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Vocabulary of science

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Vocabulary of science

  1. 1. Vocabulary of Science<br />Chapter 5<br />
  2. 2. Three Simple Steps to Social Science<br />STEP 1: Select some concepts of interest (variables)<br />STEP 2: Posit (suggest) some relationship between these concepts (Hypothesis)<br />STEP 3: Test these suggestions empirically to see if they are right.<br />
  3. 3. Concepts and Constructs<br />Concept: a label that is applied to things with similar characteristics or attributes; a generalization, or category.<br />Constructs: an abstract concept; words used to describe things that exist analytically (in our minds) but are not directly observable. <br />Examples: Racism, love, economic depression, loyalty, etc. <br />
  4. 4. What are Variables?<br />Variable: something of interest to a social researcher.<br />Variables have two characteristics:<br />It is thought to influence or be influenced by another thing.<br />A variable is an attribute of a class or category of things that has more than one possibility <br />In other words, the observed attribute differs from case to case; it is not constant. Not all observed cases are identical with respect to this value.<br />An ‘attribute’ is a characteristic or quality that describes a thing.<br />
  5. 5. Variable Definitions<br />Here are some more definitions of ‘variable’:<br />A variable is a characteristic or value that can change or be changed.<br />A category or attribute with more than one possible type or value.<br />A category of things with observed differences or changes.<br />a quantity that may assume any one of a set of values (Merrian-Webster)<br />
  6. 6. Variables: Cause and Effect<br />Below are some examples of how two variables may relate causally. We usually designate with an ‘X’ the variable we think is ‘causing’ (‘influencing’, ‘effecting’ etc.) the other variable, which we designate as Y.<br />X  Y <br />Examples:<br />Gender (X) is thought to influence occupation (Y)<br />Religious affiliation (Y) is thought to be influenced by income. <br />Educational attainment (X) is thought to influence income (Y). <br />Age (X) is thought to influence attitudes towards using computers (Y)<br />Income (Y) is thought to be influenced by race (X)<br />
  7. 7. Variables:Independent (X) vs Dependent (Y)<br />Independent variable (X) = the cause. Variable that influences.<br />Dependent variable (Y) = the effect. Variable that is influenced by the cause; it is dependent on the cause. <br />INCA: theINdependent variable is the CAuse.<br />
  8. 8. Directionality<br />Variables that vary in the same direction have a positive relationship.<br />Variables that vary in the opposite direction have a negative relationship. <br />Example: a decrease in employment is associated with a decrease in income:<br />Even though both variables go down, they vary in the same direction. This is a positive relationship! (-1 * -1 = + 1)<br />
  9. 9. Operational Definitions<br />Creating an operational definition involves transforming the variables into things that can be observed and measured.<br />Operational just means ‘working’: you are creating a ‘working’ definition, i.e. one that you can use!<br />
  10. 10. Mean, Median, Mode<br />Mean is the average: add up the values and divide the result by the number of cases.<br />Median is the number in the middle so that half of the numbers in the set are above this number and half are below it.<br />Mode is the number that occurs most frequently.<br />
  11. 11. Doing Social Research<br />Chapter 6<br />
  12. 12. Quantitative and Qualitative Research<br />Quantitative Research<br />Gathers data that are easily expressed in numbers<br />Emile Durkheim felt that the goal of sociology was to discover the laws that govern social behavior<br />Qualitative Research<br />Focuses not only on objective nature of behavior but also on its meaning<br />Max Weber thought that sociology had to be an interpretive science- it must take into account the social meanings/reasons attached to behaviors. <br />
  13. 13. Research Methods<br />All research begins with a ‘Literature Review’! <br />A ‘lit review’ is a review of the existing literature on the topic<br />Types of Research<br />Survey<br />Experiment<br />Observation<br />Unobtrusive (nonreactive) research<br />
  14. 14. Survey<br />Survey: a series of questions asked of a number of people<br />Interview<br />Self-administered questionnaire<br />Surveys are especially good for discovering basic ‘demographic information’- age, gender, income, education, etc.<br />Allows researchers to obtain information about things that cannot observed directly, such as attitudes.<br />
