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In many cases, sociologists have to make the purpose of the study known for ethical reasons. Subjects must be aware that they are being observed, and a certain amount of artificiality may result Sonnenfeld, That option is not available to a researcher studying prison behaviours, early education, or the Ku Klux Klan. Researchers cannot just stroll into prisons, kindergarten classrooms, or Ku Klux Klan meetings and unobtrusively observe behaviours.
In situations like these, other methods are needed. All studies shape the research design, while research design simultaneously shapes the study. Researchers choose methods that best suit their study topic and that fit with their overall goal for the research. Every research method comes with pluses and minuses, and the topic of study strongly influences which method or methods are put to use.
As a research method, a survey collects data from subjects who respond to a series of questions about behaviours and opinions, often in the form of a written questionnaire. The survey is one of the most widely used sociological research methods. The standard survey format allows individuals a level of anonymity in which they can express personal ideas.
At some point or another, everyone responds to some type of survey. The Statistics Canada census is an excellent example of a large-scale survey intended to gather sociological data. If yes, how many per month? Marketing polls help companies refine marketing goals and strategies; they are generally not conducted as part of a scientific study, meaning they are not designed to test a hypothesis or to contribute knowledge to the field of sociology.
The results are not published in a refereed scholarly journal where design, methodology, results, and analyses are vetted. Polls conducted by programs such as American Idol or Canadian Idol represent the opinions of fans but are not particularly scientific.
A good contrast to these are the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement BBM now called Numeris ratings, which determine the popularity of radio and television programming in Canada through scientific market research. Their researchers ask a large random sample of Canadians, age 12 and over, to fill out a television or radio diary for one week, noting the times and the broadcasters they listened to or viewed.
Based on this methodology they are able to generate an accurate account of media consumers preferences, which are used to provide broadcast ratings for radio and television stations and define the characteristics of their core audiences. Sociologists conduct surveys under controlled conditions for specific purposes.
Surveys gather different types of information from people. While surveys are not great at capturing the ways people really behave in social situations, they are a great method for discovering how people feel and think — or at least how they say they feel and think. Surveys can track attitudes and opinions, political preferences, individual behaviours such as sleeping, driving, dietary, or texting habits, or factual information such as employment status, income, and education levels.
A survey targets a specific population , people who are the focus of a study, such as university athletes, international students, or teenagers living with type 1 juvenile-onset diabetes. Most researchers choose to survey a small sector of the population, or a sample: That is, a manageable number of subjects who represent a larger population.
The success of a study depends on how well a population is represented by the sample. In a random sample , every person in a population has the same chance of being chosen for the study. According to the laws of probability, random samples represent the population as a whole. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the results will be in characterizing the population being studied.
For practical purposes, however, a sample size of 1, people will give acceptably accurate results even if the population being researched was the entire adult population of Canada. For instance, an Ipsos Reid poll, if conducted as a nationwide random sampling, should be able to provide an accurate estimate of public opinion whether it contacts 1, or 10, people.
Typically surveys will include a figure that gives the margin of error of the survey results. Based on probabilities, this will give a range of values within which the true value of the population characteristic will be.
This figure also depends on the size of a sample. If the poll was based on a sample of 1, respondents, the margin of error would be higher, plus or minus 3. In small samples the characteristics of specific individuals have a greater chance of influencing the results. The validity of surveys can also be threatened when part of the population is inadvertently excluded from the sample e. There is also a question of what exactly is being measured by the survey. After selecting subjects, the researcher develops a specific plan to ask a list of standardized questions and record responses.
It is important to inform subjects of the nature and purpose of the study upfront. If they agree to participate, researchers thank the subjects and offer them a chance to see the results of the study if they are interested. The researchers present the subjects with an instrument or means of gathering the information. A common instrument is a structured written questionnaire in which subjects answer a series of set questions.
For some topics, the researcher might ask yes-or-no or multiple-choice questions, allowing subjects to choose possible responses to each question. In real life, there are rarely any unambiguously yes or no answers. Questionnaires can also ask more complex questions with more complex answers beyond yes, no, agree, strongly agree, or another option next to a check box.
In those cases, the answers are subjective, varying from person to person. How do you plan to use your university education? Why do you follow Justin Bieber on Twitter? Those types of questions require short essay responses, and participants willing to take the time to write those answers will convey personal information about their beliefs, views, and attitudes.
