Examine the Problems That Some Sociologists May Face When Using Different Kinds of Experiments in Their Research

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Examine the problems that some sociologists may face when using different kinds of experiments in their research (20 marks)

Scientific research – an experiment is a method of investigating causal relationships among variables, or to test a hypothesis. The ability of establishing this relationship is why some sociologists, such as positivists, favour this method of research. There are two types of experimental methods that sociologists may use in their research:

• Lab experiments are controlled experiments conducted in an artificial environment. This means the researcher can control different variables. They do this by taking a set of subjects and dividing them into two random groups; the control group and the experimental group
• Field research is a qualitative method of data collection aimed at understanding, observing, and interacting with people in their natural settings. • Lab experiments – once conducted other scientists can replicate it. This makes laboratory experiments highly reliable, as they are replicable. The laboratory experiment has major advantages as the method can be used to establish cause and effect relationships
• Positivist sociologists use laboratory experiments as they favour a more scientific method. Positivist sociologists however also acknowledge the shortcomings of laboratory experiments, such as:
• Often impossible or unethical to control the variables. Small scale means that results may not be representative or generalisable to the wider population
• On the other hand interpretivists reject the laboratory experiments because it fails to achieve their main goal of validity. It is an artificial environment producing unnatural behavior.

Disadvantages of laboratory experiments – various practical problems with laboratory experiments are:
• Society is very complex and in practice it would be impossible to control variables…...

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