1. Discuss with reference to the relevant literature and debates within social science.
The question asks you to discuss the question set with reference to the literature and debates.
Some points you should consider
Does the research question determine the type of information a researcher wants to collect, and in turn determine the method used?
The basic idea is that:
• If want to explain/predict/test you use quantitative method
• If want to explore/understand/describe you use qualitative method
(You may wish to describe briefly quantitative and qualitative methods
in order to illustrate why this is the case)
Does your epistemological stance determine the research method you use?
The basic idea is that there are two main (traditional) perspectives:
• If you come from a positivist perspective you use quantitative method
• If you come from an Interpretative Social Science perspective you use
(You should describe Positivism and ISS, point out the key differences,
and explain the way each is linked to either quantitative/qualitative
method i.e. discussion of the relationship between paradigms and
Is this the whole story? Are there alternative viewpoints?
There are other perspectives such as:
Critical Social Science / Postmodernism / Feminism and they have
differing relations to research method
(You should describe, highlighting the key characteristics, and
discussing the implications for method of at least one or more of these).
Some other questions you should ask yourself are:
Is how you use the tool (method) as important/more important than the
Should perspectives dictate or inform method?
Does a mix of method give the ‘best’ results?
Issues such as the role of theory and theorising in research, ethics and
power relations in the research process and the role of research – to
inform or to change – may enter into your discussion, they may not. It
will depend on how you choose to answer the question, which depends on you.
Your conclusion should relate back to the question. Remember to answer
the question and not just present a general discussion of the different
perspectives and methods. Remember also this is an essay and you must
reference fully and include a full bibliography.
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