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Principles of Sociology 2
Sociological Investigation
Three Ways: Positivist
• Based on systematic observation.
• Emphasizes gathering empirical
evidence and pursuing maximum
objectivity.
• In sociology, this translates into using
the scientific method and quantitative
research (statistical analysis).
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 1: Select & Define the Problem
– A research topic might be selected based on
personal experience, interest, or to fill an
existing gap.
– State as clearly as possible what you are
investigating.
– operational definition = defining a factor in
such a way that it can be measured
(operationalizing the variable).
SAMPLE RESEARCH QUESTION:
“Are religious people of high
status more prejudiced?”
• What is meant by “religious”?
• How will you measure who is of “high status”?
• What do you mean by “prejudiced and how will you
measure it?
You need operational definitions of these terms!
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 2: Review Previous Research
– In every discipline, including sociology, much
research has accumulated and can be accessed.
– A literature review looks carefully at what
relevant research already exists on the problem
under investigation, or on various details of the
problem.
– This helps to identify gaps and avoidable
mistakes.
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 3: Formulate the Hypothesis
– hypothesis = “statement of a possible
relationship between two or more variables”
(Macionis, 41).
• variable = measurable factors within a study that
are subject to change.
– independent variable (IV) = the factor influencing the DV.
– dependent variable (DV) = the factor being influenced by
the IV.
Correlation & Causation
• While establishing cause and effect relationships
is the ideal, this is very difficult to do.
• Researchers must watch out for spurious
correlations = apparent but false relationships
between variable being caused by some other
variable(s).
• RULE: correlation does not equal causation.
– Just because a relationship is established does not
mean causation has been proven..
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 4: Develop the Research Design
–Determine the unit of analysis (what
or whom is being studied).
–Select an appropriate way in which to
conduct the research.
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 5: Collect & Analyze the Data
–Select which population (EX: UST
students) will be studied.
• sample = selection from the research
population.
• representative sample = selection with
the essential characteristics of the
population.
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 5: Collect & Analyze the Data
– validity = “actually measuring exactly what
you intend to measure” (Macionis, 33).
– reliability = consistent results in measurement
when applied to different individuals at one
time or to the same individuals over time.
– analysis = the process through which the data
are organized so that conclusions may be
drawn.
The Quantitative Model
• STEP 6: Draw Conclusions & Report Findings
–The data must be interpreted.
–Does the data support your hypothesis or
not?
–What are the limitations of your data?
–A report of your study will include each
step and justifications for each move you
made in the study.
The Ideal of Objectivity
• To strive for objectivity means that the
researcher(s) should practice value-neutrality
(be value-free).
• This means that sociologists strive to avoid
personal bias in their research.
• The world must be researched as it is, and
not as researchers think it should be.
Problems for the Quantitative Approach
• Sociologists study people, and people are
unpredictable.
• Since people respond to their environment,
the very presence of the researcher may
affect whatever behavior is being observed.
• Social patterns continually change.
• The sociologist is a part of society, making
complete objectivity impossible.
Three Ways: Interpretive
• Focuses on people’s perceptions of their social
world.
• Meaning is brought into social situations by the
individual, and is subjective.
• The emphasis here is on qualitative data rather
than quantitative data.
• verstehen (Weber) = interpreting the what and
the why of human behavior in order to gain
understanding.
Verstehen
• Weber’s reasoning can be understood by asking the following
question: “What does the passionate zoologist studying lions
dream about – what does such a scientist wish for?”
– ANSWER: That lions could talk!
• Of course, lions cannot have conversations about themselves
with those who research them … but human beings can.
• And that is the point: social science is different simply
because the subject of inquiry exists equal to the
researcher(s).
• Since this is the case – that the sociologist’s subjects can
communicate – it stands to reason that any social research
worth its salt will seek to understand the subjective
perspectives of people (that is, the interpretive elements).
Three Ways: Critical
• Rejects positivist objectivity and interpretive
neutrality and focuses on the need for social
change (much like Marx did).
• Motivated by political activist concerns.
• Empowers research participants and uses
findings to give a voice to the less powerful.
• Holds that all research is actually biased, but
one can intentionally choose which side to be
on.
Research Methods
• experiment = investigates cause/effect
relationships under controlled conditions.
– Uses and measures independent and dependent
variables (defined earlier).
– The controlled (artificial) environment allows
researchers to control for other factors.
– May utilize an experimental group (exposed to the
IV) and a control group (given a placebo).
– Subject to the Hawthorne effect = a participant’s
awareness of being studied may alter their behavior.
Research Methods
• survey = has respondents respond to carefully devised
questions.
– respondents = those who provide data in interviews or on
questionnaires.
– interview = respondents are asked questions in person
(often recorded by the researcher).
– questionnaire = printed series of items to which subjects
respond.
• closed-ended = provides fixed responses.
• open-ended = allows free response.
Research Methods
• field research = studying people in natural
settings.
–participant observation = systematic
observation that occurs through actual
participation within a group’s routine
activities.
