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Issues in Behavioral Science, Task 4

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Research methods in Sociology and Anthropology:
Approaches to research and their justification
WGU

Research methods in Sociology and Anthropology:
Approaches to research and their justification The Behavioral Sciences are comprised of Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology. All three sciences study human behaviors, but the goals and focus of each specialty differ from the others. In this paper I will discuss research methods employed by Sociologists and Cultural Anthropologists, and the justifications for the use of these methods. The paper will conclude with comparing and contrasting the described approaches to research. A. Sociologists study social behavior of groups and focus on the interactions among different social groups. They look for repeating patterns in society. Two tools used by Sociologists to conduct their research are Surveys and Secondary Analysis. Surveys are usually utilized to collect data from a large population. Sometimes a representative sample of the target population is surveyed. The study subjects are asked a set of questions, which the researchers then use to compare answers from different groups, or to draw conclusions about similarities or differences. The questions are often carefully designed to illicit a specific response. Sometimes the subjects have to choose from a given set of answers. These methods of questioning are geared towards producing uniform data, which can be statistically analyzed. One advantage of conducting surveys is that data of large populations can be obtained in a relatively short time; a disadvantage would be the chance of the subjects not being truthful in their responses. Secondary Analysis is based on previously collected data. This data can stem from official records like those kept by government agencies, from previously conducted studies, or historical records, to name a few. The researchers are able to include data from different studies in their analysis, and to combine findings of previous, often unrelated research, to look for answers to specific questions, or to support their thesis. A1. The justification for the use of Secondary Analysis as a tool for Sociologists is that studies do not have to be repeated. This saves cost and time. The ability for the researchers to incorporate data from a variety of sources also enables them to identify patterns, or draw conclusions about social situations. They can compare and analyze data for groups that might otherwise not be reproducible. For example: Theda Skocpol, a sociologist from Harvard, used Secondary Analysis to compare the historical events leading to revolutions in Russia, China, and France (Bio Ref Bank, 2000). Given the different geographical locations and time-lines for these revolutions, other research tools like surveys would have been impossible to use. B. Cultural Anthropologists study societies or cultures in all of their aspects; they take a holistic view. Traditionally the cultures of interest were smaller, less developed societies. Two research tools used by Cultural Anthropologists are Participant Observation, and Photography and Filming. Participant Observation is the key research method used in Cultural Anthropology. The researcher becomes a participant by immersing themselves in the culture of interest, usually for a long period of time. This includes learning the language and participating in activities of everyday life. The long immersion in and documentation of practices in a culture is also called ethno graphing. Research questions often develop during the course of the study, and explore the relationship between different processes and their effect on cultural practices. It is essential the researchers remove themselves from influences of their own culture and approach the study open-minded and un-biased. Photography and Filming is used by cultural anthropologists as a tool to document various aspects of a culture. Visual tools have been a part of documenting cultural events as early as in the cavemen days. They used paintings to depict activities, like hunts. Photographs and film are used to capture individuals and groups to show traditional clothing, record daily life, rituals, and storytelling. B1.The goal of Cultural Anthropology is the study of communities and societies, and how their customs developed over time. Cultural Anthropologists look for similarities and differences in early and today’s cultures. Especially in the early days of Cultural Anthropology, when studies were mostly conducted for small non-developed cultures, the use of photography and later film, allowed to capture specific images of a culture. Often the cultures studied did not have a written language and history and traditions were passed on through generations by storytellers, songs, paintings, rituals, and dances. To be able to capture these events in their original form justifies the use of photography and film. Svilicic describes how “modern museum exhibitions” consisting of videos or photographs help “provide a clear presentation of an epoch, a person, people, (or) tribe” (2011, page 191). C. Sociology and Cultural Anthropology are closely related, but there are some key differences: They study different groups, and they utilize different research methods. Sociologists aim to understand the influences at work throughout society, how they affect individuals’ behavior, “and, thus, determine social events” (Tischler, 2013). The groups of interest are usually within large, modern societies. The research questions are specific and therefore call for research methods based on the scientific method. Data is used to draw conclusions, look for causation, and to make predictions. Both, surveys and Secondary Analysis aid in the collection of this data. Surveys produce data about a population of interest in a short period of time; Secondary Analysis utilizes existing data to identify patterns that lead to certain behaviors. Cultural Anthropologists “investigate the contrasting ways groups of humans think, feel, and behave” (Haviland, Prins, Walrath, & McBride, 2011). They look at the big picture and often do not have a pre-determined set of questions going into the study. Questions often come up throughout the course of study, especially when the researcher is immersed in the day to day life. Since the groups of interest are usually small, less developed societies, it is necessary to observe them as a whole. Only then can aspects shaping behavior, cultural practices, and traditions be identified and conclusions be drawn. The capture of traditional life on photos and film, and Participant Observation allow for this. Surveys or Secondary Analysis do not lend themselves as meaningful research tools for the Cultural Anthropologists, because they are based on a general understanding of the group studied. Similarly, visual tools and Participant Observation in the form previously described would not be useful in producing the type of data utilized by Sociologists.

References
Haviland, William A., Harald Prins, Dana Walrath, Bunny McBride. Anthropology: The Human Challenge, 12th Edition. Wadsworth, 03/2011. VitalBook file.
Skocpol, Theda. (2000). Current Biography (Bio Ref Bank).
Svilicic, N. (2011). History and Future of Visual Anthropology. Collegium Antropologicum, 35(1), 187-192
Tischler. Cengage Advantage Books: Introduction to Sociology, 10th Edition. Wadsworth, 12/2013. VitalBook file.

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