionnaire. These two methods pose a considerable challenge for investigators. There are many advantages of the interview method. One is that the interviewer can obtain a high response rate because people would not turn them down face to face as opposed to the questionnaire. Another advantage is that an interviewer can dig deep in to the person’s feelings and get a true answer. In a written questionnaire, the sociologist wouldn’t know if the person were lying about the subject. In an interview, the researcher can look at a person’s facial expressions and hand gestures. The only advantage that the questionnaire has is that it’s cheaper to undergo the study. Sometimes it is difficult to use these methods because it doesn’t conform to race and gander participants.
Another method is observation. An observation is a first hand account of information from the person or persons studying the group. Observation studies may be used to improve the policies and structures of organizations. Some sociologists obtain information through participant observation. Participant observation allows a sociologist to temporarily become or pretending to become a member of the group being studied. Sociologists also obtain information by relying on knowledgeable informants of the group. This makes the observation method the most time consuming method of research. A person must involve him/herself thoroughly and become one with the group. The observation process may produce some challenges for the researcher. The researchers should fully understand what they’re observing. The researcher should not develop close relationships to where he/she can not come up with a proper conclusion.
Sociologists also use experiments as one of their research methods. Sociologists use an experiment to study cause and effect relationships. An experiment is a test or trial artificially created. The situation allows the researcher to form variables and introduce control variables. In order to carry out an experiment, two groups of people are selected. One would be the experimental group and the other the control group. The experimental group is exposed to an independent variable. The independent variable is altered and influences a change in the experimental group.
Sociologists often use old data in their research. Old data would include maps, census, and statistics. They use secondary analysis, which is a variety of techniques that make use of data. Usually, information researchers get is not looked at the same way as it was by the initial collectors. People’s behavior is non-reactive because it is not influenced. The only problem with using other people’s data is that it may not be accurate, and it may not relate exactly to what the researcher is looking for.