SOCB05 – Lecture 7 – June 27 2013
Theory and Ethics
Paradigms, Theory and Research
Hard because we don’t know if the pattern is something that is really
happening or if it is a flux
The Role of Research in Science
Theories seek to provide explanations for observed patterns
Theories are linked to the explanatory objective of scientific research.
Answering the why question of social phenomenon
3 Functions of Theory
Prevents us from being fooled by flukes
Makes sense of observed patterns in ways that can suggest other possibilities
Theories can shape and direct research efforts. Certain theories wont allow
you to see certain observations.
Why is Theory Useful?
Can provide complex and comprehensive conceptual understandings of things
that cannot be easily pinned down
A lens through which we can critically examine …
But what if I don’t want to “explain” ?
Explanation, Description and Exploratory = 3 Purposes of research
Therefore research is NOT ALWAYS linked to theory.
Fundamental frames of reference used to organize observations
Collections of theories which can share common underlying assumptions,
values, and views of social realities.
Bigger than a theory.
Neither true nor false. It’s just a different way of seeing the world.
Often hard to recognize because they are implicit, assumed, or taken for
Some focus their attention on aggregate numbers of individuals and society at
large -> Macrotheoretical
Others take a more individual approach to society -> Microtheoretical
The Major Paradigms
o Looking to verify things, and believe that there is an objective truth
that they can find
o Believe in scientific knowledge.
o Leads to quantitative studies. Mainly experimental or quasi-
o Example: Like how Biology and Chemistry seek to find truth about
Interpretivism o Looking to understand and interpret phenomenon. Doesn’t see
anything as being objective, but that there is different approaches and
realities to everything.
o Reality doesn’t have a single truth, but it does have a co-created
dimension because everyone can see it different.
o Leads to qualitative studies.
o Example: They wouldn’t say that a desk is just a desk. They would
talk about each different angle that it could be looked at.
Critical Theory / Conflict Theory
o Looking to emancipate. Views what is real as historical in nature but
shaped by outside sources.
o Tends to have studies that leads to examples of values or local values.
Issues in Theory Construction
Paradigms: Provide ways of looking at life and are grounded in sets of
assumptions about the nature of reality. Seeks to explain what you have seen.
o Offers a way of looking.
Theories: Systematic sets of interrelated statements intended to explain some
aspect of life. Flush out and specify paradigms.
o Offers a way of explaining.
Elements of a Theory
Attempts to systematically explain observations.
Axioms: An assertion taken to be true on which a theory is
Example: “Everyone desires material comforts”
Postulates: A specific conclusion among the concepts that are
derived from our axioms
Hypothesis: A specific testable expectation about the empirical
reality that you are observing
Null hypothesis: Testing to see that no relationship
Easier to reject than support.
Theory -> Hypothesis -> Observation -> Confirmation/Rejection
General to Specific
Observation -> Pattern -> Tentative Hypothesis -> Theory
Moves from specific observations to broader generalizations and then
Common in exploratory and qualitative research.
Ethical Issues for Social Researchers Ethics is REALLY important, because social research is based on human
subjects. Without the people, social research wouldn’t be possible.
Ethics and Social Research
Ethical concerns in scientific research gained importance after the 1950s,
before that they got away with a lot that wouldn’t have been allowed today.
Came in response to:
o Medical experimentation on human subjects.
Example: Giving LSD to people to see what happens.
o Social experiments post-WWII attempting to explain violence in
Why Care About Ethics?
Physical, psychological, legal and professional harm to participants.
Funding opportunities tied to ethical standards.
Types of Ethical Concerns
Collection of New Data
Use of Secondary Data
o Example: Peopl