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1st Lecture Note: How Sociologists Conduct Research

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Mc Kinon

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1 st
Lecture: How Sociologists Do Research Jan 13th 2010
-Sociology knowledge comes from research; have to use scientific method
-Scientific method used by several social sciences
-Cant answer all the questions using scientific method (e.g. ultimate questions..Is it
possible to live a meaningful life? Who caused the Big Bang Theory?)
-Ultimate questions: beyond the capability of science to answer, dont lend themselves to
empirical knowledge (attaining knowledge through facts)
-Stephen Hawkins: states the universe was created from nothing
-Past experience filter the way you see the world (e.g. education, class, culture); culture is
selective perception lets you select some things and filter other things
-Experience helps us determine how we perceive reality and what we see and whether we
can see it or not (e.g. Inuit can see different types of snow)
Filtering in Sociological Research
Stage 1: values helps determine which stages are worth investigating
Stage 2: Values lead researchers to formulate and adopt favored theories for
interpreting and explaining those problems (e.g. leftism : political way of seeing the
world-youre more likely to use conflict theory which focuses on inequality,
conservative will use functionalism (harmony, how necessary it is for society to stick
together, symbolic interactionists dont believe in free will)
Stage 3: Researchers interpretations are influenced by previous research
Stage 4: Methods used shape your data ( different results for participant observation
and survey)
-can never get rid of bias (values, theories, methods, previous research) => they all shape
-our biases allow us to draw incorrect conclusions
- Two types of sociological studies are descriptive and explanatory
Descriptive Static Studies: describes, tells you what exists, can be trend studies
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