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Chapter 20-Research Methods Apr 1 2009

Course Code
Sheldon Ungar

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April 1st, 2009
Chapter 20: Research Methods
x Only evidence relevant to theoretical ideas is useful in social research
x Sociological study= sound theory/careful methods
x The social practice of science is influenced by subjectivity
x Science As A Social Practice
o If our perceptions of reality can be affected by our values, then how can scientists know for certain that what
they see if true?
o Good research= minimize the types of errors that have been attributed from evidence
x Minimizing Bias In Social Science
o Scientists trained= minimize the influence of their personal values/expectations on the results of their work
o Objectivity: the attempt to minimize the effect of personal bias on research results or the idea of impartiality
x Scientific vs. Non-Scientific Thinking
o N- observations
o Public scrutiny/skeptical reasoning
o S- doctrine of certainty, observations based on well rounded methods, set of practices/procedures for testing
knowledgeable claims
x Natural vs. Social Science
o Both explain help understand/explain why certain patterns emerge
o Nat- we think, act, reason, decide
o SS- we study ourselves (now/then)
o Meaningful Action: human action; as distinct from physical behaviour, occurs with specific intentions or reasons
on mind
Methods of Social Research
x Explanation
o Explanation: an account of the casual logic that shows how and why variables influence one another
o Be adequate if it could show how the cause affects the effect
o Causation: involves a relationship between two variables where change or variation in one variable produces
change or variation in a second variable- Variables: association, time ordering, nonspuriousness, theoretical
o Spuriousness: an incorrect inference about the casual relations between variables
o There is hardly ever a single cause-for anything
o Multiple causes are involved in social scientific explanations- unitary cause rarely proves sufficient
o Ex: family-school situation
x Understanding
o Understanding: the ability to provide a definition of a situation that members of a culture find authentic and
o The full appreciation for an activity requires understanding and explanation (ex: dropping out of school-
explanations of high school dropout rates ignores the attitudes/values= one sided report, appreciation of the
experience of the student who drops out is essential to a more complete account)
Techniques of Social Research
x Experiments
o Experiments: controlled test of the casual effects of a particular variable or set of variables on a dependent or
outcome variable
o Randomization: a procedure used in experiments to assign test subjects to experimental conditions on the basis
of chance (ex: flipping coin to chose positions in experiment)
o Hypothesis: an unverified but testable knowledge claim
o Ex: ethnicity affects behaviour in social interaction
o Variables: something that varies or an attribute or event that can take on more than one value (ex:
unemployment rates, age, sex)
o Independent Variable: a variable that is presumed to affect or influence other variables; casual variable
o Dependent Variable: a variable that is assumed to depend on or be caused by one or more other variables;
variable that is the effect/outcome, in a cause effect relationship
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