Lecture 2, May 17, 2012
Ways of understanding the social world
Today we have a substantive lecture on how to do research? Tools and
techniques how to do research.
The question the researcher asks before they begin their research. More specific in
this lecture we are going to look at the Dialectics of research as well the theories
or the paradigms that you should think about before you start working on your
Dialectics of Social Research: are the tensions that you need to think about before
conducting your research project. So it is the tensions in terms of the data that a
researcher is going to gather, the types of theory that they are using and the types of
explanation(reasoning) that they use, it is the types questions and tensions that you
have to resolve before you begin your project.
Social Science Paradigms (social research paradigm): the types of theories that
you might include in your research project might be large scale theory like
paradigms, so thinking about the words of paradigm (recall first year sociology) or
you can take paradigm use it as macro level theory and use a specific micro level
theory as well.
Overview of Dialectics of research:
1. The level of theory, that is a tensions you have to resolve, because you have to
chose whether you want to use micro level theory or Macro level theory.
2.Types of Reasoning: this is another tension because you need to resolve whether
you want to use induction or deduction.
1 3. Types of Epistemology: the tension to resolve whether you sue Interpretavist vs.
Positivist. (recall lecture 1 for the definitions)
4. Types of Explanation ; the tension that need to be resolves is whether to use
Idiographic (looking at specific case) or Nomothetic (looking at more than 1 case
or a class of cases and try to come up with an explanation).
5. Methods to Collect Data: the tension that is debated ongoing in the research
world whether to use Qualitative or Quantitative data. A lot of time once you make
the decision on whether to go qualitative or Quantitative all of the other tension that
are highlighted here before resolve themselves.
Why we need Theory (Reviewed in detail in lecture 1)?
Theory: “A systematic explanation for the observations that relate to a particular
aspect of life” (BB 13). It is a good way in which to to frame our research also a good
way in which we interpret our data or observations. So, Why theory? Why is this
course a method course and methodology course, where the emphasis is on data
and data collection. The reason is because when we have theory, it prevents us from
focusing on trends occurrences recall from the first lecture the discussion about non
scientific inquiry ant its limitation one of the important limitation of Non Scientific
inquiry is that you might focus on some parts of data that seem interesting to you or
you might overgeneralize, or you might become biased. A theory helps you get
around the bias, not to say that theory prevents you from becoming bias because a
lot of the times when you make that decision about your theory it kind of really does
framework your interpretation as well as a project as a whole. Some people might
argue that if you make your choice about a theory you might be bias in your choice
2 but what a theory does it helps you to look at data in systematic way. So evven if you
are biased, you are looking in the data in a systematic way within that. Example:
Assume someone is a Feminist scholar and want to look at the dynamics of
household so who takes care of the children within the household? The scholar's
research might be framed by Feminist theory, which helps him/her to look in a very
systematic way in all the cases that s/he is interested. This does not mean that s/he
is not biased. A theory does not prevent you from being biased but it helps you get
through the research, by virtue of the fact a person who says the s/he is Feminist
and is looking at the that particular literature that person is looking probably for
something to do with gender, some sort of gender inequality is probably presumed,
so, a theory does not prevent you from being biased but it give you tool to be
systematic about your work. So with a theory a researcher can say that s/he is
looking at a particular issue “child bearing issue” the researcher is looking at
dynamics and specifically interactions and how inequalities are created through
interaction so the researcher can be explicit about that but that does not mean that
s/he is biased about that topic.
When researcher use theory: they give a framework of what to look for. Once a
researcher have a theory and determine what example interest them, then the can
Zero in on the patterns of the data that they are interested in. assume you believe
that “inequalities in child bearing results from different interactions that people
have in their house” assume that this is your theory, you can take this than this
theory to find data and pattern that data. The theory help zero in patterns that a
researcher should be looking for, and also once you find the patterns it helps you
3 make some logical sense about it. For instance Can you say that your theory is
supported can you add to the theory, can you make further theoretical contribution
to the field.
Tension 1 Levels of Theory
Micro level Theory: that is dealing with individuals. (interaction between people).
In the example of the theory about inequality in child bearing. If a researcher look at
the interaction within the families the researcher is using micro theory.
Micro theory example: Goffman, wrote about the way we represent ourselves. When
we try to engage in an interaction often times we put our best face forward
(impression management)Backstage and front stage [Professor in front of the class
pretend smart and dress semi dress (front stage) where the professor lay on the
beach and read a book in casual clothes and do things what she likes (back stage)].
Goffma argued that people are always managing back and front stage. Research
about the Facebook statutes updates, researcher are trying to research what sort of
messages people try to put of themselves, how do people present themselves
“impression management,” assuming that sometimes when people go and try to
update their Facebook statuses they are trying to appear very cool, appear that, “I
do not care whether others like their status or not because this is just me” or some
times people go and paint beautiful life of themselves that they may or may not live
up to such as this “…had such an awesome bachelorette weekend! Love my girls!
Too much to drink…hungover. Fml!” this is actually someone’s Facebook, What
image wants the person want you to get from that, free spirited social life, I have a
cool life and I am young. How we can look through these statuses is t through micro
4 level theories, What will be interested in researching this is to look at the individual
level, Goffman theory is very important.
