Task 9 – Other forms of research

Experiments

Whilst experiments can offer a detailed insight into how humans behave under certain situations (e.g. how young people react to sexual content in the media), a lot of care must be applied to each factor of the experiment. You must ensure that the way in which the information is organised, measured and presented must be exact, otherwise the experiment becomes pointless. As a level of detail is required, experiments can also be very time-consuming. To ensure the best results, you may also require a ‘control group’: a group of subjects who, unlike the group your experimenting with, are kept external to the experiment so that they aren’t affected by the independent variable (e.g. the choice of different types of sexual media content which you show to the experiment group). Despite already being rather time-costly, experiments are needed to be repeated in order to achieve concrete results, otherwise, you’re acting off the assumptions of one experiment without any previous results to judge its validity.

One-to-one interviews

During a one-to-one interview, you can record the interviewee’s answers so that you have a clear source to go back to and clarify. It is also lilely that your interviewee has been selected because they are an expert or suite the particular group your researching into, e.g. teenagers aged 15-18. However, one-to-one interviews are limited to one perspective, therefore, if you required a substantial number of interviewees, in order to achieve diverse results, one-to-one interviews would also be a very time-consuming research method.

Surveys/questionnares

Phsyical surveys are able to reach a wide demographic of people, particularly if they are sent via the post. Usually, they are quite easy to fill out and not very time consuming. However, it is costly to publish the surveys and then send them out with free post return. It can also take a lot of time, depending on the amount of completed surveys, to sort and process the information pyshically. This whole process is very difficult without a team behind it.

Social Media

Social media offers a much less costly, much less time-consuming alternative to physical surveys. An individual can design a quick questionnaire using software or certain survey sites, post it on thier social media pages and recieve results within minutes. The information is also recorded digitally and so, therefore, you can easily translate the results into graphs and statistic charts. However, as completing surveys online is more effortless and anonymous, some people will provide exagerrated or false information simply because they don’t take it seriously. Some methods of social media research are also quit intrusive, for example, Behavioral Data uses the cookies embedded within users’ browsers to manipulate the content of page-side adverts on websites, tailoured to what is percived as the user’s interests.

Documentary
Documentaries can often provide very detailed insights into particular subjects, often exposing information that can only be discovered after a thorough investigation or intimate interview. All of the footage can provide great sources to refer back to when consolidating your results. As the information is all recorded ‘on a whim’, documentaries provide concrete evidence towards your research. However, many documentaries, depending on the genre, follow the political stance and opinions of the presenter or filmmakers, a prime example being John Pilger, who purposefully makes documentaries with a left wing perspective. By presenting an issue subjectively, a researcher may have to source out another piece of information as their counter argument, in order to keep the research objective. As the documentary has been created with a particular purpose and time limit, it is likely that it will not cover all of the aspects of the subject you are researching.

Historical research
Historical research is similar in use to that of documentaries. Historical literature, whilst often written by experienced historians or academics, can provide an extremely detailed historical account of a particular subject and so a fantastic source of research. Historical photos and films can also provide concrete evidence towards an investigation. However, like with documentaries, historical literature can be very much influenced by the stance of the historian, for example: Revisionist, Orthodox, ect. Whilst these historians can provide provable facts as evidence for their arguments, you are still consuming their interpretation of events and factors.

Participant observation
Participant observation involves a researcher immersing themselves within a cultural group over a considerable amount of time in order to better understand the community and its cultural practices. For example, a number of participant observations have occurred amongst indigenous tribes in Africa and Southern America. Whilst this method of research can provide one of the most in-depth ways of analysing cultures and their social relationships, the very presence of the researcher(s) may prevent the group from acting as normal and, thus, distort the results. Participant observation would also require the consent of every member of the group who is to be analysed and a long investigation, perhaps spanning over 3 months, would be quite costly and time consuming.

Comparative analysis
Comparative analysis involves identifying and analysing similarities and differences between societies and cultures, usually between different countries. The major problem with this research method is that it requires cross-national cooperation, managing and funding. This would prove particularly difficult across continents, for example, a comparative analysis project between Germany and China. Social and political barriers may cause problems with cooperation. One country may also define certain categories differently to the other country, such as how they define urban and rural citizens. Nevertheless, once these obstacles have been considered, comparative analysis can truly provide a better understanding of the cultural differences between countries and regions.

AB testing
AB testing can entail surveys whereby yes/no questions are asked as well as when two versions of an object (e.g. a poster design) are asked to be compared by the user. These two simple purposes can provide quick and easily-processable means of collecting opinions on a matter or object. AB testing can also be used for as the format for internet surveys which is essential for users only willing to give a minute to answering simple questions. However, as largely a yes/no format, there is no space for depth in the answers which affects the overall quality of the research and limits the subject matter, for example, you couldn’t easily measure individual reasons why people enjoy artwork using AB testing because there would be a large range of opinions.

Secondary research
Secondary research involves using research that has been collected in the past by someone else towards your investigation, instead of researching the matter yourself, which is classed as primary research. Whilst using secondary research is both very cost and time effective (except when actually searching for the research itself) the reliability of the group responsible for collecting the research must be taken into account. Just like with documentary and historical research, the observer’s stance must be recognised to see if their findings are too subjective. A trusted organisation is more likely to achieve more reliable research results than that of an individual student. The other disadvantage of secondary research is that it is always slightly out of date. Whereas primary research is current with your investigation, the secondary research you find may have been collected a year or more beforehand. For example, the percentage of male students within a school will probably have changed by the following year.

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