Class Notes (1,100,000)
CA (650,000)
Western (60,000)
SOC (4,000)
Lecture 1

Sociology 2206A/B Lecture 1: General Research Orientations


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 2206A/B
Professor
Donna Maynard
Lecture
1

This preview shows pages 1-3. to view the full 10 pages of the document.
What is a Theory?
Theories are composed of interrelated and usually verifiable statements or
propositions
Examples:
Mead's symbolic interactionism
Weber's rationalization theory
Durkheim's suicide theory
A system of ideas that are used to explain the causes and/or consequences of
(social) phenomena
Components of a Theory
Definitions:
Specify what the key terms in the theory mean; for example, "Crime is any
violations of the Canadian Criminal Code and includes arson, embezzling,
etc."
Ex. Durkheim's suicide
Suicide purposefully ending ones own life
§
Also defines social integration, anomie, etc.
§
1.
Descriptions of the phenomena of interest:
Outline the characteristics of the phenomena of interest; for example,
"Arson involves the illegal setting of fires and is often done at night, either
to abandoned buildings or houses when no one is home. There were 439
cases of arson last year, with estimated damage over $2 billion"
2.
Relational Statements:
Connect two or more variables, so that knowing the value of one variable
conveys information about the other; for example, "as social integration
increases, the suicide rate decreases."
Two basic types:
Deterministic, which means the two variables always go together in
a particular way. If research uncovers an instance in which the
variables are not related in this way, the relational statement must
be modified.
As social integration increases, the suicide rate
decreases
-
1.
Probabilistic, they regularly, but not always go together
Use terms like more likely, less likely… make reference to the
odds of one thing happening, given the other
Suicide becomes less likely as social integration
increases
-
a.
2.
ND: almost no determinism in social research
3.
‘Size’ of a Theory
Grand theories vs. Middle Range theories
Grand theories:
General, abstract
All encompassing with regards to time and space
Ex. Structural functionalism, symbolic interactionalism, critical
theory. Post-structuralism, post-modernism, etc.
Tend to be difficult to link with the real world in a directly testable
way
Very useful as a way of seeing the world, but not very useful
for directly guiding research
Middle Range theories (Merton):
More limited to scope and less abstract - tend to refer to a more
specific time/place/situation
Ex. Durkheim's Suicide
Ex. Merton's Anomie theory (theory of deviance)
What is research?
Research:
A mixture of both observations and interpretations that either -
Shred light on an existing theory, or
Help us build new theories
How do we move between theory and research?
Deductive approach
Theory -> Observations/findings
Inductive approach
Observations/findings -> Theory
Relationship between Theory and Research
Deductive approach:
6 Steps to deductive research
Theory1.
Hypothesis - testable statement about your theory2.
Data collection3.
Findings 4.
Hypothesis confirmed or rejected5.
Possible revision of theory6.
Deductive approach is out into operation, the researcher does not
necessarily follow the exact linear sequence
Inductive approach:
3. Steps to inductive research
Gather data - often 'loose' in subject and very detailed1.
Make statements or generalizations about data2.
Derive explanatory theory from these statements3.
The inductive approach is where the theory is the outcome of the research
Data is gathered not to test a theory, but to come up with the information
needed to construct a theory
Also called Grounded theory - starts 'on the ground' with observations
Deductive much more common than inductive
Almost never just one of the other
Going back and forth called iterative research process
Very common!
Its impossible in research to conduct a study that is purely deductive or
inductive
Epistemological Considerations
Epistemological assumptions - notions of what can be known and how
knowledge can be acquired
What is knowledge?
How do we come to 'know' something?
In the Social Sciences:
What kind of knowledge is appropriate to seek?
What may we best seek it?
2 traditional positions…
Positivism:
One epistemological position that affirms the importance of following
natural sciences
It generally entails…
Only phenomena confirmed by the senses can be accepted as
knowledge
this is the principle of empiricisma.
1.
There are social laws and principles just like natural ones
We can use deduction to find support for these lawsa.
Less often, we can use induction to discover these lawsb.
Ex of laws - Comte's Law of 3 Stagesc.
2.
A key purpose of theory is to generate hypotheses that can be
tested and thereby allow explanations of observed laws and
principles to be assessed
3.
Knowledge can also be arrived at through the gathering of facts that
provide the basis for generalizations or laws
4.
Science must be "value-free." That is it must be conducted in such a
way that different researchers, given the same data, will always
reach the same conclusions, no matter how different their values
are
Terms objectivity, intersubjectivity a.
5.
There is a clear distinction between scientific statements, which
describe how and why certain social phenomena operate the way
they do, and normative statements (are not scientific), which
outline whether certain acts or social conditions are morally
acceptable. Only scientific statements have a place in the domain
of science
Are certain acts or social conditions morally acceptable?
Place of religion or philosophy to say
-
Cant be empirically tested
-
a.
6.
Positivism assumes a fairly sharp distinction between theory and research
and includes elements of both deduction and induction
Positivism also implies that it is possible to collect observations without
any reference to pre-existing theories, and to develop new theories purely
on the basis of those observations
Emphasis on the explanation of human behavior
Interpretivist
Studying people and social life is fundamentally different than subject
matter in natural sciences
Interpretive researchers maintain that it is the role of social scientists to
grasp the subjective meanings of peoples actions
People act based on their own interpretations of the symbolic
meaning of a situation
§
Thomas's theorem: Situations perceived as real become real in their
consequences
§
They make the point that people act on the basis of the meanings that
they attribute to their acts and to the acts of others
They also attempt to see things from the point of view of the people
involved
They claim that it is the job of the social scientists to gain access to the
"common-sense thinking" of the people they study and hence to interpret
peoples actions and their social world
Many interpretive scientists argue that the subject matter of social
sciences - people, groups and institutions - is fundamentally different
from that of natural sciences
Emphasis on the empathetic understanding and interpretation of human
behavior
Symbolic interactionism is an example of a sociological perspective that
falls under the heading of interpretivist
Epistemological Positions
What is knowledge?
Positivism: explanation of social behavior
§
Interpretivism: empathetic understanding of social behavior
§
Critical Approaches to Social Sciences
Use a diversity of research methods, including those by positivists and
interpretivists, but they disagree with the notion that researchers should
take a value-neutral stance regarding their subject matter
They maintain that research and knowledge should not be considered as
ends in themselves, but as means to be used to rid the world of suffering
and oppression
They also believe that research should be action-orientated. It should
involve praxis: putting ones theoretical and academic positions into
practice
Critiques of Positivism
Can social science really discover social laws?
Can it really be value-free?
Is positivism still dominant in the natural sciences?
Critiques of Interpretivism
Social scientists interpretation of the actors interpretation
The actors involved are subject forces they don’t identify or know about
Often hybrid approaches are taken which combine different positions and
approaches
Ontological Considerations
Ontology: What is the nature of being? Of reality? Of existence?
Is social sciences
What is social reality? What is it’s nature?
2 major debates
Two ontological debates that are of interest:
Do social phenomena have an objective reality, independent of our own
perceptions? Or…
1.
Is what passes for reality merely a set of mental constructions?2.
An affirmative answer to the first question means that you are with the
objective position
People on this side of the debate maintain that there is such a thing as
social reality, and that it is the job of social scientists to discover what the
reality is
The social world is "out there" - something that we act within, but have
little control over
An affirmative answer to the second question means that you are with the
constructionists (hard) position
People holding this view are in sympathy with Nietzsche's famous
aphorism that there are no facts, only interpretations.
Such people maintain that there is no objective social reality against
which our conceptions and views of the world around may be tested
The social world is created and recreated out of our everyday actions
A middle ground ("soft constructionist") position is also possible, and it
maintains that there may be an objective social reality, but that many of our
ideas do not reflect it: instead those ideas are constructed to justify or
rationalize various forms of domination
Some social scientists suggest that social phenomena confront individuals
external factors beyond their reach or influence
Objectivists see any organization as possessing a reality external to any of the
specific individuals who inhabit; they may leave, but it will stay. Moreover, the
organization represents a social order in that it exerts pressure on individuals to
conform to organizational requirements
An alternative ontological position challenges that suggestion that things such
as organizations are external realities confronting social actors who have limited
power to influence or change them
Instead of viewing order as a pre-existing characteristic, they argued that it is
worked at and created to some extent, and that the rules are far less extensive
and less rigorously imposed than might be supposed from an objectivist account
of organizations
The constructionist perspective that maintains that social reality can be
negotiated also suggests that the concepts people employ to help them
understand the natural and social world are social products whose meaning is
constructed in and through social interaction
This tendency can be seen particularly well in discourse analysis
Relationship to Social Research
Ontological assumptions and commitments affect both the way research
is carried out
Alternatively, a researcher who is interested in the negotiated, changing
nature of organizations is likely to focus on the active involvement people
in reality construction
General Orientations: Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Quantitative research uses numbers, and statistics in the collection and analysis
of data
While qualitative research relies mainly on words and other non-numerical
symbols
On the surface, it seems that the main difference between quantitative and
qualitative research is that quantitative researchers rely more on formal and
mathematical measurements and analysis techniques than qualitative
researchers do
For many writers, quantitative and qualitative research differ in their
epistemological foundations and in other respects too.
