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Sociological Research Online 2 (2) 2
Keywords: Drugs; Internet; Internet Research; Internet Sampling; Newsgroups Research; Survey Research; World Wide Web
Abstract: The Internet and electronic mail increasingly offer the research community opportunities that it did not previously have. Access to information has increased as has access to and discussion with those working in similar areas. One other aspect of 'cyberspace' which presents enormous possibilities to the research community, currently in its infancy, is the use of the Internet to reach individuals as research subjects. In particular, there may be significant research benefits to be gleaned where the group being researched is normally difficult to reach and/or the issues being researched are of a particularly sensitive nature. This paper outlines some recent survey research using the Internet as the interface between researcher and researched. The target group, illicit 'drug dealers', are difficult to access under normal conditions and contacting a spread of such individuals across international borders was previously prohibitive. A discussion of sampling issues is undertaken which concludes that the Internet can be a valuable source of indicative as opposed to easily generalizable data. A practical guide to undertaking research via the Internet is also included.
M Heather Elliott and Ellingworth
Sociological Research Online 2 (4) 3
Keywords: Bias; British Crime Survey; Census; Deciles; Sampling; Regression Modelling; Representativeness; Response Rates
Abstract: The paper highlights the importance of the representativeness of survey samples, using the 1992 British Crime Survey as an example. The success with which different demographic characteristics are represented in the survey sample is addressed by comparison to the 1991 Census Small Area Statistics for England and Wales. In addition, biases associated with different response rates in different areas are addressed, and given the nature of the survey, the impact of an area's crime rate on its response rate is also analysed. Finally, regression modelling is used to identify whether the same variables have explanatory power in explaining differences in crime rate and response rate.
Sociological Research Online 3 (1) 12
Keywords: Bias; British Crime Survey; Non- Response; Representativeness; Response Rates; Sampling; Survey Error
Abstract: In this journal, Elliott and Ellingworth (1997) reported their attempts to assess the impact of certain sources of survey error on the British Crime Survey. This article attempts to correct some flaws in their article, to place their results in a wider context, and to provide some further - arguably more robust - estimates of the impact of non-response bias.
Peter J Hodgkinson
Sociological Research Online 5 (1) hodgkinson
Keywords: Applied Social Science; New Labour; Policy; Positivism; Social Engineering; Social Research
Abstract: This commentary is a response to a speech addressed to the Economic and Social Research Council which was made, in February this year, by the UK Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett. The speech was entitled 'Influence or Irrelevance: can social science improve government?' . Blunkett's programme for engaging social science in the policy process is far from unique and many of the arguments have been heard before. However, the curiosity of the speech lies in the fact that the conception of social science, which Blunkett advocates mirrors the approach New Labour itself has to politics and government. This raises some rather interesting difficulties for social scientists. How do we engage in a debate about the role of social scientific research in the policy process when our conception of the discipline may be radically at odds with that of the government? Furthermore, New Labour's understanding of the relationship between social research and policy-making means that we not only have to contest their notion of what it is we do, but also challenge their conception of the policy process. We cannot ignore this engagement, even if we wanted to. The challenge is to address it and to do so, moreover, in terms which Blunkett might understand. This commentary is an attempt to start this process.
Susan M. Hodgson and Tom Clark
Sociological Research Online 12 (3) 9
Keywords: Grid Technology, E-Social Science, Secondary Analysis, Visual Sociology, Humanities Computing
Abstract: Abstract This paper explores some of the implications for qualitative researchers within sociology, of developments in Grid technology and thereby aim to contribute to the debate on the future of sociological research in an increasingly digitised world. The well-established field of humanities computing provides an interesting counterpoint. We use the methodological techniques of 'secondary analysis' and 'visual research', two currently marginal approaches within sociological research but with huge potential within e-environments, as lenses through which the potentials and pitfalls of Grid-supported qualitative work might be anticipated. Rather than a concern with the technical however, we argue for a concurrent attention to the methodological in relation to technological developments. We find that current developments in the qualitative field are more in line with the interests of the humanities and this may shape and constrain the research that sociologists could do. Also, that the conditions to support innovative sociological developments for qualitative Grid computing are not currently well developed or supported. We conclude that in order for a more progressive e-social science agenda to emerge, a broader constituency of sociological researchers should engage with the technological debate, otherwise we risk missing out on opportunities to shape emerging technologies to our research needs.
