Research Methods and Ethics
Kinds of research questions being asked depends on the kind of theoretical perspective from
which you're working
o Ex. A functionalist is interested in the smooth functioning of society, and may be concerned
with how families socialize children into their appropriate social roles; may pose the
research question: What are the consequences of changing family forms for the smooth
running of society?
Conflict theorists might be concerned with how families cope with current economic strains
o Symbolic interactionists may be interested in how immigrant families negotiate a sense of
identity in their new surroundings (microsociological approach)
Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Knowledge and Reasoning
Quantitative: numerical data. Statistical programs.
Qualitative: non numerical data
o Involves converting aspects of social life into numbers and determining if relationships exist
between sets of numbers
o Data can be obtained using surveys
o If the relationship co relates we need to reduce the probability that chance is describing
what we're seeing. Real explanations can be generalised to the population
Results are comparative to other studies
o Focus is on detail, tend to have smaller samples and are generally more expensive
o Uses interviewing and observation to obtain data. Non numerical data
o How things work, why things work
o Smaller sample sizes
o All kinds of research instruments - techniques and tools
Systems of Reasoning
Researchers use inductive logic and deductive logic
Inductive Logic: moves from data to theory
o Gathers information about a topic before developing theories about how to explain it.
Often used by those with a qualitative approach
Deductive logic: moves from theory to hypotheses for testing
o Researchers develop a theory to explain or predict a pattern, then they test the theory to
see if their prediction was correct
o Often used by those with a quantitative approach
Essential Research Concepts
o Hypothesis: tentative statement about a particular relationship that can be tested
empirically. Based on theory
Ex. Students who go to class get better grades. Independent and Dependent Variables
o Variables: used to measure relationships between objects, people or groups of people.
o Variables are measurable
o Independent variables: can be manipulated by researchers to determine effect
o Dependent variable: the reaction of the participants to the manipulation
o Operational definition: description of how the variable is measured.
Validity and Reliability
o Validity: accuracy of a given measurement. If a measurement is valid, it is accurately
measuring the concept
o Reliability: consistency of a given result.
o It is possible for a measurement to be reliable (consistently yielding the same results) but
not valid (not accurately measuring the concept).
Correlation and Causality
o Correlation: relationship between two variables ranging from weak to strong. Measure of
how strongly two variable are related to each other.
o Causality: one variable causes a change in the other variable.
o Spurious correlation: occurs when one variable seems to produce a change in the other
variable, but in reality the correlation is false.
o Correlation does not imply causality!
Which participants are needed to answer the research question
o Research population: group of people that a researchers wishes to learn something about
o A sample is drawn from the research population
Random sample often used in quantitative studies; means every person has an equal
chance of being selected for participation
o If the sample is representative of the larger population being studied, the results from the
sample can be applied to the larger population
o Smaller, non random samples associated with qualitative research yield in depth, detailed
data not typically seen in larger quantitative studies.
Surveys: research method in which respondents answer pre-set questions
o Often used in large scale research projects
o Well suited to ask about what people think, not about why people think
o Should be valid: measuring what we think it's measuring
o Should be reliable: get a consistent response.
o Pre set questions
o Before you can generalise the results you must make sure the survey is using a large
enough representative random sample
o Self Administered Questionnaires:
Can be mailed to prospective participants
Tend to be used in quantitative research
Lists possible answers to close ended questions
Well known: Census of Population (Canada).
o Telephone Surveys
Works the same way as a questionnaire
Hard time getting lists of people in communities, phonebooks aren't reliable because
many people rely on cell phones. Cuts out certain people. Advantage: respondents can speak directly with a researcher if they have questions
o In Person Survey
Allows researcher to provide clarification or answer questions
Very expensive, rarely done
Interviews: involves researcher asking participants a series of questions, may be structured, semi
structured or unstruct