Some topics that reflect internal subjective perspectives are impossible to observe directly. Sometimes they can be sensitive and difficult to discuss honestly in a public forum or with a stranger.
People are more likely to share honest answers if they can respond to questions anonymously. Qualitative information is harder to organize and tabulate. The researcher will end up with a wide range of responses, and some of which may be surprising. The benefit of written opinions, though, is the wealth of material that they provide. An interview is a one-on-one conversation between the researcher and the subject, and is another way of conducting surveys on a topic.
Interviews are similar to the short answer questions on surveys in that the researcher asks subjects a series of questions. They can be quantitative if the questions are standardized and have numerically quantifiable answers: Are you employed?
They can also be qualitative if participants are free to respond as they wish, without being limited by predetermined choices.
In the back-and-forth conversation of an interview, a researcher can ask for clarification, spend more time on a subtopic, or ask additional questions. In an interview, a subject will ideally feel free to open up and answer questions that are often complex.
There are no right or wrong answers. The subject might not even know how to answer the questions honestly. A researcher needs to avoid steering or prompting the subject to respond in a specific way; otherwise, the results will prove to be unreliable.
Obviously, a sociological interview is also not supposed to be an interrogation. You have probably tested personal social theories. If this, then that. One way researchers test social theories is by conducting an experiment , meaning they investigate relationships to test a hypothesis — a scientific approach.
There are two main types of experiments: In a lab setting the research can be controlled so that, perhaps, more data can be recorded in a certain amount of time. In a natural or field-based experiment, the generation of data cannot be controlled, but the information might be considered more accurate since it was collected without interference or intervention by the researcher.
As a research method, either type of sociological experiment is useful for testing if-then statements: To set up a lab-based experiment, sociologists create artificial situations that allow them to manipulate variables. Classically, the sociologist selects a set of people with similar characteristics, such as age, class, race, or education. Those people are divided into two groups. One is the experimental group and the other is the control group.
The experimental group is exposed to the independent variable s and the control group is not. This is similar to pharmaceutical drug trials in which the experimental group is given the test drug and the control group is given a placebo or sugar pill. A real-life example will help illustrate the experimental process in sociology. The income was 50 cents per dollar less for families who had incomes from other sources. Families earning over a certain income level did not receive mincome.
Families that were already collecting welfare or unemployment insurance were also excluded. The test families in Dauphin were compared with control groups in other rural Manitoba communities on a range of indicators such as number of hours worked per week, school performance, high school drop out rates, and hospital visits Forget, A guaranteed annual income was seen at the time as a less costly, less bureaucratic public alternative for addressing poverty than the existing employment insurance and welfare programs.
Today it is an active proposal being considered in Switzerland Lowrey, Intuitively, it seems logical that lack of income is the cause of poverty and poverty-related issues.
One of the main concerns, however, was whether a guaranteed income would create a disincentive to work. The concept appears to challenge the principles of the Protestant work ethic see the discussion of Max Weber in Chapter 1.
The study did find very small decreases in hours worked per week: Forget argues this was because the income provided an opportunity for people to spend more time with family and school, especially for young mothers and teenage girls. There were also significant social benefits from the experiment, including better test scores in school, lower high school drop out rates, fewer visits to hospital, fewer accidents and injuries, and fewer mental health issues. Ironically, due to lack of guaranteed funding and lack of political interest by the late s , the data and results of the study were not analyzed or published until The data were archived and sat gathering dust in boxes.
The mincome experiment demonstrated the benefits that even a modest guaranteed annual income supplement could have on health and social outcomes in communities.
People seem to live healthier lives and get a better education when they do not need to worry about poverty.
In her summary of the research, Forget notes that the impact of the income supplement was surprisingly large given that at any one time only about a third of the families were receiving the income and, for some families, the income amount would have been very small. The income benefit was largest for low-income working families, but the research showed that the entire community profited. The improvement in overall health outcomes for the community suggest that a guaranteed income would also result in savings for the public health system.
To test the benefits of tutoring, for example, the sociologist might expose the experimental group of students to tutoring while the control group does not receive tutoring.
Then both groups would be tested for differences in performance to see if tutoring had an effect on the experimental group of students. As you can imagine, in a case like this, the researcher would not want to jeopardize the accomplishments of either group of students, so the setting would be somewhat artificial.
