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December 19, 2014 / C H Thompson

Field experiments

Some experimental methods have been used in sociology in the guise of field experiments. Field experiments are conducted in the real world in real conditions such as a school while at the same time trying to follow similar procedures to those found in any laboratory experiment.

They tend to be carried out by interpretivists who are interested in looking for meanings in the social world.

Rosenthal and Jacobson conducted a field experiment in a school in 1968. This involved testing the hypothesis teacher expectations hand important effects on pupils academic performance in order to see if the self-fulfilling prophecy existed.

The trouble is this form of ‘real-world’ experiment is fraught with ethical problems as it could have been the teachers expectations and those students labelled with low expectations could have been damaged by the label.

Field experiments in context


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