Researchers are likely to research or study something that they consider important. What the researcher sees as important is influenced by their values; for example, a sociologist who believes strongly in equality of opportunity may study the relationship between social class and educational attainment, since there is evidence that class inequality prevents equality of opportunity. 

The values of researchers often reflect values of society. Feminists have criticised mainstream society as male-dominated and based on male values. They have made similar criticisms about sociology. For example, sociological research has traditionally focused on male concerns and male interests, leading to female issues becoming unimportant. Researchers are also much more likely to conduct research into topics that affects their society. “Why would researchers from the UK research skyscrapers in India when you they could research causes of unemployment here?”

 Choosing a research project is also influenced by a number of practical issues. Most research projects conducted by professional sociologists require outside funding. Research funds are available from various sources, government organisations and industries.

 The researcher’s choice of topic is often dependent on who is providing the funding: for example, you won’t be able to get funding from ‘The Joseph Roundtree Foundation’ for your research unless you are researching issues relating to family poverty.

 It would make very little sense to choose a research topic where there isn’t any data, and that data may be impossible to come by. For example, it would be very difficult impossible to conduct research into child abuse in Victorian England because the data is minimal and very difficult to cross-check against other data.

Choosing a research topic is also influenced by the theoretical position of the sociologist. For example, feminists will usually select topics which reflect feminist issues, and gender inequalities. Every theoretical position sees certain aspects of society as particularly important.

 Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex