In the social sciences of sociology and cultural anthropology, researchers have developed their own unique style or research and investigational techniques. While between these fields some techniques are similar, there are some differences. Some differences occur with the philosophical reasons certain techniques are used.
In the field of sociology researchers strive to understand social situations and to discover repeating patterns in society (Tischler, p.4, 2007). Two methods that sociologists use are direct observation and survey research. Direct observation involves first hand observations and obtaining information from knowledgeable informants of the group that is being studied. Survey research involves the collection and analysis of information gathered through interviews and questionnaires.
While there are different reasons and circumstances to use different research methods in the data collection process, in the field of sociology survey research does have some benefits. In earlier years the construction and administration of surveys, and statistical methods for tabulating and interpreting their results, were widely regarded as the major sociological research technique (MSN Encarta, 2009). This allows researchers to study populations on a broader scope than using direct observation. It also enables the researcher to gather information on a population in a more efficient manner than some other methods. The results from surveys give a look into a groups perspective as a whole rather than individualized thoughts and opinions that can differ greatly even in small populations.
Although sociology is similar to cultural anthropology in that they both study human behavior, researchers of cultural anthropology study such topics as how people make their living, how people interact with each other, what beliefs people hold, and what institutions organize people in a society (MSN Encarta, 2009). They also use a more direct method to gather data. Traditionally, much anthropological research involves long-term, direct observation of and participation in the life of another culture which is known as participant observation (MSN Encarta, 2009). This usually involves the researcher immersing themselves in the culture and living with the people they are studying.
Another method employed by cultural anthropologists is human ecology, which is the study of how cultures interact with their natural environment. Anthropologists may collect large amounts of data about features of a cultures environment, such as types of plants and animals, the chemical and nutritional properties of medicines and foods, and climate patterns (MSN Encarta, 2009). This information can help researcher understand certain characteristics of a peoples culture.
While both of these fields of study involve studying people the methods used are different. They have different purposes in the collection of data. Sociologists mainly study social situations and use less of a direct approach in their research. Cultural anthologists study the culture as a whole and any influencing factors. Their use of cultural immersion and the study of the natural environment surrounding a particular culture are different from a sociologists approach. Despite these differences the goals to better understand cultures and societies is still the common thread that is shared between both.
“Anthropology,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2009. Retrieved from May 25, 2009 fromhttp://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation.
“Sociology,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2009 fromhttp://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation.
Tischler, Henry. 2007. Introduction to Sociology. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.