  15. 15. Survey<br />Close-ended Survey Questions: respondents are provided with list of possible answers<br />Examples.<br />Are you: _______ male _______ female?<br />What is your present marital status?<br />______ _never married<br />_______married<br />_______ separated<br />_______ divorced<br />_______ widowed<br />Are you presently employed? ______ no ______ yes<br />
  16. 16. Survey<br />Close-ended Survey Questions:<br />Matrix Questions: answers look like a matrix, or an array of numbers.<br />
  17. 17. Survey<br />Open-ended Survey Questions: Respondents answer questions in their own words.<br />Examples:<br />What is the most important thing you have learned so far in this class?<br />What is the thing that you like most about your sociology class? The thing you like least?<br />
  18. 18. Survey<br />6 Guidelines for Crafting Survey Questions<br />Adapt phrasing of questions to the educational level of your respondents.<br />Avoid double negatives in a question<br />Avoid ‘marathon’ questions.<br />Don’t ask ‘double-barreled’ questions: ask only one question at a time!<br />Don’t ask ‘leading’ or ‘loaded’ questions<br />Don’t ask questions that your respondent cannot answer<br />Inaccessible information, or illogical questions.<br />
  19. 19. Experiment<br />An experiment involves manipulating the independent variable (X) and observing the effect on the dependent variable (Y)<br />Experiments are the only means by which we can explore causal relationships; only way we can know for sure if changes to X cause changes in Y.<br />Experimenter needs two dependent variable (Y) groups of Y:<br />Experimental group- receives ‘treatment’ of independent variable (X)<br />Control group- does not receive treatment; is left alone.<br />
  20. 20. Experiment<br />Imagine a scientist testing the effect that some drug, X, has on growth of rats, Y. <br />To see how the drug effects rat growth, the experimenter will compare growth in two groups of rats: Y₁ , the group of rats that gets the drug (X) and a group of rates Y₂ that will not. <br />Y₁ is the experimental group, and Y₂ is the control group.<br />
  21. 21. Experiment<br />One assumes separation or isolation between the setting where X is applied and the control, where X isn’t applied.<br />It is important that rats which receive the drug and rats which do not be alike in all relevant characteristics and conditions, so that any observed differences between rats which receive the drug (the experimental group) and those that do not (the control group) can be attributed only to the drug (X), and not to something else.<br />
  22. 22. Experiment<br />A counter-factual refers to something that did not happen, but could have or would have occurred. <br />Whenever we infer causal relationships (‘X’ caused ‘Y’ to happen), we compare what did happen with what we believe would have happened in the absence of the cause, i.e. we compare a factual with a counter-factual (imagined) condition.<br />We use the ‘control group’ to make a counterfactual argument, which says that: “in the absence of X, this is how Y₁ would have behaved.” We assume that Y₁ would have behaved like Y₂, the control.<br />Why? Because they are alike in all relevant characteristics, so any difference we observe must be a result of the independent variable, X.<br />
  23. 23. Experiment<br />5 Rules for Doing True Experiments<br />Have at least two groups (control and experiment)<br />Randomly assign people to groups<br />Treat the experimental group by manipulating the independent variable<br />Observe the effect of the treatment on the dependent variable in the experimental group<br />Compare the dependent variable differences (the outcome of treatment) in the experimental and control groups<br />
  24. 24. Observation<br />Strategies of Field Research:<br />Complete participant<br />Complete observer<br />Participant Observer<br />Hawthorne Effect: observation by a researcher can influence the subjects who are being observed.<br />NO<br />PARTICIPATION<br />TOTAL<br />PARTICIPATION<br />Complete<br />participant<br />Participant<br />Observer<br />Complete<br />Observer<br />
  25. 25. Unobtrusive (Nonreactive) Research<br />Artifacts (archeologists)<br />Statistics<br />Content Analysis<br />Triangulation: using several research methods.<br />
  26. 26. Sampling<br />A Sample is a portion of the larger population that you will study to make inferences about the larger population.<br />General rule: the more diverse a population is, the larger the sample needs to be!<br />Samples should be random: every element in the population has the same probability of being in the sample.<br />

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