What are the factors which influence a sociologist’s choice of research topic?
The personal interests and values of the researchers
A Sociologist is obviously going to be more motivated to study something they are interested in – and nothing motivates quite like personal experience – Tony Sewell is an example of a Sociologists who studied a group with who he shared personal characteristics.
Theoretical perspective/ political beliefs
Whether one is a Feminist, Marxist or Functionalist/ New Right Thinker/ or Post-Modernist can influence what one studies. Feminists emphasise the importance of focussing on issues of gender inequality, so might choose to research issues such as domestic violence or the impact of the Beauty Myth, while Marxists focus on researching the impact of wealth inequalities, so might research things such as class inequalities in education. All of this raises the question of whether Sociology can remain value-free (unbiased)
also matters when it comes to research topic – Mac An Ghaill wanted to study the experiences of Irish students but he couldn’t study, so instead he focused on the black and Asian students in his own college.
Sociologists are professionals and need get funding for their research, so funding bodies can influence topics of research.
Societies change, and so new topics of study will emerge with social changes. For example, sociologists have studied things such as rave culture, and virtual gaming communities as these have emerged, which overlaps with the first point above!
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This post has been written primarily for students studying the research methods topic within A-level sociology. For further info, please see my page on research methods.