Sociological Research


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Sociological Research

  1. 1. Introduction to Sociology: Sociological Methods
  2. 2. The Development of Social Science ● Ancient philosophy was the precursor to what we call “science” today – It included some data collection, but was more reliant on introspection ● What we call science today developed over thousands of years – particularly during the enlightenment – into an empirical process ● This is often referred to as “The Scientific Method”
  3. 3. The Scientific Method ● Characterization (operationalization or quantification, observation and / or measurement) ● Hypothesis (a theoretical, hypothetical explanation of the observations and / or measurements) ● Prediction (logical deduction from the hypothesis or logical induction from the data) ● Experiment (test and / or discussion of all of the above; in the social sciences, true experiments are often replaced with a different form of data analysis that will be discussed in more detail below)
  4. 4. Correlation and Causation
  5. 5. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Sociology ● Quantitative sociology is generally a numerical approach to understanding human behavior. Surveys with large numbers of participants are aggregated into data sets and analyzed using statistics, allowing researchers to discern patterns in human behavior. ● Qualitative sociology generally opts for depth over breadth. The qualitative approach uses in-depth interviews, focus groups, or analysis of content sources (books, magazines, journals, TV shows, etc.) as the data source.
  6. 6. Objective vs. Critical vs. Subjective ● While sociologists use methods that attempt objectivity, they still have biases. ● Sociologists' biases influence: – The selection of a research topic (this selection reveals something the author believes is important whether or not it is) – The selection of data (this selection reveals data the author believes is reliable whether or not it is) ● Sociologists can also be critical in their perspective, arguing for change.
  7. 7. Ethics ● Since sociologists study humans, we must be extra cautious in designing our studies ● Tuskegee syphilis experiment ● Institutional Review Boards – informed consent, confidentiality, anonymity, minimized risk, limited harm, benefits outweigh costs
  8. 8. What Can Sociology Tell Us? ● human behavior is complex, making prediction - especially at the individual level - difficult or even impossible ● the presence of researchers can affect the phenomenon being studied (Hawthorne Effect) ● society is constantly changing, making it difficult for sociologists to maintain current understandings; in fact, society might even change as a result of sociological investigation (for instance, sociologists testified in the Brown v. Board of Education decision to integrate schools) ● it is difficult for sociologists to strive for objectivity and handle the subjective components of scientific practice - especially when the phenomena they study is also part of their social life