The test would not be for a grade reflected on their permanent record, for example. The Stanford Prison Experiment is perhaps one of the most famous sociological experiments ever conducted. In , 24 healthy, middle-class male university students were selected to take part in a simulated jail environment to examine the effects of social setting and social roles on individual psychology and behaviour.
They were randomly divided into 12 guards and 12 prisoners. The prisoner subjects were arrested at home and transported blindfolded to the simulated prison in the basement of the psychology building on the campus of Stanford University. Within a day of arriving the prisoners and the guards began to display signs of trauma and sadism respectively.
After some prisoners revolted by blockading themselves in their cells, the guards resorted to using increasingly humiliating and degrading tactics to control the prisoners through psychological manipulation. While the insights into the social dynamics of authoritarianism it generated were fascinating, the Stanford Prison Experiment also serves as an example of the ethical issues that emerge when experimenting on human subjects.
The work of sociology rarely happens in limited, confined spaces. Sociologists seldom study subjects in their own offices or laboratories.
Rather, sociologists go out into the world. They meet subjects where they live, work, and play. Field research refers to gathering primary data from a natural environment without doing a lab experiment or a survey. It is a research method suited to an interpretive approach rather than to positivist approaches. To conduct field research, the sociologist must be willing to step into new environments and observe, participate, or experience those worlds.
In fieldwork, the sociologists, rather than the subjects, are the ones out of their element. The researcher interacts with or observes a person or people, gathering data along the way. Fieldwork is optimal for observing how people behave. It is less useful, however, for developing causal explanations of why they behave that way.
From the small size of the groups studied in fieldwork, it is difficult to make predictions or generalizations to a larger population. Similarly, there are difficulties in gaining an objective distance from research subjects.
It is difficult to know whether another researcher would see the same things or record the same data. We will look at three types of field research: Choosing a research methodology depends on a number of factors, including the purpose of the research and the audience for whom the research is intended.
The most reliable data would come from an experimental or quasi-experimental research model in which a control group can be compared with an experimental group using quantitative measures. This approach has been used by researchers studying InSite in Vancouver Marshall et al.
InSite is a supervised safe-injection site where heroin addicts and other intravenous drug users can go to inject drugs in a safe, clean environment. Clean needles are provided and health care professionals are on hand to intervene in the case of overdoses or other medical emergency. It is a controversial program both because heroin use is against the law the facility operates through a federal ministerial exemption and because the heroin users are not obliged to quit using or seek therapy.
To assess the effectiveness of the program, researchers compared the risky usage of drugs in populations before and after the opening of the facility and geographically near and distant to the facility. The results from the studies have shown that InSite has reduced both deaths from overdose and risky behaviours, such as the sharing of needles, without increasing the levels of crime associated with drug use and addiction.
On the other hand, if the research question is more exploratory for example, trying to discern the reasons why individuals in the crack smoking subculture engage in the risky activity of sharing pipes , the more nuanced approach of fieldwork is more appropriate.
The research would need to focus on the subcultural context, rituals, and meaning of sharing pipes, and why these phenomena override known health concerns.
Graduate student Andrew Ivsins at the University of Victoria studied the practice of sharing pipes among 13 habitual users of crack cocaine in Victoria, B. Ivsins, He met crack smokers in their typical setting downtown and used an unstructured interview method to try to draw out the informal norms that lead to sharing pipes. One factor he discovered was the bond that formed between friends or intimate partners when they shared a pipe. He also discovered that there was an elaborate subcultural etiquette of pipe use that revolved around the benefit of getting the crack resin smokers left behind.
Both of these motives tended to outweigh the recognized health risks of sharing pipes such as hepatitis in the decision making of the users. This type of research was valuable in illuminating the unknown subcultural norms of crack use that could still come into play in a harm reduction strategy such as distributing safe crack kits to addicts. Every day for two weeks, he pretended to work there.
His main purpose was simply to see if anyone would notice him or challenge his presence. No one did. The receptionist greeted him. The employees smiled and said good morning. Rothman was accepted as part of the team.
He even went so far as to claim a desk, inform the receptionist of his whereabouts, and attend a meeting. Later, he was discredited for allegedly fabricating some details of the story and The New Yorker issued an apology. This method lets researchers study a naturally occurring social activity without imposing artificial or intrusive research devices, like fixed questionnaire questions, onto the situation.
