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Sociological Investigation: Methods of Social Research

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Suzanne Casimiro

SOC100 th September 16 Sociological Investigation: Methods of Sociological Research The Basics 1. Apply the sociological perspective – imagination, curiosity 2. Be curious and ask questions In order to answer our questions, there are many forms of “truth” – scientific truth - belief or faith – ex. religion - expert testimony - simple agreement - science (sociology) – truth is out there, we need to seek it Science as One Form of Truth - logical system that bases knowledge on direct systematic observation i. stands apart from faith, belief, or conventional wisdom - rests on empirical evidence: information we can verify by our senses by “seeing”, “hearing”, or “touching” – data collection: produce evidence to support/not support claims to our social world i. scientific truth – challenges our common sense Common Sense vs. Scientific Evidence - poor people are far more likely than rich people to break the law i. might be their common sense – sociological imagination says to question this statement: apply theory and undertake research to find evidence to support or not support the claim - most people marry because they are in love - poor people don’t want to work - can disregard common sense claims by scientific research 3 Ways to Do Sociology 1. Scientific sociology – positivist sociology a. based on systematic observations of social behaviour on the basis of empirical evidence b. positivism assumes the objective really exists, we just need to find the truth c. discover the reality by gathering those facts and figures (senses etc.) 2. Interpretive sociology a. shared values and feeling that people have and trying to study their belief system 3. Critical sociology a. like critical conflict theory – is about change and conflict intention 1. Scientific/Positivist Sociology - systematic observation of social behaviour - concept: a mental construct that represents some part of the world in a simplified form – ex. society, family, love (we mentally construct when we think of the word or object) - variable: a concept whose values change from case to case – ex. different castes i. use of variables depends on your measurement - measurement: a procedure for determining the value of a variable in a specific case – ex. can determine social class of someone by looking at their clothes, their house, their car, income, occupation, etc. How to Measure Variables - defining concepts, operationalizing a variable: specifying what one intends to measure in assigning a value to a variable i. breaking down the variable and measuring it ii. ex. large number of people: statistics/consensus (mode, median, mode) iii. can be completely arbitrary – ex. intelligence, family iv. once u have a concept, you need to measure it measurements need to be: - reliability: consistency in measurement – others repeat the study you completed, if same results, high reliability - validity: actually measuring exactly what one intends to measure i. depends on the operationalization Relationships Among Variables - cause and effect i. a relationship in which change in one variable causes change in another - types of variables: i. independent: the variable that causes the change ii. dependent: the variable that changes (its value depends upon the independent variable) - correlation i. a relationship in which two or more variables change together The Ideal of Objectivity Personal neutrality in conducting research - Max Weber said sociologists select topics that are value-relevant - but cautioned them to be value-free in their investigations i. should be doing your research without bias – need to be objective ii. to overcome bias: replication - replication, repetition by other researchers, can help science be self-correcting i. can eliminate errors, misconceptions, or biases in the previous studies – also gain knowledge Some Limitations of Scientific Sociology - human behaviour is too complex to predict precisely any individual’s actions - the mere presence of the researcher might affect the behaviour being studied - social patterns change - sociologists are part of the world they study, making value-free research is very difficult i. going out to do research has to have no preconceived notions - biases 2. Interpretive Sociology The study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their social world - sees reality as being constructed by people themselves in the course of their everyday lives - relies on qualitative data - get away from facts and
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