Quantitative Research: (sciency)
Usually entails a deductive approach to the relationship between and
research in which theory testing is a prime objective;
Observation important;
Incorporates the practices and norms of the natural science model and of
positivism in particular; and
Generally embodies a view of society as an external, objective reality and
intersubjective
Qualitative Research: (interpretive)
Takes a predominantly inductive approach to the relationship between
theory and research, in which the generation of theories and
interpretations is the main goal;
Rejects the use of the natural science and positivist models in social
research and replaces them with methodologies that seek to determine
how individuals interpret their social world; and
Embodies a view of social reality as a constantly shifting and emergent
property of individuals' creations
Quantitative and qualitative research represent different research orientations,
and that the two approaches may be quite different in terms of role theory,
epistemological issues, and ontological concerns
Politics in Social Research
Examples of ways that social research may be political:
Social researchers sometimes take sides
A related issues involves funding
Gaining access to research subjects
Access to organizations is usually mediated by gatekeepers
concerned not only about the researchers motives, but also about
what the organization stands to gain from investigation, etc.
§
Public institutions, such as police departments, schools and hospitals are
concerned with how they are going to be represented in publications
What is 'acceptable' for publication/dissemination?
There may be pressure to restrict the publications of findings
Practical Considerations
Your research question:
States the purpose of a study, in the form of a question
§
Guides your choice of research design
§
Often starts with a general area of interest and a very general
question
If deductive method
Question becomes steadily more narrow
-
Becomes a hypothesis linked to theory
-
§
There are also a number of practical issues to be confronted in carrying
out social research
One practical consideration is that the choice of research orientation,
design, or method has to match the specific research question being
investigated
Alternatively, if the focus is on the world views, of members of a certain
social group, a qualitative research strategy - one sensitive to the way
participants interpret their social world - may be the way to go
Another dimension involves the nature of the topic and of the people
being investigated
A researcher who wants to study individuals involved in illicit activities
may find it difficult to develop the rapport with them that is needed to
conduct a social survey
Research Questions
A research question states the purpose of the study in the form of a
question
Research often starts with the choice of a general area of interest
Research questions in quantitative research are sometimes more specific
than those in qualitative research
Research questions set realistic boundaries for research. A poorly
formulated question can result in unfocused and substandard research
No matter how skilled the interviewers are, clear research questions are
required to avoid going off in unnecessary directions and tangents
Research questions are critical because they guide:
The literature search;
§
Decisions about the kind of research design to employ;
§
Decisions about what data to collect and from whom;
§
The analysis of the data; and
§
The writing up of the findings
§
Values in Social Research
Values: personal belief and morals, feelings and preconceptions
Can we be value-free in social research? Should we be?
Classical positivists: value-free, neutral, unbiased research in both wanted and
possible
Increasingly rare attitude
1.
Social research cannot be completely value-free
But we should try
We should practice reflexivity
Understanding how as a researcher are affected by your values, and
how they impact your social research
§
2.
Value-laden research can be good
Sometimes certain values are necessary to an understanding of the
research process and especially those under study
3.
Characteristic of Good Research Questions
Should be researchable
There should be a way to answer your research question
Should have a clear focus and set realistic boundaries
Should be possible in terms of time and money
Should relate to existing theory and research the area (and add something too)
General Research Orientations
Sunday, September 9, 2018

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

What is a Theory?
Theories are composed of interrelated and usually verifiable statements or
propositions
Examples:
Mead's symbolic interactionism
Weber's rationalization theory
Durkheim's suicide theory
A system of ideas that are used to explain the causes and/or consequences of
(social) phenomena
Components of a Theory
Definitions:
Specify what the key terms in the theory mean; for example, "Crime is any
violations of the Canadian Criminal Code and includes arson, embezzling,
etc."
Ex. Durkheim's suicide
Suicide purposefully ending ones own life
§
Also defines social integration, anomie, etc.
§
1.
Descriptions of the phenomena of interest:
Outline the characteristics of the phenomena of interest; for example,
"Arson involves the illegal setting of fires and is often done at night, either
to abandoned buildings or houses when no one is home. There were 439
cases of arson last year, with estimated damage over $2 billion"
2.
Relational Statements:
Connect two or more variables, so that knowing the value of one variable
conveys information about the other; for example, "as social integration
increases, the suicide rate decreases."
Two basic types:
Deterministic, which means the two variables always go together in
a particular way. If research uncovers an instance in which the
variables are not related in this way, the relational statement must
be modified.
As social integration increases, the suicide rate
decreases
-
1.
Probabilistic, they regularly, but not always go together
Use terms like more likely, less likely… make reference to the
odds of one thing happening, given the other
Suicide becomes less likely as social integration
increases
-
a.
