Introductory Methods Review
What is social science?-The study of the influence the environment has on people as
individuals or groups. E.g trading places.
-3 paradigms are conflict theory, structural functionalism and symbolic interactionism.
These perspectives are important because they help you learn more about yourself and
people, but contemporary theorists now value research more.
-Founding fathers are Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim.
Conflict Theory-Looks at conflict among conflicting groups, mostly discussed in class
struggles. The ultimate result is to have total equality of everyone.
Structural Functionalism-Everything in society serves a specific function, if something
no longer has a function by consensus people will rule it out. Not everyone should be equal
but they should have the same opportunities to be equal.
Symbolic Interactionism- Abstract and focuses more on an individual level. Looks at the
meanings behind peoples behaviour and peoples perceptions of reality. Qualitative.
Theory-General assertion/claim about something. Then we need a hypothesis. E.g.
Students from Guelph are smarter than students from other universities.
Quantitative-Modes in which to acquire data are experiments or survey research.
Experimental Designs-Controlled environment modeled after the natural sciences. 3stages,
Pretest (often irrelevant), Treatment (Apply the experiment to one thing/group), Posttest
(results we get that we can compare).
e.g. Theory-Drug reduces cancer cells
Hypothesis-Cancer cells exposed to the drug will deteriorate.
Pretest-measure size of cells
Treatment-Put some cells is 1 dish, more in another, apply treatment to one cell. Cover
dishes to prove nothing else has influenced the cells.
Posttest-Measure size of cells again and see that the treatment one has gone smaller.
Conclusion-does reduce cancer cells; controlled experiment.
Social experiement-60s psychological experiment on feelings of happiness. Have 3
groups, MPT, SC and control group.
Theory-MPT and SC increase happiness
Hypothesis-Groups 1 and 2 will be happier than group 3
Pretest- see how happy they feel in a 5min period
Treatment- Administer MPT, SC and water
Posttest- See how happy they were in a 5 min period.
Survey Research-Most research by sociologists and psychologists is surveys
-No manipulation of subjects, popular methods are by phone, mail, personal interview,
internet etc. Each person on the survey represents a variable.
-Advantages-Tap into attitudes, easy to administer to large numbers of people, very
generalizable to the population.
-Disadvantages-Lack of control, e.g. people are already in the groups you didnt put them
there. Variable-Anything that varies; has more than one category. E.g. you ask a question and
there is more than 1 possible answer, question is a variable.
Quantitative variable-Continuous (can be ranked), numerical. Helps in assessing
relationships (correlations). E.g. Education (years of schooling) vs. income (dollars)
Categorical (Qualitative) Variable-No rank order and non-numerical. E.g., religion.
Independent Variable-Causal variablescome first
Dependant variable-Effect variabledepends on the independent.
Correlation-shows how 2 variables are related. Plotted on a scatter plot where each dot
represents a particular person.
Positive-One value increases the other increases
Negative-One value increases the other decreases
Line-No correlation, the 2 variables are unrelated.
Scatter plots-Important when exploring a relationship between 2 variables. Helps us
identify problem cases, form of the relationship, estimate strength of relationship.
Correlation Coefficient- Can only be used when relationship is linear. It tells us the
strength of the relationship and the direction but does not tell us the slope of a line. Shown
- -1 (perfect negative relationship), +1 (perfect positive relationship), 0 (no relationship)
Outliers-represent a-typical observations you wouldnt normally see. 1 spot or person that
doesnt fit with the general correlation. Can either accept it as an unusual part of the data
and leave it in, may be a coding error so check figures, you may want to remove it at your
discretion (usually smaller samples).
Issue of Causality-Correlation doesnt mean causation. We infer a causal relationship
based on our understanding of the temporal relationships between variables (what occurs in
Assigning causal order-Can be problematic because A could cause B, B could cause A or
a third external factor could cause both. Only an issue with cross-sectional studies. Can be
helped by doing extensive research and good theorizing.
Spurious relationship-Two variables that are seemingly related are actually controlled by
a third unknown variable.
Is relationship significant?-Check line of best fit and the scattering of plots. Higher the
correlation the stronger the relationship.
-Check likelihood/probability in the form of p-values
Common p-value thresholds- p=.05, 95% confident variables are related
P=.01, 99% confident the variables are related, p=.001, 99.9% confident variables are
Stats vs. Maths-Never use the word prove because the sample could just be bizarre, things
arent proven just demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt. Looks just at relationships and
estimate of the population.
Statistical Control-not as good as experimental control (this is the goal). Question if we
have controlled for everythingvirtually impossible to control for everything.
Regression Analysis-Deciding whether or not the effect of an independent variable on a
dependant variable is statistically significant, while holding other variables constant.Qualitative Research-Do not generate theories, but, test theories using methods.
-Non-linear process often move between stages of creating a theory and changing the
-Most preferred as it discusses sensitive issues, establishes rapport with participants (trust)
and you are not restricted by a research agenda. Much more open.
-doesnt use statistics.
-Methods are qualitative interviews and participant observation.
Qualitative Interviews-Open ended questions which allows for a variety of answers,
respondents own words. Research then has opportunity to probe because of trust, lets
research explore different areas and can be done anywhere.
Advantages-Provide rich, descriptive, detailed information, sensitive topics.
Disadvantages-Time consuming, expensive, depends on the effectiveness of the researcher.
Participant Observation-Observe and participate with people in their natural setting.
Grounded theory-Theories are grounded in the data they collect, very exploratory with no
variables. Study the group with no pre-determined theories.
Strengths-Usually more fascinating groups, usually go in with little knowledge so no
assumptions. More valid because its more thorough. More generalizable to the real world
(that group only!)
Limitations-More subjective (based on researchers pov), difficult to generalize beyond the
group you observed.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative-Quantitative tests theories, objective, free from bias, reliable,
but is less thorough and less valuable to sensitive issues.
-Qualitative creates theories,