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Sociological Methods

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As we were interested in attitudes and experiences of our subjects we decided to use a qualitative approach to conduct our study. We wished our respondents to define their attitudes and experiences using their own words and meanings therefore it was considered that quantitative data was not appropriate for such a study. Qualitative study is more in-depth and much less structured than a quantitative approach, generating a greater depth of information (Mason 1996)

A semi-structured interview technique to gather our data. This was chosen because of the benefits that this method entails and because of the disadvantages of the standardised and non-standardised methods (Gilbert, 2001).

The standardised model was discarded because although all respondents received the same questions in the same order the system lacked credibility due a number of facts. Firstly, not every respondent may have the same interpretation of a question thus answers could not be compared to any degree of certainty. Secondly, the interviewer was unable to clarify any questions that the respondent did not fully comprehend. Most importantly, though, was the fact that the interviewer was unable to explore any area that our respondent unexpectedly enlightened us to, this also hindered us from asking any supplementary questions that may have furthered our findings (Punch, 1998).

A non-structured approach was instantly ruled out as we wished to gage specific attitudes and experiences of drugs from our respondents. A non-standardised interview could have left us with an abundance of irrelevant material and little of any actual use.

The semi-structured method has many benefits. Not only does this technique give the interviewer room for scope to probe, clarify and alter his or her interview schedule on the spot but it is also relatively easy to code and analyse the information that is procured (Seidman, 1998).

The Sample

Our sample were four third year students, two males and two females. Third year was chosen as our sample year-group as this allowed the respondents time to have become fully integrated into the Stirling student 'life-style'.

The sample was approached at random in the Stirling University union, 'The Studio'. Random individuals were asked if they were 3rd year students and if so were they willing to take part in our survey. The sample were informed of the purpose of our research and confirmed the area of questioning which we wished to pursue. The sample was told that the location for their interview was entirely at their own discretion.

The location in which an interview is performed is widely considered to have a significant effect on the behaviour of the respondent (Gilbert, 2001). To allow the respondents to feel as at ease as possible, each interviewee was asked where he or she would like to be interviewed. Every respondent decided that their own home would be the most comfortable environment to conduct the interviews in.

It was concluded that the same interviewer should interview all four of our respondents. The primary reason for this was to make the interviews run as smoothly and as naturally as possible. Our interviewer could learn the schedule precisely and be prepared for any additional questions. Also, if we had used two interviewers our responses could have been accused of being unreliable, as our respondents would have received completely different modus operandi.

The effect of the interviewer's sex was also taken into consideration. We believed a female should ask the questions as it has been claimed that women generate a greater amount of information from respondents as they are generally perceived to be less threatening to strangers (Gilbert, 2001).



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