2.
ND: almost no determinism in social research
3.
‘Size’ of a Theory
Grand theories vs. Middle Range theories
Grand theories:
General, abstract
All encompassing with regards to time and space
Ex. Structural functionalism, symbolic interactionalism, critical
theory. Post-structuralism, post-modernism, etc.
Tend to be difficult to link with the real world in a directly testable
way
Very useful as a way of seeing the world, but not very useful
for directly guiding research
Middle Range theories (Merton):
More limited to scope and less abstract - tend to refer to a more
specific time/place/situation
Ex. Durkheim's Suicide
Ex. Merton's Anomie theory (theory of deviance)
What is research?
Research:
A mixture of both observations and interpretations that either -
Shred light on an existing theory, or
Help us build new theories
How do we move between theory and research?
Deductive approach
Theory -> Observations/findings
Inductive approach
Observations/findings -> Theory
Relationship between Theory and Research
Deductive approach:
6 Steps to deductive research
Theory1.
Hypothesis - testable statement about your theory2.
Data collection3.
Findings 4.
Hypothesis confirmed or rejected5.
Possible revision of theory6.
Deductive approach is out into operation, the researcher does not
necessarily follow the exact linear sequence
Inductive approach:
3. Steps to inductive research
Gather data - often 'loose' in subject and very detailed1.
Make statements or generalizations about data2.
Derive explanatory theory from these statements3.
The inductive approach is where the theory is the outcome of the research
Data is gathered not to test a theory, but to come up with the information
needed to construct a theory
Also called Grounded theory - starts 'on the ground' with observations
Deductive much more common than inductive
Almost never just one of the other
Going back and forth called iterative research process
Very common!
Its impossible in research to conduct a study that is purely deductive or
inductive
Epistemological Considerations
Epistemological assumptions - notions of what can be known and how
knowledge can be acquired
What is knowledge?
How do we come to 'know' something?
In the Social Sciences:
What kind of knowledge is appropriate to seek?
What may we best seek it?
2 traditional positions…
Positivism:
One epistemological position that affirms the importance of following
natural sciences
It generally entails…
Only phenomena confirmed by the senses can be accepted as
knowledge
this is the principle of empiricisma.
1.
There are social laws and principles just like natural ones
We can use deduction to find support for these lawsa.
Less often, we can use induction to discover these lawsb.
Ex of laws - Comte's Law of 3 Stagesc.
2.
A key purpose of theory is to generate hypotheses that can be
tested and thereby allow explanations of observed laws and
principles to be assessed
3.
Knowledge can also be arrived at through the gathering of facts that
provide the basis for generalizations or laws
4.
Science must be "value-free." That is it must be conducted in such a
way that different researchers, given the same data, will always
reach the same conclusions, no matter how different their values
are
Terms objectivity, intersubjectivity a.
5.
There is a clear distinction between scientific statements, which
describe how and why certain social phenomena operate the way
they do, and normative statements (are not scientific), which
outline whether certain acts or social conditions are morally
acceptable. Only scientific statements have a place in the domain
of science
Are certain acts or social conditions morally acceptable?
Place of religion or philosophy to say
-
Cant be empirically tested
-
a.
6.
Positivism assumes a fairly sharp distinction between theory and research
and includes elements of both deduction and induction
Positivism also implies that it is possible to collect observations without
any reference to pre-existing theories, and to develop new theories purely
on the basis of those observations
Emphasis on the explanation of human behavior
Interpretivist
Studying people and social life is fundamentally different than subject
matter in natural sciences
Interpretive researchers maintain that it is the role of social scientists to
grasp the subjective meanings of peoples actions
People act based on their own interpretations of the symbolic
meaning of a situation
§
Thomas's theorem: Situations perceived as real become real in their
consequences
§
They make the point that people act on the basis of the meanings that
they attribute to their acts and to the acts of others
They also attempt to see things from the point of view of the people
involved
They claim that it is the job of the social scientists to gain access to the
"common-sense thinking" of the people they study and hence to interpret
peoples actions and their social world
Many interpretive scientists argue that the subject matter of social
sciences - people, groups and institutions - is fundamentally different
from that of natural sciences
Emphasis on the empathetic understanding and interpretation of human
behavior
Symbolic interactionism is an example of a sociological perspective that
falls under the heading of interpretivist
Epistemological Positions
What is knowledge?
Positivism: explanation of social behavior
§
Interpretivism: empathetic understanding of social behavior
§
Critical Approaches to Social Sciences
Use a diversity of research methods, including those by positivists and
interpretivists, but they disagree with the notion that researchers should
take a value-neutral stance regarding their subject matter
They maintain that research and knowledge should not be considered as
ends in themselves, but as means to be used to rid the world of suffering
and oppression
They also believe that research should be action-orientated. It should
involve praxis: putting ones theoretical and academic positions into
practice
Critiques of Positivism
Can social science really discover social laws?
