Sept. 12 – Research Methods
In the final stage of the research cycle, when you are 1.
presenting your results, you are subjecting them to peer- Formulate
review. These individuals are analyzing the findings on the
basis of the value of your contribution. 6. Report 2. Lit
5. Analyze 3. Select
The terminology used is interchangeable with other disciplines; the only difference is the methods used
Some of the important key terms that are applicable to the sociological field are:
(1) Variable: A concept that can take on more than one value.
o E.g. gender (male or female), type of crime (murder, homicide, etc.)
There are two kinds of variables:
o Independent variable: The presumed cause in a cause-and-effect relationship.
o Dependent variable: The presumed effect in a cause-and-effect relationship.
An example of this would be that of divorce. The question can be: does divorce have an effect
on children? Divorce would be the independent variable and the children the dependent.
If we think of this in terms of x and y, x is independent and y the dependent.
When we look at a relationship, if you can say that X causes Y, this is called CAUSATION.
There is a clear relationship in which one can observe the direct affect X has on Y. On the other hand, there are also other relationships known as CORRELATION (or association) in
which there is some kind of relationship evident between X and Y but you cannot definitively say
that one causes the other; they are correlated.
For example, say you were to test how the hours spent on Facebook may have negatively
affected students’ GPAs, you cannot say for sure that the hours spent on Facebook may be the
direct cause of the lowered GPA. You can just say that you notice a correlation between the two.
The reason being is because other factors could be at play, i.e. maybe it just so happens that
students with low GPAs spend a lot of time on Facebook (not the other way around), etc.
In sociology, we tend to establish correlations rather than causation relationships. This is
because there are many factors in the social world making it hard for sociologists to isolate the
(2) Population: The entire group about which the researcher wants to generalize.
Sample: The part of the population of interest that is selected for analysis.
How do you sample (or go from a sample to population)?
(1) Probability sampling – this is when all individuals have an equal probability of being picked
at random to be involved
(2) Non-probability sampling – this process is not random. The one conducting the experiment
orchestrates who he/she wants to be a part of the sample.
Covered in the Textbook Other sociological methods
- Experiments - Content analysis (qual and quant)
- Surveys - Historical-comparative
- Field research - Ethnography
- Analysis of existing documents and - Secondary analysis