SOCI 1002 E
Foundations of Sociology
Week 3: How Sociologists do Research
Ordinary Human Inquiry
• Uses causal and probabilistic reasoning.
• Tradition & authority: provides us with starting points, but should not be the end.
Errors in Inquiry
• Inaccurate observations (mind doesn’t focus on exact tone of voice, colour of shirt etc).
• Overgeneralization (based on experience and comes to a conclusion too quickly).
• Selective observation (ignores certain findings).
• Illogical reasoning.
• Science is about going beyond tradition and authority (using them just as a starting
• Science is about: 1. logic (theory) and 2. observations (methods).
• Study of social regularities: aims to find patterns of regularity in social life.
• Study of aggregates: create theories about the aggregate behaviour of many individuals.
• Language of attributes (characteristics of people of things i.e. male or female) &
variables (logical grouping of attributes i.e. gender).
• Idiographic: explaining one case in great detail.
• Nomothetic: explaining a set of cases using a handful of factors. • Inductive thinking: moves from particular observations to the general.
• Deductive thinking: moves from the general to a specific.
• Quantitative versus qualitative: a lot of information versus in depth information.
• Pure research: foremost interested in understanding (wants to understand why, etc)
• Applied research: foremost interested in application (wants to apply knowledge you
Approaches to Science
• Objectivity: observation of the world isn’t influenced by theory or assumptions – “We all
see the same thing”.
• Subjectivity: observation of the world is influenced by theory or assumptions – “You don’t
• Premodern view Modern view Postmodern view (moves away from objectivity as the
Values in Research
• Stage one: researchers’ values help them decide which problems are worth
• Stage two: values lead to theories for interpreting problems.
• Stage three: interpretations are influenced by previous research.
• Stage four: methods used to gather data mould perceptions.
• Values Theories Previous Research Methods “Reality”
i. Define the problem
ii. Review existing research literature
iii. Formulate research question (something you can answer)
iv. Operationalize v. Select research method (survey, interview, focus group, field work, experiments,
vi. Collect data
vii. Analyze data
viii. Develop the conclusion (only in university does research actually end, reflect on
what was written and explain where we need to go next)
• How are researchers going to look at and research these concepts?
• Measurements: uses mental constructs or concepts (e.g. race, class, gender)
• Procedure by which researchers establish criteria for assigning values to variables –
How are you measuring the concept? What counts and what does no