Can it really be value-free?
Is positivism still dominant in the natural sciences?
Critiques of Interpretivism
Social scientists interpretation of the actors interpretation
The actors involved are subject forces they don’t identify or know about
Often hybrid approaches are taken which combine different positions and
approaches
Ontological Considerations
Ontology: What is the nature of being? Of reality? Of existence?
Is social sciences
What is social reality? What is it’s nature?
2 major debates
Two ontological debates that are of interest:
Do social phenomena have an objective reality, independent of our own
perceptions? Or…
1.
Is what passes for reality merely a set of mental constructions?2.
An affirmative answer to the first question means that you are with the
objective position
People on this side of the debate maintain that there is such a thing as
social reality, and that it is the job of social scientists to discover what the
reality is
The social world is "out there" - something that we act within, but have
little control over
An affirmative answer to the second question means that you are with the
constructionists (hard) position
People holding this view are in sympathy with Nietzsche's famous
aphorism that there are no facts, only interpretations.
Such people maintain that there is no objective social reality against
which our conceptions and views of the world around may be tested
The social world is created and recreated out of our everyday actions
A middle ground ("soft constructionist") position is also possible, and it
maintains that there may be an objective social reality, but that many of our
ideas do not reflect it: instead those ideas are constructed to justify or
rationalize various forms of domination
Some social scientists suggest that social phenomena confront individuals
external factors beyond their reach or influence
Objectivists see any organization as possessing a reality external to any of the
specific individuals who inhabit; they may leave, but it will stay. Moreover, the
organization represents a social order in that it exerts pressure on individuals to
conform to organizational requirements
An alternative ontological position challenges that suggestion that things such
as organizations are external realities confronting social actors who have limited
power to influence or change them
Instead of viewing order as a pre-existing characteristic, they argued that it is
worked at and created to some extent, and that the rules are far less extensive
and less rigorously imposed than might be supposed from an objectivist account
of organizations
The constructionist perspective that maintains that social reality can be
negotiated also suggests that the concepts people employ to help them
understand the natural and social world are social products whose meaning is
constructed in and through social interaction
This tendency can be seen particularly well in discourse analysis
Relationship to Social Research
Ontological assumptions and commitments affect both the way research
is carried out
Alternatively, a researcher who is interested in the negotiated, changing
nature of organizations is likely to focus on the active involvement people
in reality construction
General Orientations: Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Quantitative research uses numbers, and statistics in the collection and analysis
of data
While qualitative research relies mainly on words and other non-numerical
symbols
On the surface, it seems that the main difference between quantitative and
qualitative research is that quantitative researchers rely more on formal and
mathematical measurements and analysis techniques than qualitative
researchers do
For many writers, quantitative and qualitative research differ in their
epistemological foundations and in other respects too.
Quantitative Research: (sciency)
Usually entails a deductive approach to the relationship between and
research in which theory testing is a prime objective;
Observation important;
Incorporates the practices and norms of the natural science model and of
positivism in particular; and
Generally embodies a view of society as an external, objective reality and
intersubjective
Qualitative Research: (interpretive)
Takes a predominantly inductive approach to the relationship between
theory and research, in which the generation of theories and
interpretations is the main goal;
Rejects the use of the natural science and positivist models in social
research and replaces them with methodologies that seek to determine
how individuals interpret their social world; and
Embodies a view of social reality as a constantly shifting and emergent
property of individuals' creations
Quantitative and qualitative research represent different research orientations,
and that the two approaches may be quite different in terms of role theory,
epistemological issues, and ontological concerns
Politics in Social Research
Examples of ways that social research may be political:
Social researchers sometimes take sides
A related issues involves funding
Gaining access to research subjects
Access to organizations is usually mediated by gatekeepers
concerned not only about the researchers motives, but also about
what the organization stands to gain from investigation, etc.
§
Public institutions, such as police departments, schools and hospitals are
concerned with how they are going to be represented in publications
What is 'acceptable' for publication/dissemination?