–ethnography = a detailed account that results
when the researcher organizes their field
notes and publishes their experiences.
In 1959-1960, white journalist
John Howard Griffin used an
experimental drug to darken
his skin and traveled
throughout the segregated
South, passing as an African
American. He published his
experiences in 1961 in a book
entitled Black Like Me (still
available). This research
project remains an extreme
example of participant
observation.
Research Methods
• secondary analysis = researchers use existing sources
with data originally collected by others.
– Includes use of “canned data.”
– Saves money and time, but can be lacking quality.
• EX: US Census; General Social Survey.
– content analysis = systematic coding of existing forms of
communication, to extract thematic data.
 EX: newspapers, radio and television tapes, the internet,
scripts, diaries, movies, songs, folklore, legal documents,
etc.
I love green peas! This is my favorite vegetable! There are two
ways I can enjoy some green peas: 1) I can plant a garden and
grow my own green peas, harvest them myself, etc.,OR 2) I can go
over to Wal-Mart and just buy a can and heat them up, which is
much easier. Now, the home grown way will produce the best
peas, BUT it takes time, and requires me to get my hands dirty. In
contrast, just buying a can of peas saves me time but I may lose
some quality in the product.
Sociological data works the same way.
The BEST data for MY OWN study is data
that I gather myself, but this takes time
and often money. I can skip this by using
canned data – data that is already
collected and available for my use.
Canned data saves time and money, but
the quality of the data will not be like
data I gather myself – using secondary
data moves the data from “best” to
“good enough.”
Using Statistics & Graphs
• Much sociological research today is reported using statistics, many of
which are presented in various types of graphs.
• Common Summary Measures:
 percentage = a portion of 100.
 mean = the average = add all values, then divide by number of
values.
 mode = most frequent value in a series of values.
 median = midpoint in a series of values.
• cross-tabulation = summarizing different data sets in a graph for the
purpose of comparison.
• There are different types of graphs that are used to present data.
Research Ethics
• Research in any discipline can be problematic and must be governed by
ethical standards. A sociologist cannot just do anything he/she desires in
the name of “research.” There are limits to what a researcher can do and
the methods that he/she can use.
• ASA Code of Ethics:
1. Maintain objectivity and integrity in research.
2. Respect the subject’s right to privacy and dignity.
3. Protect subjects from personal harm.
4. Preserve confidentiality.
5. Seek informed consent when data are collected from research
participants or when behavior occurs in a private context.
6. Acknowledge research collaboration and assistance.
7. Disclose all sources of financial support.
(American Sociological Association, 1997)

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Week 2: Sociological Investigation

  • 1. Principles of Sociology 2 Sociological Investigation
  • 2. Three Ways: Positivist • Based on systematic observation. • Emphasizes gathering empirical evidence and pursuing maximum objectivity. • In sociology, this translates into using the scientific method and quantitative research (statistical analysis).
  • 3. The Quantitative Model • STEP 1: Select & Define the Problem – A research topic might be selected based on personal experience, interest, or to fill an existing gap. – State as clearly as possible what you are investigating. – operational definition = defining a factor in such a way that it can be measured (operationalizing the variable).
  • 4. SAMPLE RESEARCH QUESTION: “Are religious people of high status more prejudiced?” • What is meant by “religious”? • How will you measure who is of “high status”? • What do you mean by “prejudiced and how will you measure it? You need operational definitions of these terms!
  • 5. The Quantitative Model • STEP 2: Review Previous Research – In every discipline, including sociology, much research has accumulated and can be accessed. – A literature review looks carefully at what relevant research already exists on the problem under investigation, or on various details of the problem. – This helps to identify gaps and avoidable mistakes.
  • 6. The Quantitative Model • STEP 3: Formulate the Hypothesis – hypothesis = “statement of a possible relationship between two or more variables” (Macionis, 41). • variable = measurable factors within a study that are subject to change. – independent variable (IV) = the factor influencing the DV. – dependent variable (DV) = the factor being influenced by the IV.
  • 7. Correlation & Causation • While establishing cause and effect relationships is the ideal, this is very difficult to do. • Researchers must watch out for spurious correlations = apparent but false relationships between variable being caused by some other variable(s). • RULE: correlation does not equal causation. – Just because a relationship is established does not mean causation has been proven..
  • 8. The Quantitative Model • STEP 4: Develop the Research Design –Determine the unit of analysis (what or whom is being studied). –Select an appropriate way in which to conduct the research.
  • 9. The Quantitative Model • STEP 5: Collect & Analyze the Data –Select which population (EX: UST students) will be studied. • sample = selection from the research population. • representative sample = selection with the essential characteristics of the population.
  • 10. The Quantitative Model • STEP 5: Collect & Analyze the Data – validity = “actually measuring exactly what you intend to measure” (Macionis, 33). – reliability = consistent results in measurement when applied to different individuals at one time or to the same individuals over time. – analysis = the process through which the data are organized so that conclusions may be drawn.
