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Assess the Strengths and Limitations of One of the Following Methods for the Study of Gender and Subject Choice

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If you conducted unstructured interviews they would tend to be a quite time consuming and expensive way of finding out about gender and subject choice. Another weakness is it can be hard to gain access to interview participants as they are hierarchical institutions the permission of the head, the local authority and parents may have to be gained. However, in a school if the head gives permission for you to do your study on gender and subject choice he may be able to make sure that staff and students are able to give up their time to be able to talk to you. This is particularly important when using unstructured interviews as individuals in school are very time pressured and so might not be able to give up the time to discuss the issue of gender and subject choice with you. The problem with this is that you could end up with an unrepresentative sample as if the head is worried that you might reveal some kind of gender bias he may only allow you to interview staff and students that show his school in the best possible light.

One problem with doing research on young people is that they may be reluctant to fill in a questionnaire seriously and with younger children they may find it hard to express their opinions about gender bias and subject choice in a written way. One strength of using unstructured interviews is young people tend to express themselves verbally better than they do when writing so interviews will produce more valid data compared to questionnaires and also can be used with very young children who cannot read yet. This would tend to make your data more valid. What it also means is that you will able to find out about the reasons why boys and girls chose different subjects in a more in-depth way and reveal an insider’s perspective. However, In contrast to this another problem is children find it hard to stay to the point which will mean unstructured interviews may be time consuming and produce a lot of irrelevant data. They might not stay focused on gender and subject choice but chose to discuss other areas instead. This makes the study more costly.

Another problem with using interviews is the interviewer has to be highly trained to get responses from children this could make the study cost more. This is linked to the fact problem is young interviewees may be inarticulate, not understand long questions, and have a short attention span or reluctant to talk. However, using when using an unstructured interview, this means they can be informal young people are more likely to respond and be more open in a relaxed form, increasing rapport and the validity of the data. This is particularly the case as they might be embarrassed about saying that the wanted to do non-traditional subjects and were put off studying them, or even they might fear the they could get into trouble if they suggested that certain teachers discriminated against them when choosing subjects.

Another strength is of using unstructured interviews to study gender and subject choice is that it allows the possibility of using group interviews. This may well produce valid data as they reproduce conditions students are used to when in school and in groups students may be more responsive in numbers compared to in a one to one interview. However, the problem of this is say when you are discussing gender and subject choice students may be embarrassed to say they wanted to study non traditional gender subjects in front of the group, This could lead to social desirability bias and students not being totally honest about what the feel on gender and subjects choice. Using unstructured interviews also means you have the potential to reveal something new about gender and subject choice as there is no set questions so it could generate new insight into the topic. However, positivist sociologist would suggest unstructured interviews are unscientific, are subjective and impossible to compare. This might make it very difficult to make comparison between girls and boys experiences of gender and subject choice which is something that a sociologist may be interested in as there is no set questions in the interview.

One final problem with interviews is interviewer bias. This is where the characteristics of the interviewer influence the answers of the respondents. This is particularly a problem when conducting interviews is school as students will always view adults as being associated with authority or as teachers. This could affect the validity of the research some students may give socially desirable answers, and suggest that there was no discrimination in the school in relation to gender and subject choice. While other students may demonstrate the screw you effect and be openly hostile to the researcher and their aims and try and make out discrimination in relation to gender and subject choice is worse than it actually is. Another problem affecting the validity of the research is that as schools are very small, it may mean the contents of initial interviews influence subsequent ones as word get around reducing validity.

In conclusion, integrationist sociologists would suggest that unstructured interviews provide a really good way of finding out in-depth, rich and valid insight into the reasons why boys and girls may chose different subjects and the process that lead to these choices. However, they are unscientific and difficult to analyse and compare which is perhaps one of the central things a sociologist might be interested in doing when looking at gender and subject choice.…...

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