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Social science and participation
Social science and participation

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Participating in social science

You have already seen some of the different activities through which people join in with others to pursue their interests, to make demands on others and to share in the benefits of social life.

In this section, we will look at how social scientists interact with their research participants – those people undertaking everyday activities who are the focus of social science investigation and the source of social science data. These are the people who are counted by social scientists, interviewed, observed, explained and interpreted, and informed and shaped. Social science interacts with people to study what they are doing, how and why, and also what they think about things.

There are various ways in which social science investigation depends on the participation of people in research to generate data and evidence, and to inform understandings. Table 1 summarises some of the forms of participation in social science methodologies that social scientists make use of.

Table 1 Forms of participation in social science methodologies
Social science methodForm of participation
ExperimentsTaking part in psychology experiments
SurveysAnswering survey questions and completing questionnaires
Focus groupsTaking part in discussion groups
Qualitative interviews Answering interview questions
Ethnographic observation Interacting with social scientists, being observed
Quantitative measurementBeing counted

Without people participating in these ways, social science would not be possible to begin with.