lecture 1+2 - research methods.doc

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20 Apr 2012
Sociological research methods
-memorize the lecture outline
-sociologists knowledge came from research… the attemptive use of the scientific method… science cannot answer all of the questions
of life, but if you want to figure out how the world works, science is the way to go… but if you are interested in ultimate issues, then you
have to look elsewhere for answers
Ultimate questions (science can’t answer these questions)
- 1.) are all ways of life equally futile, or is it possible to live a “meaningful” life?
2.) Is there an unmoved mover? (is there a god or a creator?)
3.) what happens when we die?
4.) Why is there something instead of nothing?
5.) Do we have a soul and is that soul immortal
science cannot investigate these questions because science is based on empirical (gathering facts) findings… natural facts that exist in the
world… that is why ultimate questions are called supernatural (not in this world)…metaphysical questions
science is based on collecting concrete evidence… ultimate questions (there are no facts)
-the first cause of science is the big bang… it happened 13.7 billion years ago… we detected this scientifically… the universe began 13.7
billion years ago, prior to this, there was nothing, no space, nothing… the big bang creates something… science can tell us the big bang
happened, but science CAN’T tell us what caused it.. you have to look at faith to do this; science won’t answer this… maybe religion
or philosophy can answer it if you seek
A.) science and experience… the most problem in science is experience filters (filters are perceptions)… our experiences in life shape
the way we see the world so its difficult to be objective, especially when it comes to scientific issues…
the greenhouse scandal (natural science) is called gaming the system… this happens because ideology is shaping scientific
investigation… these people are environmentalists, so there’s gotta be global warming and if there isn’t, we’ll fudge the data up to make
sure the world thinks there is a problem in earth with global warming.
-research filters perception… values filters perceptions…
-the world behaves what it ought to behave… but an ought is often a moral judgement and its very difficult to keep those out of scientific
research… (ex. of global warming people that desired global warming, so they faked data)… sociologists also want to have the world
so its very difficult to keep these ideas out of
B.) two types of sociological studies… descriptive studies (static and trend descriptive studies)…descriptive studies just describe the
world as it exists, theres no attempt to explain causally that are responsible for certain social outcomes… here is an example of a static
study: snapshot studies: there is no attempt to explain or identify the cause
-ex. of static study: collecting information to draw out the number of murders…but it doesn’t attempt to say what caused those murders
-another example: infant mortality rates (death of infant before 6 months of age)… what is the death of infant mortality in 2008… this is
a descriptive static study… another example… the population of scarborough in 2010… the number of students attending UTSC in
-descriptive trend studies: look at changes over time BUT you don’t explain them… ex. look at divorce rate over a given time period
(1952-2002)…. The divorce rate climbed from 15% to 50%... descriptive trend studies doesn’t attempt to study WHY the divorce rate
grows, you just present the facts
-second type of study is EXPLANATORY studies… explanatory studies is a study that explains… they try to identify causes and
associations… why something is taking place
Explanatory Studies
1.) The children of upper income parents are more likely to attend university
2.) “urbanites” are more likely to commit suicide than “ruralites”
3.) government funding for healthcare causes infant mortality rates to decline
4.) does the death penalty cause murder rates to decline? (is capital punishment cause murder to go down… does it act as a
Deterrent? …NO IT DOESN’T… look at America for example
5.) Does the economy influence rates of common crime? … ya it does (ex. when you have a recession, common crimes increase)
C.) Social Accounting
-descriptive studies and explanatory studies can be used to develop government policies
-so policies are called social accounting
-static descriptive and trend descriptive studies are both used for these policies
-census specializes in descriptive studies.. that’s why its against the law to refuse to fill out the census.
-ex. census says: Canadian population is aging: proportion of old people (over 65 years old) is increasing relative to everybody else….