Sociological Research Online 12 (5) 18
Keywords: Bureaucracy, Ethics, Governance, Health Research, Social Sciences
Abstract: This piece has been written in response to a recent article published in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) which exposed the red tape restricting health research in the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Whilst the THES article was critical of NHS ethical review and research governance, it still views a streamlined version of the process as necessary for the protection of researchers and respondents. Drawing on the recent experience of applying for ethical approval and research governance for a qualitative study on gender and genetics, this paper examines the review process and the restrictive paperwork and procedures that surround it, focusing in particular on the impact this has on social science research. The argument will be put forward that while all research, whether clinical or social, is hampered by the bureaucracy surrounding the review process, social research is further alienated by it. This is because the paperwork and processes involved are set up to evaluate clinical, not social, research. Furthermore, the process is caught up in a culture of fear that breeds mistrust towards 'outsiders' wishing to conduct research in the NHS. The revision of NHS ethical review has to go further than mere bureaucratic streamlining - it needs to be made more relevant and accessible to health researchers working across a range of disciplines.
Andrew K. T. Yip
Sociological Research Online 13 (1) 5
Keywords: Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Christian; Muslim; Identity; Methodology; Sampling; Hidden Population
Abstract: This paper highlights some thematic reflections primarily based on two empirical research projects on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Christians and Muslims. It begins by discussing reflexivity by way of contextualising the subsequent exploration of specific themes. This is followed by a discussion of the plight of LGB Christians and Muslims which renders research on this population highly sensitive. The paper then explores the theme of researching meanings and lived experiences sensitively, focusing on the importance of being theoretically and culturally sensitive; and the relevance of methodological pragmatism and pluralism. It then proceeds to a detailed discussion of accessing 'hidden' populations and trust building; and the dynamics of the insider/outsider status. The paper concludes with a call for LGB research to take seriously intersectionality of contemporary LGB identity (e.g. sexual, religious, cultural, ethnic), and the role of religion/spirituality in LGB lives and politics.
Sociological Research Online 14 (2) 3
Keywords: Social Sciences, Methodology, Research Ethics, Research Epistemology, Foucault, Qualitative Methodology
Abstract: Foucault's work has given rise to an increased methodological sensitivity of the political dangers associated with traditional qualitative approaches in the social sciences. There is a growing awareness that the widespread use of the research interview is not indicative of a deepening insight into the workings of culture, but is part of a broader social technology for its reproduction. In an effort to re-imagine interview methodology, scholars have read Foucault to suggest the need for greater attention to the active co-construction of research conclusions arising from interview based research. Specifically there are concerns that the authenticity of interviewee experience may be overwritten by the predispositions of the researcher. This paper questions this interpretation of Foucault's work and argues that Foucault rejects the view that knowledge emerges from the active social constructions of agents, but sees knowledge as an outcome, often accidental, of interrelated historical practices and discourses that produce the subjects and objects of social science discourse. The implications of Foucault's work for thinking about research ethics is not a return to authenticity, but a rejection of representational claims. The paper comprises a review of social science responses to post structural insights, coverage of the critical epistemological differences between Foucault's method and other key social theory paradigms, and a discussion of the critical ethical issues these differences raise for the social sciences.
Stephanie Alice Baker
Sociological Research Online 16 (4) 21
Keywords: Emotions; English Riots (2011); Mark Duggan; 'mediated Crowd'; New Social Media; Social Networking
Abstract: Commentary on the recent riots largely reflects ideological differences with political discourse reviving traditional debates of social inequality and moral decline. While the 2011 riots resemble former incidents of rioting in twentieth-century Britain, it is argued that the recent unrest was significantly enhanced by the development of new social media, requiring new understandings of mediated crowd membership in the twenty-first century. I introduce and outline a model of the 'mediated crowd' commencing with the impact of new social media, and develop this paradigm in conjunction with emotions research, to account for the emotional dimensions of collective action, and the social and political effects of public communication in the virtual arena. Here, it is argued that attempts to understand the causes of the recent riots must recognise that while social media contributed to the speed and scope of the unrest, emotions play a crucial role in motivating and sustaining collective action. This innovative approach provides insight into the particular conditions in which the English riots emerged, while demonstrating how social media contributes more broadly to new forms of collectivity in the media age.