There may be pressure to restrict the publications of findings
Practical Considerations
Your research question:
States the purpose of a study, in the form of a question
§
Guides your choice of research design
§
Often starts with a general area of interest and a very general
question
If deductive method
Question becomes steadily more narrow
-
Becomes a hypothesis linked to theory
-
§
There are also a number of practical issues to be confronted in carrying
out social research
One practical consideration is that the choice of research orientation,
design, or method has to match the specific research question being
investigated
Alternatively, if the focus is on the world views, of members of a certain
social group, a qualitative research strategy - one sensitive to the way
participants interpret their social world - may be the way to go
Another dimension involves the nature of the topic and of the people
being investigated
A researcher who wants to study individuals involved in illicit activities
may find it difficult to develop the rapport with them that is needed to
conduct a social survey
Research Questions
A research question states the purpose of the study in the form of a
question
Research often starts with the choice of a general area of interest
Research questions in quantitative research are sometimes more specific
than those in qualitative research
Research questions set realistic boundaries for research. A poorly
formulated question can result in unfocused and substandard research
No matter how skilled the interviewers are, clear research questions are
required to avoid going off in unnecessary directions and tangents
Research questions are critical because they guide:
The literature search;
§
Decisions about the kind of research design to employ;
§
Decisions about what data to collect and from whom;
§
The analysis of the data; and
§
The writing up of the findings
§
Values in Social Research
Values: personal belief and morals, feelings and preconceptions
Can we be value-free in social research? Should we be?
Classical positivists: value-free, neutral, unbiased research in both wanted and
possible
Increasingly rare attitude
1.
Social research cannot be completely value-free
But we should try
We should practice reflexivity
Understanding how as a researcher are affected by your values, and
how they impact your social research
§
2.
Value-laden research can be good
Sometimes certain values are necessary to an understanding of the
research process and especially those under study
3.
Characteristic of Good Research Questions
Should be researchable
There should be a way to answer your research question
Should have a clear focus and set realistic boundaries
Should be possible in terms of time and money
Should relate to existing theory and research the area (and add something too)
General Research Orientations
Sunday, September 9, 2018 3:20 PM

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

What is a Theory?
Theories are composed of interrelated and usually verifiable statements or
propositions
Examples:
Mead's symbolic interactionism
Weber's rationalization theory
Durkheim's suicide theory
A system of ideas that are used to explain the causes and/or consequences of
(social) phenomena
Components of a Theory
Definitions:
Specify what the key terms in the theory mean; for example, "Crime is any
violations of the Canadian Criminal Code and includes arson, embezzling,
etc."
Ex. Durkheim's suicide
Suicide purposefully ending ones own life
§
Also defines social integration, anomie, etc.
§
1.
Descriptions of the phenomena of interest:
Outline the characteristics of the phenomena of interest; for example,
"Arson involves the illegal setting of fires and is often done at night, either
to abandoned buildings or houses when no one is home. There were 439
cases of arson last year, with estimated damage over $2 billion"
2.
Relational Statements:
Connect two or more variables, so that knowing the value of one variable
conveys information about the other; for example, "as social integration
increases, the suicide rate decreases."
Two basic types:
Deterministic, which means the two variables always go together in
a particular way. If research uncovers an instance in which the
variables are not related in this way, the relational statement must
be modified.
As social integration increases, the suicide rate
decreases
-
1.
Probabilistic, they regularly, but not always go together
Use terms like more likely, less likely… make reference to the
odds of one thing happening, given the other
Suicide becomes less likely as social integration
increases
-
a.
2.
ND: almost no determinism in social research
3.
‘Size’ of a Theory
Grand theories vs. Middle Range theories
Grand theories:
General, abstract
All encompassing with regards to time and space
Ex. Structural functionalism, symbolic interactionalism, critical
theory. Post-structuralism, post-modernism, etc.
Tend to be difficult to link with the real world in a directly testable
way
Very useful as a way of seeing the world, but not very useful
for directly guiding research
Middle Range theories (Merton):
More limited to scope and less abstract - tend to refer to a more
specific time/place/situation
Ex. Durkheim's Suicide
Ex. Merton's Anomie theory (theory of deviance)
What is research?
Research:
A mixture of both observations and interpretations that either -
Shred light on an existing theory, or
Help us build new theories
How do we move between theory and research?
Deductive approach
Theory -> Observations/findings
Inductive approach
Observations/findings -> Theory
Relationship between Theory and Research
Deductive approach:
6 Steps to deductive research
Theory
1.
Hypothesis - testable statement about your theory
2.
Data collection
3.
Findings
4.
Hypothesis confirmed or rejected
5.
Possible revision of theory
6.
Deductive approach is out into operation, the researcher does not
necessarily follow the exact linear sequence
Inductive approach:
3. Steps to inductive research
Gather data - often 'loose' in subject and very detailed
1.
Make statements or generalizations about data
2.
Derive explanatory theory from these statements
3.
The inductive approach is where the theory is the outcome of the research
Data is gathered not to test a theory, but to come up with the information
needed to construct a theory
Also called Grounded theory - starts 'on the ground' with observations
Deductive much more common than inductive
Almost never just one of the other
Going back and forth called iterative research process
Very common!