This trend started after WW2
reasons for this…a.) people are living longer…developing societies are aging societies, underdeveloped societies don’t have this…b.) its
also aging because of what happened after WW2, during the war hundreds of thousands of young Canadian men were fighting in the East
against Japan and in Europe against Germany; young men were overseas, and young women were left by themselves, and then when
boys come back home, there’s babies everywhere… the baby boom happened.. the proportions of babies relative to population increased
dramatically, and demographers (sociologists that study population) called this a population bulge…so it was a very young society back
then… so this was very good for business that make diapers, and baby clothes… but these babies eventually become children and then
you need to build primary schools… so this population bulge moves through the life cycle, now these baby boomers are getting old,
that’s why we have an aging society… in fact UTSC was made to accommodate the baby boomers when they were in university
so this is how they influence policies… the Canadian pension plan is going broke (in USA its called social security…) because you have
a large number of people drawing money out of the system due to these baby boomers
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-so if nothing is done by the time OUR age gets there, the system will go broke, so it has to be fixed… so what descriptive studies tell us
here is before the fact that the CPP is going to go broke…. So what is the remedy for this???... our contributions to the CPP will have to
D.) Building blocks of sociological research
-moving from micro (narrow) to the macro… from the specific to the general (and comprehensive)
-we will start from the micro and move up to macro… at the very bottom and very first thing is: concepts
concepts: label that scientists use to identify similar processes and things
-frank senotra was the first performer to develop concept albums and matt king cole (first black pop culture superstar) also made concept
albums… concept albums means a bunch of songs that fit a particular concept
pink flloyd… all of their albums are concept albums… for instance, the wall is a concept album… the concept is alienation
alienation (covering concept
meaninglessness (these four are sub-concept)
social isolation
Social class (covering concept)
Occupation (these three are sub-concepts)
-variable is a concept that varies in time and space from one person or place to another… are sociological research uses concepts (narrow
and specific) and they also use variables… variables attach values (numerical values) to the concepts… you cant do research unless you
vary a concept… so you vary the values (MANIPULATE the values)… income, education are all variables because you can change the
values of these concepts to see the outcome
-gender, sex, age are all concepts
-operationalization: researchers establish criteria for assigning values to variables so that they can be MEASURED.
-after variables, we get into hypothesis
-hypothesis: a sociological explanation that states a relationship between two or more variables… all hypothesis (even when proven
are tentative (its not written in stone, we don’t accept them forever)… they may be disproved at any time… scientific society accepts
this, except for global warming people
another word for tentative is provisional (a hypothesis is never confirmed as once and for all)… you have to be prepared to have the
hypothesis be proved wrong at any given time
-hypothesis must be stated clearly and concisely
-developing and coming up with a hypothesis is based on intelligent guesswork (you have an intuition, or a hunch for an idea)… but
there is knowledge and experience behind the guesswork
Examples of Hypothesis:
1.) the greater the degree of poverty, the greater the rate of common crime
2.) low prestige individuals are more likely to defer (give way) to high prestige individuals
3.) males commit most violent crimes
-after we come to empricial generations
-once hypothesis is confirmed over and over again (ex. there are more than 100 of studies that confirm the third point that males commit
most violent crime), it becomes an empirical generalizations (EGs) and we become more confident in these EGs… we become more
confident in the findings because so many studies have come up with the same thing, but even so, we don’t treat them to be absolute
truth, they are still provisional… this is the rule of science
-global warming people call anyone that doesn’t believe in global warming a holocaust denier
Empirical Generalizations
1.) the higher the income of parents, the higher the educational achievement of offspring (this conclusion has come up over and
over again in different studies, so we have a high level of confidence for this data)
2.) The narrower the division of labour, the higher the level of work alienation (they become detached from work and commit
sabotage at work, and absences is high, work quality is poor)
3.) suicide rates are higher in urban locations than in rural locations
-after empirical generalization, it is sociological theory (this is more general)
-a good theory is more comprehensive (it will account for other findings) and a deeper explanation of the EG…it tries to tell you why
this relationship continues to persist between each other… a deeper explanation
- suicide rates are higher in urban locations than in rural locations… this is a EG (example number 3).. so a theory would go deeper into
this…durkheims theory of social solidarity and the ego provide a deeper explanation of EG number 3… durkheim says that a healthy ego
needs social support provided by social integration… social integration is when people and groups provide moral support for each
other…in the city, social integration is weaker than it is in rural cities… so the ego receives less support in the city; people are isolated
and alone.. durheim calls this anomie.. in a rural area, the presence of anomie, you are well known and your family is well known in a
rural area… in the city, people are anonymous (you are an unknown quantity; a stranger…nobody knows you)…
david reisemen had a book called the lonely crowd… in the city, there are millions of people and you are socially isolated
-when you interact in the big city, the probability is that exchange of interaction is impersonal (you relate to people relative to status to
what they hold)… interactions in cities are buying and selling… ex. ttc bus driver treats you as a fare and no more than that… or you
may be a customer… this interaction is detached and impersonal stereotypes (stereotypes is highly predictable)… theres no human
communication…. Interactions are also instrumental … you interact with them not because you care or like them, but you do so because
it is necessary to do so… you have instrumental interaction with prof. mckinnon… we interact with prof. mckinnon due to statuses
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