The primary purpose of sociological research is to investigate and provide insights into how human society functions. Sociologists use empirical evidence and theoretical foundation providing an interpretive perspective and combine it using the scientific method to present proper results of the research.
A Sociologist begins by asking questions about human behavior and Society. An in-depth process is to be followed to answer these questions. For this, he can adopt either a positivist approach or an interpretive approach.
The scientific method of social research uses experiments, surveys, field research, and textual analysis. It restricts the boundaries, focusing on the study and to organize its results. It helps establish parameters to obtain objective and accurate results. Sociologists use this method not only to collect but also to interpret and analyze data to bring out reliable and valid results. This method helps in maintaining high objectivity, consistency and focus on a particular study. To answer the question, certain research methods are adopted to design a study;- like positivist may use quantitative method for conducting research and obtaining data or use an interpretive framework by studying ethnography. Others may use surveys, questionnaires or interviews to collect the data and analyze it to obtain results.
INTERVIEW: The interview methodology is one of the oldest of the research methodologies. An interview is a direct conversation between the researcher and the subject. It takes place through a process in which the subject is asked a series of questions to which they are free to respond as they wish. There is no ideal answer to a question. This method is useful in the collection of data revealing the values, experiences, perspectives, and views of the population under study.
It is different from survey interviews in the sense they are less structured. Although the interviewer must be ready with a specific set of questions to be asked, it is not necessary that they ask it in a particular order. An interview can be flexible and continuous rather than being rigidly structured.
The process of the interview (methodology)
- Choosing a topic: It is the first step requiring the researcher to identify a specific area of interest, try to describe the problems in the area and ask questions to himself regarding it.
- Research on existing knowledge: the researcher then tries to gain as much information as possible by referring to existing knowledge in the area of the topic. Studying the various sources, understanding and reviewing them helps in building knowledge on the topic and sharpen focus on the research questions.
- Planning the process: Planning the interview process involves answering numerous questions such as the number of people to be interviewed, the place of taking the interview, the demographic characteristics of the subjects, finding the participants, the ethical considerations to be accounted and so on.
- Designing the interview schedule: The interview schedule consists of a list of questions or topic areas that the interviewer wishes to ask or cover during the interview. This has to be prepared irrespective of whether the interview is structured or unstructured.
- Conducting the interview: The researchers may ask questions according to the interview schedule formally, or even ask open-ended follow-up questions to the participants informally. The interview may be recorded either manually or through recorders.
- Transcribing the data: It is the process of writing down the conversations that composed the interview. This helps in familiarising intimately with the data which further helps in analyzing it.
- Analyzing the data: The collected data is analyzed by the researcher to draw up conclusions for the research hypothesis.
- Verifying the results: The researcher may verify the validity and reliability of the collected data by cross-checking with other sources.
- Reporting the results: The research is completed only when it is reported, that is, written, presented or published through media.
Types of interview
- Structured or formal interview: It involves the interviewer asking the different participants the same set of questions usually from prewritten and structured questionnaires.
- Unstructured or informal interview: It involves the interviewer asking the different participants questions according to the response they receive. There is freedom to ask questions that are found to be appropriate in the conversation.
- Semi-structured interview: The interviewer has a list of questions but is free to as further, based on the responses.
- Group interview: It involves the interviewer interviewing two or more participants at the same time.
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