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30 Mar 2012
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Designing a study Continued/ Ethics- Jan 23rd
Quantitative Design Issues
Variables
Central to quantitative research
A concept that can take on multiple values (i.e. that can vary)
Attributes= the values or categories of a variable
o Male is an attribute of the variable gender
3 types: independent, dependant, intervening
Independent Variables
‘Cause’ variable
Questions to consider
Does it come before other variables in time?
If the variables occur at the same time, does one variable have an impact on
another variable?
Dependant variable
Effect variable
Research questions are often expressed in terms of the dependent variable
because this is what we are trying to explain
Intervening Variables
Comes between the independent and dependent variable and explains the
connection between them
Helps to explain causal relationships
Example: Durkheim’s theory of suicide
o Marital status social integration suicide
+ -
The Hypothesis
Tentative statement of a relationship between two variables
Five characteristics
o It has at least 2 variables
o It expresses a cause-effect relationship between the variables
o It can be expressed as a prediction or an expected future outcomes
o It is logically linked to a research question and theory
o It is falsifiable
The Null Hypothesis
Negative is given more importance- logic of disconfirming hypotheses
Quantitative researchers from hypotheses in terms of a null hypothesis- that
there is no relationship or association between two variables
o Hypothesis: students who attend every class have higher grades than
students who do not
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o Null hypothesis: there is no relationship between class attendance
and students grades
o Alternative hypothesis: class attendance has a positive effect on
students grades
o If the null hypothesis is true the alternative must be false
Levels of Analysis
The level of social reality to which theoretical explanations refer
Social Psychological (micro) organizational/institutional (meso) social
structural (macro)
Helps to determine the kinds of assumptions, concepts and theories that a
researcher uses
Units of analysis
The type of a unit a researcher uses when observing , measuring or analyzing
Common units include individual, the group (family/ social network), the
organization company/university), the social category (eg social class,
gender, age), the social institution (religion/education/family) and the
society (nation/tribe)
150 students are surveyed and asked to rate their favorite movie individual
Ecological Fallacy
A mismatch of units of analysis and generalizing beyond which the evidence
warrants
Occurs when a researcher gathers data at a higher or aggregated unit of
analysis but wants to make a statement about a lower or disaggregated unit
of analysis
o eg. A researcher gathers data at the social class level and then draws
conclusions about the behaviour of individuals
o What happens in one unit of analysis is not always true for what
happens in a different unit
Reductionism
Another problem involving mismatched units of analysis
Occurs when a researcher explains macro level events but has evidence only
about specific individuals
A researcher observes a lower or disaggregated unit of analysis and males
statements about the higher or aggregated units
Often easier to get data on individuals, which increases the risk of
committing this error
Spuriousness
Two variables are associated but not casually related because an unknown
or invisible 3rd factor is the real cause
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