  • 11. The Quantitative Model • STEP 6: Draw Conclusions & Report Findings –The data must be interpreted. –Does the data support your hypothesis or not? –What are the limitations of your data? –A report of your study will include each step and justifications for each move you made in the study.
  • 12. The Ideal of Objectivity • To strive for objectivity means that the researcher(s) should practice value-neutrality (be value-free). • This means that sociologists strive to avoid personal bias in their research. • The world must be researched as it is, and not as researchers think it should be.
  • 13. Problems for the Quantitative Approach • Sociologists study people, and people are unpredictable. • Since people respond to their environment, the very presence of the researcher may affect whatever behavior is being observed. • Social patterns continually change. • The sociologist is a part of society, making complete objectivity impossible.
  • 14. Three Ways: Interpretive • Focuses on people’s perceptions of their social world. • Meaning is brought into social situations by the individual, and is subjective. • The emphasis here is on qualitative data rather than quantitative data. • verstehen (Weber) = interpreting the what and the why of human behavior in order to gain understanding.
  • 15. Verstehen • Weber’s reasoning can be understood by asking the following question: “What does the passionate zoologist studying lions dream about – what does such a scientist wish for?” – ANSWER: That lions could talk! • Of course, lions cannot have conversations about themselves with those who research them … but human beings can. • And that is the point: social science is different simply because the subject of inquiry exists equal to the researcher(s). • Since this is the case – that the sociologist’s subjects can communicate – it stands to reason that any social research worth its salt will seek to understand the subjective perspectives of people (that is, the interpretive elements).
  • 16. Three Ways: Critical • Rejects positivist objectivity and interpretive neutrality and focuses on the need for social change (much like Marx did). • Motivated by political activist concerns. • Empowers research participants and uses findings to give a voice to the less powerful. • Holds that all research is actually biased, but one can intentionally choose which side to be on.
  • 17. Research Methods • experiment = investigates cause/effect relationships under controlled conditions. – Uses and measures independent and dependent variables (defined earlier). – The controlled (artificial) environment allows researchers to control for other factors. – May utilize an experimental group (exposed to the IV) and a control group (given a placebo). – Subject to the Hawthorne effect = a participant’s awareness of being studied may alter their behavior.
  • 18. Research Methods • survey = has respondents respond to carefully devised questions. – respondents = those who provide data in interviews or on questionnaires. – interview = respondents are asked questions in person (often recorded by the researcher). – questionnaire = printed series of items to which subjects respond. • closed-ended = provides fixed responses. • open-ended = allows free response.
  • 19. Research Methods • field research = studying people in natural settings. –participant observation = systematic observation that occurs through actual participation within a group’s routine activities. –ethnography = a detailed account that results when the researcher organizes their field notes and publishes their experiences.
  • 20. In 1959-1960, white journalist John Howard Griffin used an experimental drug to darken his skin and traveled throughout the segregated South, passing as an African American. He published his experiences in 1961 in a book entitled Black Like Me (still available). This research project remains an extreme example of participant observation.
  • 21. Research Methods • secondary analysis = researchers use existing sources with data originally collected by others. – Includes use of “canned data.” – Saves money and time, but can be lacking quality. • EX: US Census; General Social Survey. – content analysis = systematic coding of existing forms of communication, to extract thematic data.  EX: newspapers, radio and television tapes, the internet, scripts, diaries, movies, songs, folklore, legal documents, etc.
  • 22. I love green peas! This is my favorite vegetable! There are two ways I can enjoy some green peas: 1) I can plant a garden and grow my own green peas, harvest them myself, etc.,OR 2) I can go over to Wal-Mart and just buy a can and heat them up, which is much easier. Now, the home grown way will produce the best peas, BUT it takes time, and requires me to get my hands dirty. In contrast, just buying a can of peas saves me time but I may lose some quality in the product. Sociological data works the same way. The BEST data for MY OWN study is data that I gather myself, but this takes time and often money. I can skip this by using canned data – data that is already collected and available for my use. Canned data saves time and money, but the quality of the data will not be like data I gather myself – using secondary data moves the data from “best” to “good enough.”
  • 23. Using Statistics & Graphs • Much sociological research today is reported using statistics, many of which are presented in various types of graphs. • Common Summary Measures:  percentage = a portion of 100.  mean = the average = add all values, then divide by number of values.  mode = most frequent value in a series of values.  median = midpoint in a series of values. • cross-tabulation = summarizing different data sets in a graph for the purpose of comparison. • There are different types of graphs that are used to present data.
  • 24.
  • 25. Research Ethics • Research in any discipline can be problematic and must be governed by ethical standards. A sociologist cannot just do anything he/she desires in the name of “research.” There are limits to what a researcher can do and the methods that he/she can use. • ASA Code of Ethics: 1. Maintain objectivity and integrity in research. 2. Respect the subject’s right to privacy and dignity. 3. Protect subjects from personal harm. 4. Preserve confidentiality. 5. Seek informed consent when data are collected from research participants or when behavior occurs in a private context. 6. Acknowledge research collaboration and assistance. 7. Disclose all sources of financial support. (American Sociological Association, 1997)