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Science and Social Research

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Mary Jo Nadeau

SOC221 Sept 15 th Science & Social Research: Debates on Knowledge Sociology and Social Research Sociology - to develop a better understand (analysis) of how society works and how individuals, groups, communities and institutions are active in shaping the social world Social Research (Research Methods) - the techniques and theory used within sociology to investigate the social world Knowledge Production Process – How do we learn about the social world?  seek to understand: question or idea  identify possible knowledge sources  gather information from sources  interpret or make sense of the information  tell, relay, report knowledge  Sources of Knowledge – Making Truth Claims - personal experience - experts, people in authority - tradition (authority of the past) - common sense (general knowledge) - mass media - research Common Knowledge Errors - overgeneralization - selective observation - premature closure - halo effect (overestimating expertise) - misinformation or disinformation - prejudice - contradiction social research: a structured, organized and systematic process for producing and acquiring knowledge about the social world Data, Methods, Methodology data: empirical evidence (observations experienced in/directly through senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste, etc.) - gathered according to established rules of procedures methods: “tools in the toolbox” - specific data collection and analysis procedures and techniques methodology: set of rules and procedures that indicate how research is to be properly conducted 2 Types of Social Research 1. quantitative - numerical data - numbers and statistics 2. qualitative - non-numerical data - words, images, meanings Social Research Methods 2. qualitative (non-numerical) 1. quantitative (numerical) - interviews - experiments - focus groups - surveys - field research - content analysis - content/discourses analysis - existing statistics - historical (archives, oral history) - historical comparative Linear Research Path (quantitative) - fixed sequence of steps - unidirectional (start to finish) 8 Steps 1. select topic 2. focus research question, define variables 3. state hypothesis (testable cause-effect relationships) 4. design study 5. collect data 6. analyze data; test hypotheses 7. report outcomes 8. replicate research study Non-Linear Research Path (qualitative) - 2 models; Seven Step and Spiral Seven Step Model 1. select topic 2. focus question 3. design study 4. collect data 5. analyze data 6. interpret data 7. inform others Approaches or Paradigms - “lens” - “framework” - “epistemological approach” - an integrated set of assumptions, beliefs, models of doing research, and techniques for gathering and analyzing data 3 Major Approaches to Social Science Research – What counts as knowledge? - positivist: associated with quantitative research and the ideal of scientific objectivity - interpretive: associated with qualitative
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