Assessing the View that Practical Issues are the Most Important Factors in
Deciding Which Research Method to Use
In sociology, sociologists will often have to do research into certain
topics to gain a deeper understanding of them. There are many methods
of research that a researcher could use if they were researching into
society, such as observation, questionnaires, surveys, or interviews.
When choosing between these methods a researcher must consider many
factors, both practical and/or ethical. Sociologists are often
uncertain about which issues, practical or ethical, are the most
Practical issues are possible problems with the experiment concerning
actual, pliable, real things; things that are physical and can easily
disrupt an experiment if not properly take care of. Almost all
sociological experiments have practical issues that must be looked at
and sorted out. They are therefore very important to be considered
when embarking upon an investigation. Some practical issues that must
be considered are:
* Cost - how much money will the experiment cost to the
* Time - how much time would be required for this investigation?
* Funding - where will the money needed (if any) come from? For
example, Marxists or interpretivists who produce qualitative data
are less likely to get funding than Functionalists or positivists
with quantitative data.
* Access - will it be possible or easy to gain access to a group
that you may want to study?
* Data - how much data will be obtained and how will you store and
These give us an example of how much has to be considered practically.
With so many practical issues to think about many sociologists argue
that they must be the most important factor, much more important than
ethical or moral factors. However due to the sheer amount of practical
issues that concern any experiment, lots of sociologists maintain that
practical issues affect an investigation much more than ethical
In Don Kulick's study of Brazilian transsexual prostitutes (1996),
Kulick would have had to consider many, many issues that concerned his
investigation practically. As he prepared to go undercover to secretly
observe the 'travestis' in their natural environment, he would have
had to think of such things as access. How would it be possible for
him to gain a place in this well-established social 'click'? His whole
investigation depended on him gaining access to the personal lives of
those he was studying. He would also have been required to consider
expense and time. He would have to obtain enough money to securely fit
in with these people without arousing suspicion, and he would have
needed money to fund his research eg. he needed to travel to Brazil,
to rent a room, to buy...