A researcher might go to great lengths to get a firsthand look into a trend, institution, or behaviour. A researcher might work as a waitress in a diner, or live as a homeless person for several weeks, or ride along with police officers as they patrol their regular beat. Often, these researchers try to blend in seamlessly with the population they study, and they may not disclose their true identity or purpose if they feel it would compromise the results of their research.
At the beginning of a field study, researchers might have a question: Field researchers simply want to observe and learn. In such a setting, the researcher will be alert and open minded to whatever happens, recording all observations accurately. Soon, as patterns emerge, questions will become more specific, observations will lead to hypotheses, and hypotheses will guide the researcher in shaping data into results. In a study of small town America conducted by sociological researchers John S.
Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, the team altered their purpose as they gathered data. They initially planned to focus their study on the role of religion in American towns. As they gathered observations, they realized that the effect of industrialization and urbanization was the more relevant topic of this social group.
The Lynds did not change their methods, but they revised their purpose. This shaped the structure of Middletown: The Lynds were upfront about their mission. The townspeople of Muncie, Indiana knew why the researchers were in their midst. But some sociologists prefer not to alert people to their presence.
Becoming an inside member of a group, organization, or subculture takes time and effort. Researchers must pretend to be something they are not. The process could involve role playing, making contacts, networking, or applying for a job.
Once inside a group, some researchers spend months or even years pretending to be one of the people they are observing. However, as observers, they cannot get too involved.
They must keep their purpose in mind and apply the sociological perspective. That way, they illuminate social patterns that are often unrecognized. Because information gathered during participant observation is mostly qualitative, rather than quantitative, the end results are often descriptive or interpretive.
The researcher might present findings in an article or book, describing what he or she witnessed and experienced. This type of research is what journalist Barbara Ehrenreich conducted for her book Nickel and Dimed. One day over lunch with her editor, as the story goes, Ehrenreich mentioned an idea.
How do low-income workers get by? For several months, she left her comfortable home and lived and worked among people who lacked, for the most part, higher education and marketable job skills. Undercover, she applied for and worked minimum wage jobs as a waitress, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide, and a retail chain employee. During her participant observation, she used only her income from those jobs to pay for food, clothing, transportation, and shelter. She discovered the obvious: She also experienced and observed attitudes many middle- and upper-class people never think about.
She witnessed firsthand the treatment of service work employees. She saw the extreme measures people take to make ends meet and to survive. She described fellow employees who held two or three jobs, worked seven days a week, lived in cars, could not pay to treat chronic health conditions, got randomly fired, submitted to drug tests, and moved in and out of homeless shelters.
She brought aspects of that life to light, describing difficult working conditions and the poor treatment that low-wage workers suffer. Ethnography is the extended observation of the social perspective and cultural values of an entire social setting. Researchers seek to immerse themselves in the life of a bounded group by living and working among them.
Often ethnography involves participant observation, but the focus is the systematic observation of an entire community. The heart of an ethnographic study focuses on how subjects view their own social standing and how they understand themselves in relation to a community.
These places all have borders. People live, work, study, or vacation within those borders. People are there for a certain reason and therefore behave in certain ways and respect certain cultural norms.
An ethnographer would commit to spending a determined amount of time studying every aspect of the chosen place, taking in as much as possible, and keeping careful notes on his or her observations. To observe a Buddhist retreat centre, an ethnographer might sign up for a retreat and attend as a guest for an extended stay, observe and record how people experience spirituality in this setting, and collate the material into results.
Sometimes a researcher wants to study one specific person or event. A case study is an in-depth analysis of a single event, situation, or individual. To conduct a case study, a researcher examines existing sources like documents and archival records, conducts interviews, engages in direct observation, and even participant observation, if possible.
Researchers might use this method to study a single case of, for example, a foster child, drug lord, cancer patient, criminal, or rape victim. However, a major criticism of the case study as a method is that a developed study of a single case, while offering depth on a topic, does not provide enough evidence to form a generalized conclusion. In other words, it is difficult to make universal claims based on just one person, since one person does not verify a pattern. This is why most sociologists do not use case studies as a primary research method.
However, case studies are useful when the single case is unique. In these instances, a single case study can add tremendous knowledge to a certain discipline. These children mimic the behaviours and movements of animals, and often invent their own language.
