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Thread: Understanding Social and Cultural Research Methodology

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    Ancient Orator Survivor39's Avatar
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    Understanding Social and Cultural Research Methodology

    I have added this new section because I realised how important methodology is in Society & Culture, both in the PIP component and the exam component. You could use the following to help you with your preparation of your exams as the methodologies listed here included both advantages and disadvantages. When you start to collate your information for your chosen PIP topic, decide which methodologies best suit your research, i.e. which methodologies will assist you to gather the most relevant information? And why?


    Interviews

    Researchers use interviews as a research tool alone, or in combination with a questionnaire. Interviews may range from structured to unstructured and can vary tremendouly in the length of time taken to administer.

    Structured Interviews are usually brief and fairly formal; and the wording of the questions is pre-determined and the questions should be asked in the same manner and in the same order for all respondents.

    Unstructured Interviews do not usually have specific questions but rather areas of discussion. A lot of information can be obtained from unstructured interviews; however, the analysis of the data collected requires a carefully constructed guide.

    Advantages of interviews may include:

    - High proportion of returns as repondents are usually willing to co-operate.
    - Information obtained can provide the basis for the development of a questionnaire.
    - Interviewers can judge which areas are sensitive and ask or phrase questions accordingly.
    - Information obtained is usually more complete than from other methods if rapport is established between the interviewer and the interviewee.
    - Misinterpretation of questions can be avoided as the oppotunity is available to clarify questions.

    Disadvantages of interviews may include:

    - Cost of interviews in terms of time and money is usually higher than for other techniques.
    - Interviewer may inconsciously bias the responses through the way questions are asked or phrased.
    - Questions on attitudes and opinions may reflect either what the respondent thinks the interviewer wants to hear or what he/she thinks would be an acceptable opinion.
    - Age, sex, ethnicity and socio-economic status and personality of the interviewer may affect the responses of the interviewee.
    - Problems with coding data and drawing comparisions.


    Focus Groups

    A focus group is similar to an interview but you gather the information from a small discussion group (usually 3 and up to 8).

    For dvantages and disadvantages, refer to "Interviews"


    Participant observation

    Participant observation is a broad term referring to a variety of research activities. The name itself implies the the researcher involved in the observation is also a participant. This is sometimes the case and even when the observer intends to remain removed from the social group he/she is observing, it is often very difficult to do so.

    In all cases of participant observation there is a possibility that the observer, through interaction with others in the research setting will affect the data collected and thus the conclusions reached. This is not a major problem provided the issue is addressed in the final report.

    Techniques of participant observation include the following.

    Identified participant observation situation

    In this situation the identity of the person who is doing the observing is known to others in the social situation. The problem in this situation is that the people being observed may not act as they normally would, but rather how they think they should act.

    Unidentified participant observation situation (not to confuse with Observation)

    The identity of the observer is not known and he/she is free to interact in the situation. However, if he researcher is a stranger entering the social group, interaction may be affected and thus the observations made. If an individual is a member of a social group that he/she wishes to study, the effects on the group of his/her observations may be less, providing the members of the group are not aware that they are the subjects of research.


    Personal Reflection

    The application of Personal reflection should come naturally in your PIP. Anything that you recall, memories or values, is part of personal reflection. The way to use this methodology effective is not only to recall specific events, but to evaluate them. Don't overly rely on this methodology though.


    Case Studies

    Case study techniques usually involve the study of one person, one group, one family, one community etc., although sometimes they may be used to study a small group of people or families.

    This method is similar to the interview technique and has similar advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the major problem with the use of case study techniques alone is that the findgings cannot really be generalised to the rest of the population. However, case studies can provide the opportunity to analyse large social systems such as social insititutions where the researcher wants to find out what is happening and why it is happening rather than to obtain information that can be generalised to the rest of the population.


    Questionnaires

    Questionnaires can be used to investigate a wide variety of social phenomena. They can take many forms and can be used to establish facts and assess attitudes, values, beliefs, and opinions. Questionnaires may contain open-ended questions or closed and structured questions. Closed and structured questions include rating scales, or a choice of responses and alternatives from which to choose, therefore, making it quantitative. Open-ended questions, however, makes your questionnaire more qualitative.

    Questionnaires can be administered by a researcher, or research assistant, in person or over the telephone, or they can be self-administered. All self-administered questionnaires will give rise to a non-response rate and the response rate in some cases can be as low as ten per cent (try to avoid that). It is thus necessary in order to distributefar more questionnaires than necessary in order to achieve the responses required for the sample and collect sufficient date.

    Advantages of questionnaires:

    - Lower cost than personal interview techniques
    - Provide large amount of data in a short period of time
    - Self-administered questionnaire allows the respondent the opportunity to think about the questions (this can also be a disadvantage).
    - Closed or structured questions may be able to be processed by computer.
    - Self-administered questionnaires may provide information about sensitive issues while allowing a sense of privacy.
    - Mail questionnaires provide for a wide coverage and thus a wide sample of people.
    - Self-administered questionnaires may avoid interviewer bias.

    Disadvantages of questionnaires:

    - Non-response rates are usually high.
    - They do not have the same flexibility as interview techniques as there are usually limits as to how much information a respondent can include on the questionnaire.
    - Only a particular type of people may respond to the questionnaire and this may produce a biased sample.
    - Respondents may not respond as they should, but rather how they feel they are expected to respond.
    - Questions may be misinterpreted when the questionnaire is self-administered and the meaning of questions cannot be clarified.



