Investigational Techniques in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology Essay:
Sociology and cultural Anthropology are closely linked. Nevertheless, they are very distinct disciplines with very diverse objectives and execution strategies. Cultural anthropology is defined as the ‘study of human beings’ (Russell, 2006). The main focus of cultural anthropology is on the manner in which human behavior and knowledge keeps on changing within the society. On the other hand, sociology refers to ‘the study of society’ (Pickering, 2008). The main work of sociologists is to attempt to make sense of the society within which we live. In fact, the society is a creation of all the people living within it. Just like many other forms of social sciences, sociology and cultural anthropology depend on diverse investigational techniques to obtain evidence about a given phenomenon. Indeed, investigational techniques used in sociology and anthropology have similar qualities and characteristics. Nevertheless, there is a reasonable variation in the intent of the investigational techniques used in sociology and cultural anthropology. Additionally, the investigational methods used in sociology and cultural anthropology differ based on methodology and purpose. Nevertheless, the differences in investigational techniques applied in sociology and cultural anthropology bring about the philosophical approaches to the two disciplines and inherent differences.
Virtually all areas of inquiry contain investigational methods with strong philosophical roots. This aspect of investigational inquiry also exists in sociology and cultural anthropology. The philosophical roots have a major role to play in determining the extent to which an investigator undertakes to interact with the participants of the inquiry. The conclusions made pertaining to the inquiry are also highly dependent on the philosophical roots underlying the discipline involved (Russell, 2006). The modern contexts of investigation have embraced widespread analytical techniques in an attempt to understand patterns of social processes especially on sociological matters. Anthropology and sociology have been born out of the extensive desire to obtain an understanding of each discipline.
In consideration of the numerous investigational methods used in social sciences such as sociology, philosophy, psychology and anthropology, it is evident that the methods are often similar but only differ in relation to the philosophical perspective for each discipline. In particular, sociology and anthropology share similar investigational techniques namely qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative techniques may seem unimportant in cultural anthropology but very relevant in sociology. However, quantitative techniques are important in sociology as they are in cultural anthropology (Russell, 2006). Sociology extensively utilizes quantitative techniques throughout the investigation process. Cultural anthropology and sociology have similarities and differences in terms of the philosophical aspects of the processes involved.
Cultural anthropology widely utilizes behavior trace studies as an investigational technique. This technique is associated with high level of behavioral archeology. Behavior trace studies are applicable in diverse environments. Behavior trace studies also uphold the physical capabilities ignored throughout the process of procedural undertakings. Behavior trace is an important method of investigation used in cultural anthropology. The researcher using this technique aims at understanding the behavior of individuals through an establishment of behavior tracing for contact individuals. Behavior tracing as an investigational technique in cultural anthropology is based on the philosophical objective of understanding people’s behavior throughout the society especially due to occurrence of certain influential outcomes.
Experimentation is another major investigational technique applied by cultural anthropologists to establish specific behavior. Experimentation can either be true or laboratory experiments (Russell, 2006). True experiments involve assigning participants in a random manner as either the control group or the treatment group. On the contrary, laboratory experiments provide the researcher with the freedom to have control over the variables. True experiments often involve the application hypotheses in the determination of the specified outcome. For instance, the hypotheses may involve two distinct expectations like an event occurring and not actually occurring. The philosophical justification for the application of experimentation is based on the need to understand real life phenomena affecting human behavior.
Just like cultural anthropology contains diverse methods of investigational techniques, sociology also has various investigational techniques regarded relevant for the continued understanding of the diverse concepts of sociology (Pickering, 2008). As earlier defined, sociology seeks to study human within the society. From this definition, it is possible to deduce an investigational technique that highly distinguishes cultural anthropology from sociology – experience. To be able to understand human beings in the society fully, experience is a crucial technique which can be successfully applied. Experience and the field of sociology are very important and highly relevant in the sense that it brings out a sense of research practice.
Experience has gained relevance in sociological inquiry through its recognition as a research data and analytical concept. From a philosophical point of view, experience is an important investigational technique in sociology that has never been questioned due to its relevance and important in sociological inquiry processes. Cultural studies tend to focus on subjective features of social relations and especially on the arrangements of social interactions and behaviors. Indeed, cultural studies seek to establish the subjectivity of private actions from public culture and the outcome behaviors due to transformative effects and potentials. Most importantly, experience brings out the reality of the outcome of human behavior on the basis of influence.
Sociological/ethnographic approaches – observation and interviewing is another important investigational technique used in sociology. This investigational technique involves observation of various social processes and documenting the behavior seen. Various available outcomes on sociological processes have been obtained through ethnography and interviewing (Pickering, 2008). However, some available information especially from journalists has been brought about through micro scale and localized interviews on few individuals. Furthermore, such micro scale interviews often lack adequate participant observation. Observation is an important investigational technique in sociological processes due to its role in providing information on social interactions, cognitive processes, and discovering practices.
Diverse challenges characterize the ethnographic/sociological research forms. For instance, selection of participants is often a very challenging undertaking based on the need to select fully representative participants. It is also a daunting task to tell the appropriate number of people to choose for the interview. There are no readily right or wrong answers. However, the parameters under operation are considered important for the determination of number and type of people to be interviewed. Ethnographic/sociological research in sociology is an important consideration of understanding human behavior in the society. The philosophical justification for the use of ethnographic/sociological technique in sociological inquiry is the fact that observation and interviewing are important factors to consider while attempting understanding human behavior in the society. Therefore, ethnographic/sociological approach hinges on the need for elaborate understanding and observation of the actions of representative individuals.
Pickering, M. (2008). Research Methods for Cultural Studies. Edinburgh University Press.
Russell, H.B. (2006). Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Altamira Press.

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