Its impossible in research to conduct a study that is purely deductive or
inductive
Epistemological Considerations
Epistemological assumptions - notions of what can be known and how
knowledge can be acquired
What is knowledge?
How do we come to 'know' something?
In the Social Sciences:
What kind of knowledge is appropriate to seek?
What may we best seek it?
2 traditional positions…
Positivism:
One epistemological position that affirms the importance of following
natural sciences
It generally entails…
Only phenomena confirmed by the senses can be accepted as
knowledge
this is the principle of empiricisma.
1.
There are social laws and principles just like natural ones
We can use deduction to find support for these lawsa.
Less often, we can use induction to discover these lawsb.
Ex of laws - Comte's Law of 3 Stagesc.
2.
A key purpose of theory is to generate hypotheses that can be
tested and thereby allow explanations of observed laws and
principles to be assessed
3.
Knowledge can also be arrived at through the gathering of facts that
provide the basis for generalizations or laws
4.
Science must be "value-free." That is it must be conducted in such a
way that different researchers, given the same data, will always
reach the same conclusions, no matter how different their values
are
Terms objectivity, intersubjectivity a.
5.
There is a clear distinction between scientific statements, which
describe how and why certain social phenomena operate the way
they do, and normative statements (are not scientific), which
outline whether certain acts or social conditions are morally
acceptable. Only scientific statements have a place in the domain
of science
Are certain acts or social conditions morally acceptable?
Place of religion or philosophy to say
-
Cant be empirically tested
-
a.
6.
Positivism assumes a fairly sharp distinction between theory and research
and includes elements of both deduction and induction
Positivism also implies that it is possible to collect observations without
any reference to pre-existing theories, and to develop new theories purely
on the basis of those observations
Emphasis on the explanation of human behavior
Interpretivist
Studying people and social life is fundamentally different than subject
matter in natural sciences
Interpretive researchers maintain that it is the role of social scientists to
grasp the subjective meanings of peoples actions
People act based on their own interpretations of the symbolic
meaning of a situation
§
Thomas's theorem: Situations perceived as real become real in their
consequences
§
They make the point that people act on the basis of the meanings that
they attribute to their acts and to the acts of others
They also attempt to see things from the point of view of the people
involved
They claim that it is the job of the social scientists to gain access to the
"common-sense thinking" of the people they study and hence to interpret
peoples actions and their social world
Many interpretive scientists argue that the subject matter of social
sciences - people, groups and institutions - is fundamentally different
from that of natural sciences
Emphasis on the empathetic understanding and interpretation of human
behavior
Symbolic interactionism is an example of a sociological perspective that
falls under the heading of interpretivist
Epistemological Positions
What is knowledge?
Positivism: explanation of social behavior
§
Interpretivism: empathetic understanding of social behavior
§
Critical Approaches to Social Sciences
Use a diversity of research methods, including those by positivists and
interpretivists, but they disagree with the notion that researchers should
take a value-neutral stance regarding their subject matter
They maintain that research and knowledge should not be considered as
ends in themselves, but as means to be used to rid the world of suffering
and oppression
They also believe that research should be action-orientated. It should
involve praxis: putting ones theoretical and academic positions into
practice
Critiques of Positivism
Can social science really discover social laws?
Can it really be value-free?
Is positivism still dominant in the natural sciences?
Critiques of Interpretivism
Social scientists interpretation of the actors interpretation
The actors involved are subject forces they don’t identify or know about
Often hybrid approaches are taken which combine different positions and
approaches
Ontological Considerations
Ontology: What is the nature of being? Of reality? Of existence?
Is social sciences
What is social reality? What is it’s nature?
2 major debates
Two ontological debates that are of interest:
Do social phenomena have an objective reality, independent of our own
perceptions? Or…
1.
Is what passes for reality merely a set of mental constructions?2.
An affirmative answer to the first question means that you are with the
objective position
People on this side of the debate maintain that there is such a thing as
social reality, and that it is the job of social scientists to discover what the
reality is
The social world is "out there" - something that we act within, but have
little control over
An affirmative answer to the second question means that you are with the
constructionists (hard) position
People holding this view are in sympathy with Nietzsche's famous
aphorism that there are no facts, only interpretations.