There are only about cases of feral children in the world. As you may imagine, a feral child is a subject of great interest to researchers. Feral children provide unique information about child development because they have grown up outside of the parameters of normal child development.
And since there are very few feral children, the case study is the most appropriate method for researchers to use in studying the subject.
At age three, a Ukrainian girl named Oxana Malaya suffered severe parental neglect. She lived in a shed with dogs, eating raw meat and scraps. Five years later, a neighbour called authorities and reported seeing a girl who ran on all fours, barking. Officials brought Oxana into society, where she was cared for and taught some human behaviours, but she never became fully socialized. She has been designated as unable to support herself and now lives in a mental institution Grice, Case studies like this offer a way for sociologists to collect data that may not be collectable by any other method.
While sociologists often engage in original research studies, they also contribute knowledge to the discipline through secondary data or textual analysis. Secondary data do not result from firsthand research collected from primary sources, but are drawn from the already-completed work of other researchers. Sociologists might study texts written by historians, economists, teachers, or early sociologists.
They might search through periodicals, newspapers, or magazines from any period in history. Using available information not only saves time and money, but it can add depth to a study. To study how women were encouraged to act and behave in the s, for example, a researcher might watch movies, televisions shows, and situation comedies from that period.
Or to research changes in behaviour and attitudes due to the emergence of television in the late s and early s, a sociologist would rely on new interpretations of secondary data. Decades from now, researchers will most likely conduct similar studies on the advent of mobile phones, the internet, or Facebook.
The Basics of Social Research
One methodology that sociologists employ with secondary data is content analysis. Content analysis is a quantitative approach to textual research that selects an item of textual content i.
For example, Gilens wanted to find out why survey research shows that the American public substantially exaggerates the percentage of African Americans among the poor. He examined whether media representations influence public perceptions and did a content analysis of photographs of poor people in American news magazines. He coded and then systematically recorded incidences of three variables: Gilens concluded that by providing a distorted representation of poverty, U.
Social scientists also learn by analyzing the research of a variety of agencies. Governmental departments, public interest research groups, and global organizations like Statistics Canada, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, or the World Health Organization publish studies with findings that are useful to sociologists. A public statistic that measures inequality of incomes might be useful for studying who benefited and who lost as a result of the recession; a demographic profile of different immigrant groups might be compared with data on unemployment to examine the reasons why immigration settlement programs are more effective for some communities than for others.
Unlike studies requiring direct contact with people, using previously published data does not require entering a population and the investment and risks inherent in that research process. Using available data does have its challenges. Public records are not always easy to access. A researcher needs to do some legwork to track them down and gain access to records.
In some cases there is no way to verify the accuracy of existing data. It is easy, for example, to count how many drunk drivers are pulled over by the police. But how many are not? Another problem arises when data are unavailable in the exact form needed or do not include the precise angle the researcher seeks.
In his research, sociologist Richard Sennett uses secondary data to shed light on current trends. In The Craftsman , he studied the human desire to perform quality work, from carpentry to computer programming.
He studied the line between craftsmanship and skilled manual labour. He also studied changes in attitudes toward craftsmanship that occurred not only during and after the Industrial Revolution, but also in ancient times.
When conducting secondary data or textual analysis, it is important to consider the date of publication of an existing source and to take into account attitudes and common cultural ideals that may have influenced the research.
For example, Robert and Helen Lynd gathered research for their book Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture in the s. Attitudes and cultural norms were vastly different then than they are now. Beliefs about gender roles, race, education, and work have changed significantly since then. Today, it is an illustration of s attitudes and values.
One of the common forms in which one encounters secondary data is the contingency table. A contingency table provides a frequency distribution of at least two variables that allows the researcher to see at a glance how the variables are related. Table 2.
In this table, the independent variable the causal variable is the country, either Canada or the United States. The dependent variable, displayed in the columns, is the frequency of offences that involve firearms in the two countries.
From these figures one can also calculate the total number of homicides that took place in Canada in by a simple ratio: The table suggests that there is a definite correlation between country and firearm-related violent crime. Violent crime in the United States tends to involve firearms much more frequently than violent crime in Canada.
The column that gives the rates of firearm violence per , population allows the researcher to identify a comparison figure that takes into account the different population sizes of the two countries.
The rate of firearm-related homicide in the United States was about seven times higher than in Canada in 0. The question that this data raises is about causation. Why are firearm-related violent crimes so much lower in Canada than in the United States? One key element are the legal restrictions on firearm possession in the two countries.