Sociological Research Online 17 (3) 10
Keywords: The Future of the Social Sciences, By-Product Data, Digital Data, Social Media, Data Aggregators
Abstract: This article asks if it is possible to use commercial data analysis software and digital by-product data to do critical social science. In response this article introduces social media data aggregator software to a social science audience. The article explores how this particular software can be used to do social research. It uses some specific examples in order to elaborate upon the potential of the software and the type of insights it can be used to generate. The aim of the article is to show how digital by-product data can be used to see the social in alternative ways, it explores how this commercial software might enable us to find patterns amongst 'monumentally detailed data'. As such is responds to Andrew Abbott's as yet unresolved eleven year old reflections on the crucial challenges that face the social sciences in a data rich era.
Luke Sloan, Jeffrey Morgan, William Housley, Matthew Williams, Adam Edwards, Pete Burnap and Omer Rana
Sociological Research Online 18 (3) 7
Keywords: New Social Media, Demographics, Twitter, Social Media Analytics, Social Science, Sampling
Abstract: A perennial criticism regarding the use of social media in social science research is the lack of demographic information associated with naturally occurring mediated data such as that produced by Twitter. However the fact that demographics information is not explicit does not mean that it is not implicitly present. Utilising the Cardiff Online Social Media ObServatory (COSMOS) this paper suggests various techniques for establishing or estimating demographic data from a sample of more than 113 million Twitter users collected during July 2012. We discuss in detail the methods that can be used for identifying gender and language and illustrate that the proportion of males and females using Twitter in the UK reflects the gender balance observed in the 2011 Census. We also expand on the three types of geographical information that can be derived from Tweets either directly or by proxy and how spatial information can be used to link social media with official curated data. Whilst we make no grand claims about the representative nature of Twitter users in relation to the wider UK population, the derivation of demographic data demonstrates the potential of new social media (NSM) for the social sciences. We consider this paper a clarion call and hope that other researchers test the methods we suggest and develop them further.
Keming Yang and Ahmad Banamah
Sociological Research Online 19 (1) 29
Keywords: Probability Sampling, Quota Sampling, Representativeness, Response Rate, Social Capital
Abstract: In spite of the establishment of probability sampling methods since the 1930s, non-probability sampling methods have remained popular among many commercial and polling agents, and they have also survived the embarrassment from a few incorrect predictions in American presidential elections. The increase of costs and the decline of response rates for administering probability samples have led some survey researchers to search for a non-probability sampling method as an alternative to probability sampling. In this study we aim to test whether results from a quota sample, believed to be the non-probability sampling method that is the closest in representativeness to probability sampling, are statistically equivalent to those from a probability sample. Further, we pay special attention to the effects of the following two factors for understanding the difference between the two sampling methods: the survey’s topic and the response rate. An experimental survey on social capital was conducted in a student society in Northeast England. The results suggest that the survey topic influences who responded and that the response rate was associated with the sample means as well. For these reasons, we do not think quota sampling should be taken as an acceptable alternative to probability sampling.
Helena Flam and Jochen Kleres
Sociological Research Online 21 (1) 13
Keywords: New Fascists, Extremism, Social Sciences, Discourse, Migration, Integration, Emotions
Abstract: This article is about how sociological research in Germany addresses issues that first seem to be unconnected: young new Fascists and migrants. We will present research in these two areas to show how social scientists contribute to feelings about their respective objects of research. We will argue that although both have cultural disorientation of their study objects as their point of departure, they offer differing explanations for it and as a consequence construct contrasting emotions towards the new Fascists and migrants: they portray new Fascists as disoriented victims of modernization in need of sympathy, while they blame migrants for their disorientation resulting from migration and thus call for indifference or antipathy towards this group. Comparing both research fields we can show that both sets of emotions interconnect and thus form a dichotomous emotional regime. Sociological research helps to sustain lines of inclusion and exclusion from the German society.
Sociological Research Online 21 (4) 7
Keywords: Research Ethics, Professional Ethics, Social Science, Democracy, Bioethics
Abstract: This article is premised on the idea that were we able to articulate a positive vision of the social scientist’s professional ethics, this would enable us to reframe social science research ethics as something internal to the profession. As such, rather than suffering under what has been called the imperialism of a research ethics constructed for the purposes of governing biomedical research, social scientists might argue for ethical self-regulation with greater force. I seek to provide the requisite basis for such an ‘ethics’ by, first, suggesting that the conditions which gave rise to biomedical research ethics are not replicated within the social sciences. Second, I argue that social science research can be considered as the moral equivalent of the ‘true professions.’ Not only does it have an ultimate end, but it is one that is – or, at least, should be - shared by the state and society as a whole. I then present a reading of confidentiality as a methodological - and not simply ethical – aspect of research, one that offers further support for the view that social scientists should attend to their professional ethics and the internal standards of their disciplines, rather than the contemporary discourse of research ethics that is rooted in the bioethical literature. Finally, and by way of a conclusion, I consider the consequences of the idea that social scientists should adopt a professional ethics and propose that the Clinical Ethics Committee might provide an alternative model for the governance of social science research.
