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

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Examine the reasons why some sociologists choose not to use experiments when conducting research: Experiments can take the form of lab experiments (conducted in a controlled environment), field experiments (conducted in a natural setting where the independent variable and dependant variable are still observed), and the comparative method (a ‘thought experiment’, carried out in the researcher’s mind). There are many disadvantages to using laboratory experiments. Representativeness is very hard to achieve using this method as it is usually only done using small study samples. Another issue is ethical objections to conducting experiments on human beings. Obtaining informed consent from participants who are children or have learning difficulties may be difficult. Lying to participants about the nature of the experiment, as Milgram (1974) did in his studies of obedience to authority, is considered morally wrong. Therein lies another issue, as if people know they are being studied/know the nature of the experiment, the Hawthorne effect may occur, where the participants behaviour is unnatural. This would not produce valid results, therefor ruining the experiment. However, the laboratory experiment is highly reliable, as it is easily repeatable and a detached method. Positivists may favour this method due to this reason; however they also recognise the issues, and are more likely to use other scientific approaches when conducting research, such as the comparative method. Field experiments have the advantage of usually being highly valid. Being conducted in a natural setting, they avoid the artificialness of lab experiments. Rosenhan’s (1973) ‘pseudopatient’ experiment shows this. It also avoids the Hawthorne effect. However, there is little control over the variables in real life situations, therefor this method lacks reliability. The causes that are identified may
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