Canadian law requires that an individual has a valid license under the Firearms Act in order to own or possess a firearm or to download ammunition.
Until , all firearms also had to be registered, but with the repeal of the national gun registry provisions for long guns rifles and shot guns , currently only hand guns and prohibited weapons assault weapons, fully automatic firearms, and sawed-off rifles or shotguns have to be registered.
In the United States firearm regulations are state-specific and only a few states place restrictions on the possession of firearms. In , there were 89 firearms for every citizens in the United States, which is the highest rate of gun ownership of any country Cotter, In large part, the choice of research methodology follows from the choice of the research question.
Of course, the choice of the research question itself depends on the same sort of underlying values and decisions about the nature of the world that divide the theoretical perspectives in sociology. In addition, the choice of the research question involves both the character of the social phenomenon being studied and the purpose of the research in the first place.
Again, it is useful to map out the different methodologies in a diagram. We can position them along two axes according to: The advantages and disadvantages of the different methodologies are summarized in Table 2.
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Sociologists conduct studies to shed light on human behaviours. Knowledge is a powerful tool that can be used toward positive change. In that sense, conducting a sociological study comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Like any researchers, sociologists must consider their ethical obligation to avoid harming subjects or groups while conducting their research. The CSA is a great resource for students of sociology as well.
It also describes procedures for filing, investigating, and resolving complaints of unethical conduct. Practising sociologists and sociology students have a lot to consider. Some of the guidelines state that researchers must try to be skillful and fair-minded in their work, especially as it relates to their human subjects.
During a study, sociologists must ensure the safety of participants and immediately stop work if a subject becomes potentially endangered on any level. Researchers are required to protect the privacy of research participants whenever possible. Even if pressured by authorities, such as police or courts, researchers are not ethically allowed to release confidential information. Researchers must make results available to other sociologists, must make public all sources of financial support, and must not accept funding from any organization that might cause a conflict of interest or seek to influence the research results for its own purposes.
Pioneer German sociologist Max Weber identified another crucial ethical concern. Weber understood that personal values could distort the framework for disclosing study results. While he accepted that some aspects of research design might be influenced by personal values, he declared it was entirely inappropriate to allow personal values to shape the interpretation of the responses. Sociologists, he stated, must establish value neutrality , a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgement, during the course of a study and in publishing results Sociologists are obligated to disclose research findings without omitting or distorting significant data.
Value neutrality does not mean having no opinions. It means striving to overcome personal biases, particularly subconscious biases, when analyzing data. It means avoiding skewing data in order to match a predetermined outcome that aligns with a particular agenda, such as a political or moral point of view.
Investigators are ethically obligated to report results, even when they contradict personal views, predicted outcomes, or widely accepted beliefs. Is value neutrality possible? Many sociologists believe it is impossible to set aside personal values and retain complete objectivity.
Individuals inevitably see the world from a partial perspective. Their interests are central to the types of topics they choose, the types of questions they ask, the way they frame their research, and the research methodologies they select to pursue it.
Moreover, facts, however objective, do not exist in a void. Positivist sociology has an interest in pursuing types of knowledge that are useful for controlling and administering social life. Interpretive sociology has an interest in pursuing types of knowledge that promote greater mutual understanding and the possibility of consensus among members of society. Critical sociology has an interest in types of knowledge that enable emancipation from power relations and forms of domination in society.
This does not discredit the results of sociological research but allows readers to take into account the perspective of the research when judging the validity and applicability of its outcomes. Knowledge based on the accepted authority of the source. Knowledge based on observations without any systematic process for observing or assessing the accuracy of observations. A quantitative approach to textual research that selects an item of textual content that can be reliably and consistently observed and coded, and surveys the prevalence of that item in a sample of textual output.
A statistical table that provides a frequency distribution of at least two variables. When a change in one variable coincides with a change in another variable, but does not necessarily indicate causation. Gathering data from a natural environment without doing a lab experiment or a survey. Hawthorne effect: When study subjects behave in a certain manner due to their awareness of being observed by a researcher.
An educated guess with predicted outcomes about the relationship between two or more variables. Methodologies based on deducing a prediction from a hypothesis and testing the validity of the hypothesis by whether it correctly predicts observations. Methodologies that derive a general statement from a series of empirical observations. The study of the way everyday life is coordinated through institutional, textually mediated practices.
