Research Methods

Field Experiments

Most people will be familiar with the notion of an ‘experiment’ from their Science lessons at school. These types of experiment are ‘laboratory experiments’ and are not commonly used in Sociology – studying human interactions and behaviour in such an artificial environment is hardly likely to result in valid data.
Therefore in contrast, we have field experiments. To be ‘in the field’ means to be in the environment you are studying, such as a workplace, a school or a shopping centre. The scientific method is still employed but variables cannot be controlled to the same degree. The data obtained is considered to have greater validity than with the data obtained through a laboratory experiment.

Racism in America:

Questions for think, pair and share:

  • How is this a field experiment?

  • What limitations can you identify with this experiment?

  • Is there anything you would improve?

  • What comments could you make about the reliability of this experiment?

  • What about its validity?

Teacher led discussion – make synoptic links to stereotyping, racism, labelling and the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ask the class – what would you do?


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