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 method||Form of participation|
|Experiments||Taking part in psychology experiments|
|Surveys||Answering survey questions and completing questionnaires|
|Focus groups||Taking part in discussion groups|
|Qualitative interviews||Answering interview questions|
|Ethnographic observation||Interacting with social scientists, being observed|
|Quantitative measurement||Being counted|
Without people participating in these ways, social science would not be possible to begin with.