A sociological research approach that seeks in-depth understanding of a topic or subject through observation or interaction. An underlying variable that explains the correlation between two other variables. A scholarly research step that entails identifying and studying all existing studies on a topic to create a basis for new research.
Specific explanations of abstract concepts that a researcher plans to study. Knowledge that draws general conclusions from limited observations. A research approach based on the natural science model of knowledge utilizing a hypothetico-deductive formulation of the research question and quantitative data. Information from research collected in numerical form that can be counted. A systematic research method that involves asking a question, researching existing sources, forming a hypothesis, designing and conducting a study, and drawing conclusions.
Knowledge based on observations that only confirm what the observer expects or wants to see. Data collections from subjects who respond to a series of questions about behaviours and opinions, often in the form of a questionnaire.
Institutional forms of communication that rely on written documents, texts, and paperwork. Knowledge based on received beliefs or the way things have always been done. The degree to which a sociological measure accurately reflects the topic of study.
A practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment, during the course of a study and in publishing results. Approaches to Sociological Research Using the scientific method, a researcher conducts a study in five phases: The scientific method is useful in that it provides a clear method of organizing a study.
Some sociologists conduct scientific research through a positivist framework utilizing a hypothetico-deductive formulation of the research question. Other sociologists conduct scientific research by employing an interpretive framework that is often inductive in nature. Scientific sociological studies often observe relationships between variables. Researchers study how one variable changes another.
Prior to conducting a study, researchers are careful to apply operational definitions to their terms and to establish dependent and independent variables. Research Methods Sociological research is a fairly complex process.
As you can see, a lot goes into even a simple research design. There are many steps and much to consider when collecting data on human behaviour, as well as in interpreting and analyzing data in order to form conclusive results. Sociologists use scientific methods for good reason. The scientific method provides a system of organization that helps researchers plan and conduct the study while ensuring that data and results are reliable, valid, and objective.
The many methods available to researchers—including experiments, surveys, field studies, and secondary data analysis—all come with advantages and disadvantages. The strength of a study can depend on the choice and implementation of the appropriate method of gathering research. Depending on the topic, a study might use a single method or a combination of methods. It is important to plan a research design before undertaking a study. The information gathered may in itself be surprising, and the study design should provide a solid framework in which to analyze predicted and unpredicted data.
Ethical Concerns Sociologists and sociology students must take ethical responsibility for any study they conduct. They must first and foremost guarantee the safety of their participants.
Whenever possible, they must ensure that participants have been fully informed before consenting to be part of a study. The Canadian Sociological Association CSA maintains ethical guidelines that sociologists must take into account as they conduct research. The guidelines address conducting studies, properly using existing sources, accepting funding, and publishing results. Sociologists must try to maintain value neutrality.
They must gather and analyze data objectively, setting aside their personal preferences, beliefs, and opinions. They must report findings accurately, even if they contradict personal convictions.
Social Research Methods Books
Approaches to Sociological Research 1. In a study, a group of year-old boys are fed doughnuts every morning for a week and then weighed to see how much weight they gained. Which factor is the dependent variable? Research Methods 5. Which materials are considered secondary data? What research method did John S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd mainly use in their Middletown study?
The Basics of Social Research
Ethical Concerns Which statement illustrates value neutrality? To study the effects of fast food on lifestyle, health, and culture, from which group would a researcher ethically be unable to accept funding? Stuart Chapin in the American Journal of Sociology: Research Methods Information on current real-world sociology experiments: Ethical Concerns Founded in , the CSA is a nonprofit organization located in Montreal, Quebec, with a membership of researchers, faculty members, students, and practitioners of sociology.
Brym, R. Your compass for a new world 4th Canadian ed. Toronto, ON: Merton, R. The normative structure of science.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press Original work published Social theory and social structure. New York, NY: Free Press Original work published Mikkelson, B.
Rumor has it. Retrieved from http: Pape, R. Dying to win: The strategic logic of suicide terrorism. I want to begin this book on a similar note. From that perspective, this book aims at helping you sharpen skills you already have and perhaps showing you some tricks that may not have occurred to you.
By examining the fundamental characteristics and issues that make science different from other ways of knowing things, Part 1 lays the groundwork for the rest of the book. Whereas most of this book concerns the art and science of doing social research, Chapter 3 introduces some of the political and ethical considerations that affect social research.