Macro level theory; focuses at structure. Focus on society as a whole and
interaction with other societies. Assume in the example the theory about
inequalities in child bearing, if the researcher says that the inequality in child
bearing is the result of patriarchy within the society, s/he is using a macro level
theory. (the moment a researcher talk about structure s/he is talking about a macro
level theory. Example: World system theory illustrates a macro level theory at world
level. Other example will be governments or the map on slide 8 illustrates “Who are
the core countries versus the semi peripheral and versus who are the peripheral
countries. The core constitutes of countries in which people have a lot of power and
money the periphery are basically countries who rely or depend on those rich
countries for survival.
Tension 2 Is the tension of Reasoning.
In general there are 2 types of reasoning. And reasoning is directly related to theory
construction, that directly inform the types of theory that we will use to guide our
research and the type of theory that you will form as a result of the research.
Induction usually used in qualitative research (not always). You start with a
specific question but you do not go with a clear theory in mind in to the field not
having a theory really in mind. The point is, the researcher is hoping that through
engaging research in the field, through looking at the data that arise from the field
you might be able to come up with a theory. (ground up). There are 6 steps in
induction reasoning, Goal: developing hypotheses, and so, new theories
5 1. Specific (non-causal) research question
3. Analyze patterns
4. Repeat #2 and #3 as needed, as new puzzles arise
5. Develop a tentative conclusion about research question
6. Develop a theory “grounded” in observation (grounded theory)
Assume you are doing a project “about immigrant incorporation or specifically
immigrant economic incorporation,” and you want to do an inductive research you
start off and you really do not know what theory you are going to use and you want
to see what data are out there and what theory can come out with, but you do have a
question that guides your research and that question is “what are the trends in
economic incorporation so how are they doing economically immigrants”? If you use
induction as a way of constructing theory, what you will do is that you first will have
this question in mind and then you go into the field, assume that you will be going
into the field by interviewing people, once you start interviewing and you
transcribed your interview meaning that you type out your interview, then you look
at them more clearly, you start to analyze the data. Point number 3 is analyzing the
pattern of the data, lets say you say in this step of research at least that immigrants
that are interviewed do not make a lot of money compared to the main stream.
Assume this is something that you see. In this process of analyses you look at the
interviews more closely and compare and as question is that a lot, if you further dig
into it you find out that these people are actually very educated for instance they
have masters or above, yet they are making only 20000 dollars a year. So you are
6 going deeper in to interviews and you are reading (coding) so this is puzzling, so
you go back and try to talk to people and get them to explain what is going on ask
them more about the degrees what they got and where they get the degrees from
what are the degrees about, did they try to find work with these degrees. So then
you get to point number 5 at some point you will be like yes I got it why immigrants
do not make a lot money even they have higher education, it is because their
credentials are not recognized here in Canada, finally you can create your theory by
saying that “non recognition of credentials mediate the income.”
2. Deduction is when you do research with a clear theory in mind that you
want to test. You go with a theory into the field and ask the question does my
theory hold. Deduction you go from (the top down).
Goal: testing hypotheses, and by extension, new theories
1. Specific (causal) research question: create a question that frames your
research. Quantitative data is useful for deduction to frame question in a
deduction way. For example, what causes low rates of classical music concert
attendance amongst young people compare to old people? ( this is a trend
that exist but we do not know why). After the question formulation you look
at the data and try to test the causal question.
2. Come up with a tentative theoretical explanation (constructed through
specifying concepts and their variables): Tentative explanation: Concerts are
expensive and young people don’t make a lot of money. Young people don’t
have expendable cash to see expensive concerts. So what you do is that you
formulate in this step of research a sort of hypothesis,
7 3. Generate a hypothesis (hypotheses): Hypothesis: Upper-class young people
will attend more concerts than lower-class young people
4. Observation (e.g. survey): Observation: with a survey? Interviews? So you go
into the field with a clear idea what you want to test whether your
hypothesis hold true or not.
5. Support/reject hypothesis. Findings support hypothesis. But not to say that
there aren’t other causes!
Tension 3 Epistemologies; how we come to know what we know (recall lecture
1).There are two tensions of epistemology positivist we try to know the world in a
systemic way, we can apply the methods of the natural sciences to the study of
social reality, society or people, we test in actual science lab. Interpretavism try to
understand how people create interactions through social interaction more
specifically through individual interactions so you really specifically try to
understand any particular social phenomenon by looking at the stand point of
whoever you are looking at. So you are trying to really take into account subjective
meaning and experiences on individual people that they might attach to experiences
so there is a lot of emphasis on the person in the interpretevist tradition where in
the positivist tradition its emphasis is not on the subjectivity but on objectivity on
you as this unbiased 3 researcher that has both ideal situation. there are important
differences between people and the objects of natural sciences that require the
social scientist to grasp the subjective meaning of social action. We must
interpret people’s actions and their social world from participants’ point of
8 view, there is a lot more emphasis on person. Where on positivist is the emphasis
In an experiment try to understand how people make judgments about the
personality and resumes people were observed in a social lab, which is a good
predictor of positivist epistemology. But if you want to get an interpretive result
you might want to talk to people individually and understand, how they define
personality or competence for instance in law, or let say how do people define
competence in law and attach meaning to that, and then you might take a step
further and ask how is it in this place, do you become familiar with the fact that
someone is familiar versus not. What are the cues that are enacted in the work
Tension 4 Types of explanation:
There are 2 types of different ways to explain social phenomenon.
1. Idiographic: Focusing on a single case of condition or event, we try to
explain all of its possible causes in this particula