Lisa Goodson and Aleksandra Grzymala-Kazlowska
Sociological Research Online 22 (1) 2
Keywords: Superdiversity, Co-Production Community Research, Maximum Variation Sampling, Respondent Driven Sampling, Community Research, Documents of Life
Abstract: The arrival of superdiversity raises a wide range of methodological issues that warrant further consideration by social researchers conducting research in superdiverse contexts. The complex multi-layering of population settlement that has emerged due to successive waves of migration means that identities, lived experience and access to services including welfare are played out in a plethora of different ways, often determined by the interplay of a range of socio-economic variables alongside structural characteristics, which influence the fundamental rights and entitlements of individuals living in the UK and in turn their settlement and adaptation experiences. This paper reflects on the limitations of ethno-centric research designs, which concentrate on ethnicity as the most important unit of analysis, and calls for more participatory and multidimensional methodologies that engage diverse participants and reflect the levels of socio-demographic complexity experienced in urban areas of society. It then moves on to discuss a number of specific methodological challenges associated with complex populations. In particular sampling and access issues associated with diverse migrant populations will be considered. The latter part of this paper discusses the adoption of a range of research approaches that offer promising potential in terms of better capturing and understanding the heterogeneity, complexity and fluidity concomitant with superdiversity as well as engaging a range of community stakeholders in the production of knowledge.
Paul Chappell, Ying Kei Tse, Minhao Zhang and Susan Moore
Sociological Research Online ()
Keywords: Twitter, Geodemographics, Social Class, Coming Crisis, Tweet Analysis, Digital Methods
Abstract: This paper outlines a new method for investigating social position through geotagged Twitter data, specifically through the application of the geodemographic classification system Mosaic. The method involves the identification of a given tweeter’s likely location of residence from the ‘geotag’ attached to their tweet. Using this high resolution geographic information, each individual tweet is then attributed a geodemographic classification. This paper shows that the specific application of geodemographics for discerning between different types of tweeters is problematic in some ways, but that the general process of classifying tweeters according to their position in geographical space is viable and represents a powerful new method for discerning the social position of tweeters. Further research is required in this area, as there is great potential in employing the mobile GPS data appended to digital by-product data to explore the intersections between geographical space and social position.
Sociological Research Online ()
Keywords: BDSM, Community, Kink, Online, Sexuality, Twitter
Abstract: This article examines how Twitter has been adopted and used by a sexual subculture in distinct ways. Drawing on interviews with 26 gay and bisexual men based in the UK who identify as ‘pups’, it demonstrates how a kinky sexual subculture is operating in new and innovative ways on a social networking site, adapting various elements of Twitter to form a unique subculture that I call ‘Pup Twitter’. Engaging with debates about social trends related to sexuality, as well as contemporary understandings of social networking sites, the study documents how this subcultural sexual community, while predating the internet, has adopted online methods to enhance communication, engagement and even visibility. The intersection of sexuality and social networking sites is an area ripe for further study, and this article develops empirical and conceptual ways to examine this issue in the future.
Sociological Research Online ()
Keywords: Social Media, Historical Text, Linguistic Change, Big Data, Computational Social Science, Twitter
Abstract: This article seeks to understand partiality and perspectivity within comparative, historical technologically-mediated empirical methods. This article uses two empirical data sources: one contemporary (Twitter) and the other, historical (Google Books 'n-gram' data) to make an argument that we can use process-oriented theory to conduct empirical research. Additionally, it argues that such perspectives help bring Norbert Elias’ notions of ‘sociogenesis’ and ‘psychogenesis’ into data-driven research. Canonical process-oriented researchers such as Elias used mixed methods approaches, including visual maps and quantitative surveys. By comparing 17th century digitized book data with tweet data, this study highlights that quantitative methods are important to process-oriented methodologies and can be extended to big data empirical sources. An important finding is that there are similarities in the politics of everyday life in historical diaries and in contemporary microblogging. What is different is that historical diary writing was the preserve of the elite, while microblogging has democratized this.