Such people maintain that there is no objective social reality against
which our conceptions and views of the world around may be tested
The social world is created and recreated out of our everyday actions
A middle ground ("soft constructionist") position is also possible, and it
maintains that there may be an objective social reality, but that many of our
ideas do not reflect it: instead those ideas are constructed to justify or
rationalize various forms of domination
Some social scientists suggest that social phenomena confront individuals
external factors beyond their reach or influence
Objectivists see any organization as possessing a reality external to any of the
specific individuals who inhabit; they may leave, but it will stay. Moreover, the
organization represents a social order in that it exerts pressure on individuals to
conform to organizational requirements
An alternative ontological position challenges that suggestion that things such
as organizations are external realities confronting social actors who have limited
power to influence or change them
Instead of viewing order as a pre-existing characteristic, they argued that it is
worked at and created to some extent, and that the rules are far less extensive
and less rigorously imposed than might be supposed from an objectivist account
of organizations
The constructionist perspective that maintains that social reality can be
negotiated also suggests that the concepts people employ to help them
understand the natural and social world are social products whose meaning is
constructed in and through social interaction
This tendency can be seen particularly well in discourse analysis
Relationship to Social Research
Ontological assumptions and commitments affect both the way research
is carried out
Alternatively, a researcher who is interested in the negotiated, changing
nature of organizations is likely to focus on the active involvement people
in reality construction
General Orientations: Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Quantitative research uses numbers, and statistics in the collection and analysis
of data
While qualitative research relies mainly on words and other non-numerical
symbols
On the surface, it seems that the main difference between quantitative and
qualitative research is that quantitative researchers rely more on formal and
mathematical measurements and analysis techniques than qualitative
researchers do
For many writers, quantitative and qualitative research differ in their
epistemological foundations and in other respects too.
Quantitative Research: (sciency)
Usually entails a deductive approach to the relationship between and
research in which theory testing is a prime objective;
Observation important;
Incorporates the practices and norms of the natural science model and of
positivism in particular; and
Generally embodies a view of society as an external, objective reality and
intersubjective
Qualitative Research: (interpretive)
Takes a predominantly inductive approach to the relationship between
theory and research, in which the generation of theories and
interpretations is the main goal;
Rejects the use of the natural science and positivist models in social
research and replaces them with methodologies that seek to determine
how individuals interpret their social world; and
Embodies a view of social reality as a constantly shifting and emergent
property of individuals' creations
Quantitative and qualitative research represent different research orientations,
and that the two approaches may be quite different in terms of role theory,
epistemological issues, and ontological concerns
Politics in Social Research
Examples of ways that social research may be political:
Social researchers sometimes take sides
A related issues involves funding
Gaining access to research subjects
Access to organizations is usually mediated by gatekeepers
concerned not only about the researchers motives, but also about
what the organization stands to gain from investigation, etc.
§
Public institutions, such as police departments, schools and hospitals are
concerned with how they are going to be represented in publications
What is 'acceptable' for publication/dissemination?
There may be pressure to restrict the publications of findings
Practical Considerations
Your research question:
States the purpose of a study, in the form of a question
§
Guides your choice of research design
§
Often starts with a general area of interest and a very general
question
If deductive method
Question becomes steadily more narrow
-
Becomes a hypothesis linked to theory
-
§
There are also a number of practical issues to be confronted in carrying
out social research
One practical consideration is that the choice of research orientation,
design, or method has to match the specific research question being
investigated
Alternatively, if the focus is on the world views, of members of a certain
social group, a qualitative research strategy - one sensitive to the way
participants interpret their social world - may be the way to go
Another dimension involves the nature of the topic and of the people
being investigated
A researcher who wants to study individuals involved in illicit activities
may find it difficult to develop the rapport with them that is needed to
conduct a social survey
Research Questions
A research question states the purpose of the study in the form of a
question
Research often starts with the choice of a general area of interest
Research questions in quantitative research are sometimes more specific
than those in qualitative research
Research questions set realistic boundaries for research. A poorly
formulated question can result in unfocused and substandard research
No matter how skilled the interviewers are, clear research questions are
required to avoid going off in unnecessary directions and tangents
Research questions are critical because they guide:
The literature search;
§
Decisions about the kind of research design to employ;
§
Decisions about what data to collect and from whom;
§
The analysis of the data; and
§
The writing up of the findings
§
Values in Social Research
Values: personal belief and morals, feelings and preconceptions
Can we be value-free in social research? Should we be?
Classical positivists: value-free, neutral, unbiased research in both wanted and
possible
Increasingly rare attitude
1.
Social research cannot be completely value-free
But we should try
We should practice reflexivity
Understanding how as a researcher are affected by your values, and
how they impact your social research
§
2.
Value-laden research can be good
Sometimes certain values are necessary to an understanding of the
research process and especially those under study
3.
Characteristic of Good Research Questions
Should be researchable
There should be a way to answer your research question
Should have a clear focus and set realistic boundaries
Should be possible in terms of time and money
Should relate to existing theory and research the area (and add something too)
General Research Orientations
Sunday, September 9, 2018 3:20 PM
You're Reading a Preview

Unlock to view full version