    Action Research

    Action Research is an informal, qualitative, interpretive, reflective and experimental methodology that requires all the participants to be collaborateive researchers. Action research is carried out by people who usually recognise a problem or limitation in their workplace situation and, together, devise a plan to counteract the problem, implement the plan, observe what happens, reflect on these outcomes, revise the plan, implement it, reflect, revise and so on. Action research can be thought of as a spiral of planning, acting, observing and reflecting, occuring through time until the most desirable outcomes for all participants are achieved.


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    Last edited by Survivor39; 21 Feb 2005 at 11:10 PM.

    PhD, University of Cambridge, 09-12
    MSc, UNSW, 08-09
    BMedSc (Hons I), UNSW, 04-07

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    Hey thanks. If you could, could you add more please. I've been searching for info on methodologies.
    AM1999 likes this.

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    Ancient Orator Survivor39's Avatar
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    I have added "questionnaires" and "action research".

    PhD, University of Cambridge, 09-12
    MSc, UNSW, 08-09
    BMedSc (Hons I), UNSW, 04-07

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    Thank you.
    I am actually starting to think I can pass this year

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    Cadet
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    thanks for your help on methodologies, i know what i need to do now for my PIP!

    just wondering if you have any information of the half yearly society and culture exam, our teacher has told us 3 definate questions to focus on as part of our study:

    1. is all change necessarily progress?
    2. which groups benefit from change and which do not?
    3. are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable?

    she has hinted that we study them in depth as they are sylabus dot points. i have basic answers, yet not enough to expand on to write a well structured response in the exam. any ideas would be greatly appreciated! thanx again!

    also does n e one know where we can find the sylabus dot points?

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    Executive Member winicat's Avatar
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    oh! i remember the "is all change necessarily progress?" question!! i think it has something to do with the pros and cons of change. like, we want good changes (like medical advancements, no racism, etc) but we don't want bad changes (totally can't think of any right now lol) argh! this is so annoying cause i can actually visualise the page i answered that question on but not what i actually wrote!!!

    question 2: you should have done a case study on a group that related to change. we looked at the amish and the black civil rights movement (our focus was on the USA). because of the different perspectives of the groups they both relate to change in (very!) different ways. the amish resist change due to their cultural background (although they have embraced some), whilst the BCRM was about changing the attitudes of a nation towards a racial group -- therefore that was a group that benefited from change.

    question 3: you have to know what each is. westernisation is a model of modernisation (there are others -- you should know some) so it is not inevitable. give an example of another model that has been used (eg. communism in cuba/china). it's all about resisting change and other models of modernisation. i think the excel text book has a good section on these issues.

    i'm sorry if not all of that made sense lol it's just my crazy memories of SaC coming together. those questions, i think, were in the 2003 paper. i'd check out the board of studies site and see if you can find any examples of answers there. maybe check out the whole paper as it may just be a copy of it.
    BA (Art History and Curatorship) @ ANU

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    Ancient Orator Survivor39's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blink rock
    thanks for your help on methodologies, i know what i need to do now for my PIP!

    just wondering if you have any information of the half yearly society and culture exam, our teacher has told us 3 definate questions to focus on as part of our study:

    1. is all change necessarily progress?
    2. which groups benefit from change and which do not?
    3. are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable?

    she has hinted that we study them in depth as they are sylabus dot points. i have basic answers, yet not enough to expand on to write a well structured response in the exam. any ideas would be greatly appreciated! thanx again!
    For practice questions, click on the "Year 12 - Practice Exam Questions" thread:
    http://www.boredofstudies.org/commun...ad.php?t=37684

    I have seen those questions in the Exam paper paper before. Really there are no right or wrong answers. Those type of question aim at your ability to analyse and evaluate the materials you have learned so far in Society and Culture. Look at your focus country, what are the characteristics? Is social change inevitable in your focus country? Explain your point of view, then use examples, like those in your selected country, to support your view. This is one of the way you can get high marks.

    For HSC syllabus, go to:

    http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au...tycult_syl.pdf

    PhD, University of Cambridge, 09-12
    MSc, UNSW, 08-09
    BMedSc (Hons I), UNSW, 04-07

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    Executive Member winicat's Avatar
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    THIS STUFF IS FROM Eliza_B's CORE NOTES THREAD

     Are westernisation, modernisation and industrialisation inevitable?

    Westernisation; the process of countries adopting the practices and values of western countries, especially USA eg. fast food, music, TV.
    Modernisation; the process of countries moving from traditional societies (focused on continuities) to modern societies which accept change.
    Industrialisation; the process of moving from a society based on agriculture to a society based on industry as the main means of production.
    Are these 3 processes going to happen to all countries of the world at some stage

    YES, the world reflects a move towards these three processes in the system or organisation called globalisation. The influence and demands of the World Bank to follow a western style economy to gain access to loan funds. Technology is becoming so much more prolific and affordable that everyone is exposed - economic base of many countries.

    NO, Some countries are economically and culturally strong enough to maintain their independence from globalisation. Cuba is still an independent country despite its proximity to the US.
    BA (Art History and Curatorship) @ ANU

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    Junior Member cataleptic's Avatar
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    Hey this is great - I was never taught much about advanatges and disadvatages. i always had to bullshit everything up myself.

    *has added to favourites*

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    Re: Understanding Social and Cultural Research Methodology

    dude, you are so awesome! thanks heaps! ive got my objective test tomorrow and know nothing! thanks

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