Examine the Reasons Why Some Sociologists Choose Not to Use Experiments When Conducting Research Essay

531 WordsApr 15, 20143 Pages
Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose not to use experiments when conducting research An experiment is a way of investigating cause and effect relationships between different variables. Experiments produce quantitative data favoured by positivists. The two types of experiments used by sociologists are laboratory experiments and field experiments. In a field experiment, the research takes place in the natural setting, which is not the case in a lab experiment as the setting is set up by the researcher. A laboratory experiment can be replicated by other scientists as lab experiments are very reliable. Due to such advantages of lab experiments, positivist sociologists favour this scientific method as it produces cause and effect relationships. However positivists still accept the disadvantages and limitations of lab experiments. One drawback of this experiment is that it is difficult to obtain the informed consent of some groups such as children, or people who have learning difficulties or those who cannot understand the nature of the experiment. An example of where participants were misled was in Milgram’s experiment. Milgram lied to the participants by saying that the purpose of the research was to assist them on learning. However in reality it was an experiment to test people’s willingness to obey orders to inflict pain. Therefore it is unethical to cause psychological or physical harm. The lab experiment can also be said to be unrepresentative because it is mostly a study on small scale. This does not represent everyone in the group therefore it is impossible to generalise. Also the participants know they are being studied leading to the Hawthorne effect as they may change their behaviour. A practical problem of laboratory experiments is that it is impossible to control all the variables. This is because society is very complex making it hard to
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