Case studies definition sociology

A case study is where sociologists investigate in great detail a particular individual or Advantages of case studies include the ability to gather qualitative and.
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If the criteria for selecting a case is because it represents a very unusual or unique phenomenon or problem for study, then your intepretation of the findings can only apply to that particular case. Conditions necessary for determining causality: Empirical association -- a valid conclusion is based on finding an association between the independent variable and the dependent variable. Appropriate time order -- to conclude that causation was involved, one must see that cases were exposed to variation in the independent variable before variation in the dependent variable.

Nonspuriousness -- a relationship between two variables that is not due to variation in a third variable. Causality research designs assist researchers in understanding why the world works the way it does through the process of proving a causal link between variables and by the process of eliminating other possibilities. Replication is possible. There is greater confidence the study has internal validity due to the systematic subject selection and equity of groups being compared.

Not all relationships are casual! The possibility always exists that, by sheer coincidence, two unrelated events appear to be related [e. Conclusions about causal relationships are difficult to determine due to a variety of extraneous and confounding variables that exist in a social environment. This means causality can only be inferred, never proven. If two variables are correlated, the cause must come before the effect.


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Cohort Design Definition and Purpose Often used in the medical sciences, but also found in the applied social sciences, a cohort study generally refers to a study conducted over a period of time involving members of a population which the subject or representative member comes from, and who are united by some commonality or similarity. Date of entry and exit from the study is individually defined, therefore, the size of the study population is not constant.

In open cohort studies, researchers can only calculate rate based data, such as, incidence rates and variants thereof.

Case Study | Topics | Sociology | tutor2u

Closed Cohort Studies [static populations, such as patients entered into a clinical trial] involve participants who enter into the study at one defining point in time and where it is presumed that no new participants can enter the cohort. Given this, the number of study participants remains constant or can only decrease.

The use of cohorts is often mandatory because a randomized control study may be unethical. For example, you cannot deliberately expose people to asbestos, you can only study its effects on those who have already been exposed. Research that measures risk factors often relies upon cohort designs. Cohort analysis is highly flexible and can provide insight into effects over time and related to a variety of different types of changes [e. Either original data or secondary data can be used in this design.

Research Methods

In cases where a comparative analysis of two cohorts is made [e. These factors are known as confounding variables. Cohort studies can end up taking a long time to complete if the researcher must wait for the conditions of interest to develop within the group. This also increases the chance that key variables change during the course of the study, potentially impacting the validity of the findings.

Due to the lack of randominization in the cohort design, its external validity is lower than that of study designs where the researcher randomly assigns participants. Cross-Sectional Design Definition and Purpose Cross-sectional research designs have three distinctive features: no time dimension; a reliance on existing differences rather than change following intervention; and, groups are selected based on existing differences rather than random allocation.


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Cross-sectional studies provide a clear 'snapshot' of the outcome and the characteristics associated with it, at a specific point in time. Unlike an experimental design, where there is an active intervention by the researcher to produce and measure change or to create differences, cross-sectional designs focus on studying and drawing inferences from existing differences between people, subjects, or phenomena. Entails collecting data at and concerning one point in time. While longitudinal studies involve taking multiple measures over an extended period of time, cross-sectional research is focused on finding relationships between variables at one moment in time.

Groups identified for study are purposely selected based upon existing differences in the sample rather than seeking random sampling. Cross-section studies are capable of using data from a large number of subjects and, unlike observational studies, is not geographically bound. Can estimate prevalence of an outcome of interest because the sample is usually taken from the whole population. Because cross-sectional designs generally use survey techniques to gather data, they are relatively inexpensive and take up little time to conduct. Finding people, subjects, or phenomena to study that are very similar except in one specific variable can be difficult.

Results are static and time bound and, therefore, give no indication of a sequence of events or reveal historical or temporal contexts. Studies cannot be utilized to establish cause and effect relationships. This design only provides a snapshot of analysis so there is always the possibility that a study could have differing results if another time-frame had been chosen. There is no follow up to the findings.

Descriptive Design Definition and Purpose Descriptive research designs help provide answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and how associated with a particular research problem; a descriptive study cannot conclusively ascertain answers to why. The subject is being observed in a completely natural and unchanged natural environment. True experiments, whilst giving analyzable data, often adversely influence the normal behavior of the subject [a. Descriptive research is often used as a pre-cursor to more quantitative research designs with the general overview giving some valuable pointers as to what variables are worth testing quantitatively.

If the limitations are understood, they can be a useful tool in developing a more focused study. Descriptive studies can yield rich data that lead to important recommendations in practice. Appoach collects a large amount of data for detailed analysis. The results from a descriptive research cannot be used to discover a definitive answer or to disprove a hypothesis.

6 thoughts on “Research Methods in Sociology – An Introduction”

Because descriptive designs often utilize observational methods [as opposed to quantitative methods], the results cannot be replicated. The descriptive function of research is heavily dependent on instrumentation for measurement and observation. Experimental Design Definition and Purpose A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result of an experiment.

Experimental research allows the researcher to control the situation. Experimental research designs support the ability to limit alternative explanations and to infer direct causal relationships in the study. Approach provides the highest level of evidence for single studies. The design is artificial, and results may not generalize well to the real world. The artificial settings of experiments may alter the behaviors or responses of participants. Experimental designs can be costly if special equipment or facilities are needed. Some research problems cannot be studied using an experiment because of ethical or technical reasons.

Difficult to apply ethnographic and other qualitative methods to experimentally designed studies. Exploratory Design Definition and Purpose An exploratory design is conducted about a research problem when there are few or no earlier studies to refer to or rely upon to predict an outcome.

The goals of exploratory research are intended to produce the following possible insights: Familiarity with basic details, settings, and concerns. Well grounded picture of the situation being developed. Generation of new ideas and assumptions. Development of tentative theories or hypotheses. Determination about whether a study is feasible in the future. Issues get refined for more systematic investigation and formulation of new research questions.


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  • Direction for future research and techniques get developed. Design is a useful approach for gaining background information on a particular topic. Exploratory research is flexible and can address research questions of all types what, why, how. Provides an opportunity to define new terms and clarify existing concepts. Exploratory research is often used to generate formal hypotheses and develop more precise research problems.

    In the policy arena or applied to practice, exploratory studies help establish research priorities and where resources should be allocated.

    The Case Study: What it is and What it Does

    Exploratory research generally utilizes small sample sizes and, thus, findings are typically not generalizable to the population at large. The exploratory nature of the research inhibits an ability to make definitive conclusions about the findings.

    What is case study? And types of case study.

    They provide insight but not definitive conclusions. The research process underpinning exploratory studies is flexible but often unstructured, leading to only tentative results that have limited value to decision-makers. Design lacks rigorous standards applied to methods of data gathering and analysis because one of the areas for exploration could be to determine what method or methodologies could best fit the research problem.

    Historical Design Definition and Purpose The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute a hypothesis. The historical research design is unobtrusive; the act of research does not affect the results of the study. The historical approach is well suited for trend analysis. Historical records can add important contextual background required to more fully understand and interpret a research problem. There is often no possibility of researcher-subject interaction that could affect the findings.

    Historical sources can be used over and over to study different research problems or to replicate a previous study. The ability to fulfill the aims of your research are directly related to the amount and quality of documentation available to understand the research problem. Since historical research relies on data from the past, there is no way to manipulate it to control for contemporary contexts. Interpreting historical sources can be very time consuming. The sources of historical materials must be archived consistently to ensure access.