SOC2002 Lecture 2

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  • 1. SOC2002: Sociological Analysis and Research Methods LECTURE 2: Social Research Design (2) Lecturer: Bonnie Green [email_address]
  • 2. Social Research Design (2): Overview
    • What is social research and why do we bother?
    • Characteristics of social research
    • Social research as a process
    • The steps in that process:
      • Overview
      • Today: object -> topic -> question(s)
  • 3. Why do we do research?
    • Required by our course
    • Personal interest in a particular object or question
    • Personal interest in specific social theory or problem
    • Might be getting paid to do it
    • A puzzle in your disciplinary literature
  • 4. What is social research?
    • Social research is concerned with exploration and discovery in the social world
    • Not an end in itself, but a means of finding something out about something
      • means of gathering more knowledge
      • means of developing and testing concepts and theories
  • 5. What is social research?
    • A process
    • “ Research is a careful search, capable of withstanding close examination, for information which can be used to produce or enhance knowledge” (Pole and Lampard, 2002: 2)
  • 6. Characteristics of research
    • Systematic inquiry with the objective of making claims about the world
    • Claims that go beyond a hunch, conjecture, intuition, anecdote or common sense
    • Claims are warranted and/or based on empirical evidence
  • 7. Characteristics of research
    • Subject to criteria of public accountability
    • Display evidence based conclusions open to critical scrutiny
      • by academics
      • by policy makers
      • by employers
      • robust methodology is key to this
  • 8. Characteristics of research
    • Lots of different types of research
      • e.g. based on primary or secondary data
    • Common distinction is between quantitative and qualitative research
    • Quantitative
      • Data are “numerical and based on counting or enumerating” (Pole and Lampard, 2002: 4)
      • Often statistical involving measurements and scores
      • N is usually large
  • 9. Characteristics of research
    • Qualitative
      • Data intended “to convey the essence or quality of the experience” (Pole and Lampard, 2002: 4)
      • Often discursive involving whole texts, images, sound recordings, videos
      • N is often small
    • Can you mix methods?
    • When should you use qualitative and when should you use quantitative?
  • 10. Recognising social research
    • The Primary Review (12 th Oct 2007):
      • http://www.primaryreview.org.uk/index.html
      • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7039966.stm
      • http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/
    • Is this an example of social research?
    • Watch this space…
  • 11. Research as a ‘process’
    • Qualitative and quantitative techniques are used in different situations to produce different kinds of knowledge
    • Highlights that social research is an integrated process
    • Number of relatively distinct steps but there is an important relationship between the way research is carried out and the knowledge it produces
  • 12. The research process: an overview Reporting Topic/Object 1 2 3 4 5 6 Research question Research design Data collection Data analysis Interpretation
  • 13. The research process: an overview
    • All these stages are connected:
      • Select the optimal design for the research question
      • Link between design and data collection/elicitation technique
      • Link between data collection and data analysis
      • Link between analysis and interpretation
  • 14. The research process: an overview Reporting Literature review, and/or field reconnaissance Topic/Object 1 2 3 4 5 6 LECTURES 2 & 3 Research question Research design Data collection Data analysis Interpretation
  • 15. The research process: Step 1 - topic/object to research question
    • What are suitable concepts and/or objects for social research?
  • 16. The research process: Step 1 - topic/object to research question
  • 17. The research process: Step 1 - topic/object to research question
    • What are suitable objects for social research?
    • What are suitable topics?
      • Globalisation
      • The State
      • Intimacy
      • Identity
      • Risk
      • Network society
  • 18. The research process: Step 1 - topic/object to research question
    • Globalisation:
      • The impact of globalisation on state autonomy
      • Has globalisation constrained the decision-making powers of democratic states?
      • Is there a relationship between degree of trade openness and the quality of state transfers in OCED countries between 1990-2000?
      • What is the sign of the slope coefficient in the regression of state transfers as a % of GDP and $ value of (exports+imports)/GDP?
  • 19. The research process: Step 1 - topic/object to research question
    • Broad topic area -> specific questions -> indicators
    • “ progressive focussing” (Pole and Lampard, 2002)
    • How do you get from 1 to 4?
    • Literature review and/or field reconnaissance
  • 20. The research process: The Literature review
    • What is it?
      • A focussed survey or systematic review of what is already known about your topic/object
    • Why is it important?
      • Substantively important
      • Methodologically important
      • Allows identification of relevant conceptual frameworks
  • 21. The research process: The Literature review
    • How do you do it?
      • Use your existing knowledge
      • Databases on the library catalogue http://www.library.ex.ac.uk/electronic/databases.html
      • ‘snowballing’
      • Consider underlying social issues
      • Don’t be constrained by disciplinary boundaries
  • 22. The research process: The Literature review
    • How do you keep track of it?
      • Keep records!
      • Notification features
      • Rank your sources
        • Essential
        • Important
        • Relevant
        • Supporting
        • Irrelevant/ inappropriate
  • 23. The research process: Step 2 - research question to research design
    • Continuing the processes of “progressive focussing”
    • Exercise in your seminar groups…
  • 24. Social Research Design (2): Summary
    • Moving from topic/concept to research question:
      • Think of lots of “large contextual questions”
      • Review them and decide on relative importance
      • Consider how they might be addressed, what type of knowledge they might produce and whether this produces a feasible research design