By the time you complete Part 1, you should be ready to look at some of the more concrete aspects of social research. In this chapter. You know the world is round.
How do you know? You may have read in National Geographic that people 4 The decision to have a baby is deeply personal. No one is in Image not available due to copyright restrictions charge of who will have babies in the United States in any given year, or of how many will be born.
Many couples delay pregnancy, some pregnancies happen by accident, and some pregnancies are planned. Given all these uncertainties and idiosyncrasies, how can baby food and diaper manufacturers know how much to produce from year to year? By the end of this chapter, you should be able to answer this question. Perhaps your physics or astronomy instructor told you it was cold on the dark side of the moon, or maybe you read it on the NASA website.
Some of the things you know seem obvious to you. Most of what you know is a matter of agreement and belief. Little of it is based on personal experience and discovery. You might be sent to live in a hospital with others who ask questions like that. The basis of knowledge is agreement. There are other ways of knowing things, however. In contrast to knowing things through agreement, you can know them through direct experience—through observation.
You have more. Finally, you can contain yourself no longer. What a terrible thing to serve guests! The point of the story is that both of your feelings about the appetizer were quite real. When they pried your mouth open and reached down your throat for the other half of the worm, you learned that worms are not acceptable food in our society. They are also a delicacy for some people who live in societies that lack our agreement that worms are disgusting.
Some people might love the worms but be turned off by the deep-fried breading. People have grappled with this question for thousands of years. One answer that has arisen out of that grappling is science, which offers an approach to both agreement reality and experiential reality. In general, an assertion must have both logical and empirical support: It must make sense, and it must not contradict actual observation.
More to the point of this book, however, science offers a special approach to the discovery of reality through personal experience, that is, to the business of inquiry. We seem quite willing, moreover, to undertake this task using causal and probabilistic reasoning.
First, we generally recognize that future circumstances are somehow caused or conditioned by present ones. We learn that swimming beyond the reef may bring an unhappy encounter with a shark. As students we learn that studying hard will result in better grades.
Second, we also learn that such patterns of cause and effect are probabilistic in nature: The effects occur more often when the causes occur than when the causes are absent—but not always.
Thus, students learn that studying hard produces good grades in most instances, but not every time. We recognize the danger of swimming beyond the reef, without believing that every such swim will be fatal. It sharpens the skills we already have by making us more conscious, rigorous, and explicit in our inquiries. In looking at ordinary human inquiry, we need to distinguish between prediction and understanding.
Medical science research has generally supported the new technology, but an article in the March 9, , issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA sent a shock wave through the medical community.
Whatever the primitive drives or instincts that motivate human beings, satisfying them depends heavily on the ability to predict future circumstances. However, the attempt to predict is often placed in a context of knowledge and understanding.
If we can understand why things are related to one another, why certain regular patterns occur, we can predict even better than if we simply observe and remember those patterns. As I suggested earlier, our attempts to learn about the world are only partly linked to direct, personal inquiry or experience.
Another, much larger, technology. Their conclusion: CPOE was not nearly as effective as claimed; it did not prevent errors in medication. As you can imagine, those manufacturing and selling the equipment were not thrilled by the research, and it has generated an ongoing discussion within the health care community.
At last count, the study had been cited over 20, times in other articles, and Koppel has become a sought-after expert in this regard. To see how, consider two important sources of our secondhand knowledge—tradition and authority. We may learn from others that eating too much candy will decay our teeth, that the circumference of a circle is approximately twentytwo—sevenths of its diameter, or that masturbation will blind us.
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By accepting what everybody knows, we avoid the overwhelming task of starting from scratch in our search for regularities and understanding.It is an educated guess because it is not random but based on theory, observations, patterns of experience, or the existing literature. They were randomly divided into 12 guards and 12 prisoners. The last four paragraphs on the four types of non-scientific reasoning adapted from Amy Blackstone, Sociological Inquiry Principles: Cotter, A. The Case Study Sometimes a researcher wants to study one specific person or event.
Today, it is an illustration of s attitudes and values. Again, it is useful to map out the different methodologies in a diagram. Glaser, B. In fact there are at least four intervening variables that explain the higher incarceration of Aboriginal people Hartnagel, Different Research Methods:
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