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Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2120
David Walters

Chapter 1 - people conduct social research to learn something new about the social world; or to carefully document guesses or beliefs about it; or to refine their understanding of how the social world works - social research is a process in which people combine a set of principles, outlooks, and ideas with a collection of specific practices, techniques, and strategies to produce knowledge Alternative to Social Research Authority - “when you accept something as true because someone in a position of authority says it is true… you are relying on authority as a basis for knowledge” - Pros? o Quick, simple and cheap way of learning something - Cons? o Easy to overestimate the expertise of other people o Authorities may not agree, and all authorities may not be equally dependable o Authorities may speak on fields they know little about or to be wrong o Misuse of authority Tradition - special case of authority – authority of the past - accept it as true – “it’s the way things have always been” Common Sense - allows logical fallacies to slip into thinking - common sense can originate in tradition Media Myths - primary goal of TV show writers is to entertain, not present reality - media “hype” can create a feeling a major problem exists when it doesn’t - visual images have a powerful effect on people Personal Experience - if you see something or experience it, you accept it as true – “seeing is believing” - propaganda, cons or fraud, magic, stereotyping and some advertising - problems: o overgeneralization  it occurs when some evidence supports your belief, but you falsely assume that it applies to many other situations o selective observation  occurs when you take special notice of some people on events and tend to seek out evidence that confirms what you already believe and ignore contradictory evidence o premature closure  occurs when you feel you have the answer and do not need to listen, seek information or raise questions any longer – we jump to conclusions because we are lazy o halo effect – when we overgeneralize from what we accept being highly positive and let it’s reputation “rub off” onto other areas How Science works - science: social institution and a way to produce knowledge - data: empirical evidence or information that one gathers o data can be quantitative (expressed in numbers) or qualitative (expressed in any other form) - empirical evidence: observations that people experience through the senses - scientific community: collection of people who practice science and a set of norms, behaviours, and attitudes that bind them together - scientific method: refers to ideas, rules, techniques and approaches that the scientific community uses - studies are reviewed on clarity, originality, standards of good research methods and advancing knowledge - steps in the research process: o Theory:  Select topic  Focus question  Design study  Collect data  Analyze data  Interpret data  Inform others Dimensions of Research - 1) a distinction of how research is used, or between applied and basic research - 2) next is purpose of doing research or its goal - 3) how time is incorporated into the study design, and the specific data technique used Basic and Applied Social Research Compared Basic Applied Research is intrinsically satisfying and Research is part of a job and is judged by judgments are by other sociologists sponsors who are outside the disciple of sociology Research problems and subjects are Research problems are narrowly selected with a great deal of freedom constrained to the demands of employers or sponsors Research is judged by absolute norms of The rigor and standards of scholarship scientific rigor, and the highest depend on the uses of results. Research standards of scholarship are sought can be ‘quick and dirty’ or may match high scientific standards. The primary concern is with the internal The primary concern is with the ability logic and rigor of research design. to generalize findings to areas of interest to sponsors The driving goal is to contribute to basic, The driving goal is to have practical theoretical knowledge. payoffs or uses for results. Success comes when results appear in a Success comes when results are used by scholarly journal and have an impact on sponsors in decision making. others in the scientific community. Basic Research - advances fundamental knowledge about the social world - these researchers focus on refuting or supporting theories that explain how the social world operates - the source of most new ideas (scientific ideas) and ways of thinking about the world - provides a foundation for knowledge that advocates understanding in many problems, policy areas or areas of study Applied Research - designed to address a specific concern or to offer solutions to a problem identified by an employer, club, agency, social movement or organization - researchers conduct a quick, small-scale study that provides practical results for use in the short term - consumers of applied researcher include teachers, counselors and social workers Type of Applied Research: Evaluation Research Study - applied research designed to find out whether a program, new way of doing something, a marketing campaign, a policy, and so forth is effective - most widely used applied search - measure the effectiveness - limitations? o Reports of research rarely go through a peer review process o Raw data rarely publicly available Action research study - applied research that treats knowledge as a form of power and abolishes the division between creating knowledge and using knowledge to engage in political action - most types of action research share these characteristics o 1) people being studied actively participate in the research process o 2) the research incorporates ordinary or popular knowledge o 3) research focuses on issues of power o 4) research seeks to raise awareness of issues o 5) research directly tried to a program of political action Social Impact Assessment Research Study - where a researcher would estimate the likely consequences of a planned intervention or international change to occur in the future - forecast how aspects of the social environment may change and suggests mitigate changes likely to be adverse from the point of view of an affected population Purpose of Research Exploratory Descriptive Explanatory Become familiar with the Provide a detailed picture Test a theory’s predictions basic facts and concerns or principle Create general mental Locate new data that Elaborate and enrich a picture of conditions contradicts past data theory’s explanation Formulate and focus Create a set of categories Extend a theory to new questions for research or classify types issues or topics Generate new ideas and Clarify a sequence of steps Support or refute an hypotheses or stages explanation or prediction Time dimension in Research Cross-Sectional Research - most social research studies are cross-sectional - simple and least costly - cannot capture social processes or change - examine a single point in time - most consistent with descriptive approach (but can be explanatory or exploratory) Longitudinal Research - examine features of people or other units at more than one time - more complex, more costly - more powerful, more informative - descriptive and explanatory Three Main Types of Longitudinal Research - time-series study o researcher gathers same type of information across two or more time periods o can observe stability or change o overall pattern is clear - panel study o researcher observes exactly the same people across multiple time points o more difficult to conduct than time-series o very costly o tracking people overtime is also difficult o results valuable - cohort o the study focuses on a category of people who share a similar life experience in a specified time period o all born in the same year, hired at same time, etc. - case study o researcher examines in-depth many features of a few cases in a duration of time with detailed and varied data Data Collection Techniques Quantitative Data Collection Techniques - Experiments o Closely follows logic and principles found in natural science research – researchers create situations and examine their efforts on participants o Most effective for explanatory research - Surveys o Asks people questions in a written questionnaire or during in interview and records the answers o Doesn’t manipulate situation or condition o Descriptive or explanatory research o Smaller group or sample - Content Analyses o Technique for examining information, or content, in written or symbolic material o First identify a body of material to analyze and then creates a system for recording specific aspects of it o Primarily descriptive - Existing Statistics o Researcher locates previously collected information, then reorganizes or combines the information in new ways to address a research questions o Most frequently descriptive o Locating sources can be time consuming Qualitative Data Collection Field Research - conduct case studies looking at a small group of people over a length of time - begins with loosely formulated idea, selects social group, gains access and adopts a social role in setting and observes in detail - exploratory and descriptive Historical-Comparative Research - examine aspects of social life in a past historical era or across cultures - combines theory building/testing with data collection o begins with loosely formulated question - exploratory, descriptive and explanatory Chapter 2: Theory and Social Research What is theory? - social theory: system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condenses and organizes knowledge about the social world Blame analysis - type of counterfeit argument presented as if it were a theoretical explanation - blame implies an intention, negligence, or responsibility for an event or situation - assumes there is a party or source to which a fixed amount of responsibility can be attached - blame analysis confuses blame with cause – gives a story instead of logical explanation with intervening casual mechanisms The Parts of Theory Concepts - an idea expressed as a symbol or inwards - has 2 parts: symbol and definition Concept Clusters - concepts that form interconnected groups Classification Concepts - c
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