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SOC 221 Reading Notes midterm.doc

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Jayne Baker

Reading # 1 - Chapter 1 Doing Social Research • Social research - a process in which a researcher combines a set of principles, outlooks, and ideas with a collection of specific practices, techniques and strategies to produce knowledge • structured, organized, systematic process Alternatives to Social Research 1. Authority - Parents, teachers, etc, accept something as true because someone in a position of authority says its true or because it is an a authoritative publication • Limitations 1. easy to overestimate the expertise of other people 2. Authorities may not agree, may not be equally dependable 3. Halo Effect - expertise in one area may spill over illegitimately to be authority in a totally different area 2. Traditions - Authority of the past, accept something as being true because "thats the way its always been" • limitations - some traditional social knowledge, begins as simple prejudice. it can become distorted as it is passed on, and soon no long true 3. Common Sense - know about the social world from everyday reasoning • Limitations - Allows logical fallacies 4. Media Myths - Television, movies, newspaper / magazines • Limitations - Distort reality, primary goal is to entertain, write with limited information within editorial guidelines 5. Personal Experience - "Seeing is believing", Limitations - 4 Errors 1. Overgeneralization - It occurs when some evidence supports a belief, but a person falsely assumes that it applies to many other situations, too. 2. Selective Observation - The tendency to take notice of certain people or events based on past experience or attitudes 3. Premature Closure - Occurs when a person feels he/she has the answers and does not need to listen, seek information or raise questions 4. Halo Effect - • Social Science - anthro, psych, political science, socio all deal with the study of people, their beliefs behaviour, interaction, institution, etc • Quantitative - information in form of numbers • Qualitative - information in the form of words, pictures, sounds visual images or objects • empirical evidence - observations that people experience through the senses - touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste these can be direct or indirect Use of Research • basic research - research designed to advance fundamental knowledge about the social world • applied research - research that attempts to solve a concrete problem or address a specific policy question and that has a direct practical application • evaluation research study - a type of applied research in which one tries to determine how well a program or policy is working or reaching its goals and objectives the decision makers may place limits on the research by fixing boundaries on • what can be studied and by predetermining the outcome of interest • Limitations - reports or research rarely go through peer review process, raw data aren't public • 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 • 5 Characteristics 1. the people being studied actively participate in the research process 2. the research incorporates ordinary or popular knowledge 3. research focuses on issues of power 4. the research seeks to raise consciousness or increase awareness of issues 5. the research is tied directly to a plan or program of political action • associated with social movement, political cause or advocacy for an issue Purpose of Study 1. Exploration - researcher examines a new area to formulate precise questions that he/she can address in future research, • use qualitative data & not committed to a specific theory / research question 2. Description - research in which one "paints a picture" with words or numbers, presents a profile, outline stages, or classifies types • use most data gathering techniques - surveys, field research, content analysis, & historical comparative research • begins with a well defined subject and conducts a study to describe it accurately 3. Explanation - research that focuses on why events occur or tries to test and build social theory • identifies the sources of social behaviours, beliefs, conditions and events, it documents causes, test theories, and provides reasons • builds on exploratory and descriptive research Time Dimension Research • Cross Sectional Research - researcher examines a single point in time or takes a one time snapshot approach • Longitudinal Research - researcher examines the features of people or other units at multiple points in time • more complex and costly, also more powerful and informative • Descriptive and explanatory research 3 types: 1. Time Series - gathers the same type of information across two or more periods 2. Panel Study - researcher observes the same people, group, or organization across multiple time points 3. Cohort Study - the study focuses on a category of people who share a similar life experience in a specified period Reading # 2 - Chapter 5 Designing a Study Linear and Nonlinear Paths • Linear research path - follows a fixed sequence of steps; it is like a staircase leading in one clear direction • characteristic of a quantitative • Nonlinear research path - makes successive passes through steps, sometimes moving backward and sideways before moving on. • It is more characteristic of a qualitative Preplanned and Emergent Research Questions • Qualitative researchers often begin with vague or unclear research questions and the topic emerges slowly during the study • quantitative researchers narrow a topic into a focused question as a discrete planning step before they finalize the study design • use it as a step in the process of developing a testable hypothesis and to guide the study design before they collect any data researchers focus on a specific research problem within a broad topic • Qualitative Design Issues Grounded Theory • Qualitative researcher develops theory during the data - collection process • inductive method means that theory is built from data or grounded in data Interpretation • a quantitative researcher gives meaning by rearranging, examining, and discussing the numbers by using charts and statistics to explain how patterns in the data relate to the research questions • qualitative researcher gives meaning by rearranging, examining, and discussing textual or visual data in a way that conveys an authentic voice, or that remains true to the original people and situations that he or she studied • data are often "richer" or more complex and full of meaning Quantitative Design Issues The Language of Variables and Hypotheses • Variable - is a central idea in quantitative research, variable is a concept that varies • a concept or its empirical measure that can take on multiple values • attributes - the categories or levels of a variable • for example, "male" is not a variable; it describes a category of gender and is an attribute of a variable "gender" Types of Variables • variables are classified intro 3 basic types: 1. Independent Variable - the first variable that causes or produces the effect in a causal explanation 2. Dependent Variable - the effect variable that is last and results from the causal variable(s) in a causal explanation. Also the variable that is measured in the pretest and post test and that is the result of the treatment in experimental research 3. Intervening Variable - A variable that is between the initial causal variable and the final effect variable in a causal explanation • comes between the independent and dependent variables an show the link or mechanism between them Causal Theory and Hypotheses • Five Characteristics of Causal Hypotheses 1. It has at least two variables 2. It expresses a causal or cause - effect relationship between the variables 3. It can be expressed as a prediction or an expected future outcome 4. It is logically linked to a research questions and a theory 5. It is falsifiable; that is, it is capable of being tested against empirical evidence and shown to be true or false • researchers test hypotheses in 2 ways: straightforward way and a null hypothesis • null hypothesis - based on the logic of the disconfirming hypotheses. They test hypothesis by looking for evidence that will allow them to accept or reject the null hypothesis • most people talk about hypothesis as a way to predict a relationship • the null hypothesis does the opposite; it predicts no relationship • researchers use the null hypothesis with a corresponding alternative hypothesis • alternative hypothesis says that a relationship exists. • researcher assumes the null hypothesis is correct until reasonable doubt suggests otherwise Aspects of Explanation • level of analysis - is the level of social reality to which theoretical explanations refer • the level of social reality varies on a continuum from micro level (e.g small groups of individual processes) to macro level (e.g civilizations or structural aspects of society) • unit of analysis - refers to the type of unit a researcher uses when measuring • determines how a researcher measures variables or themes, also correspond loosely to the level of analysis in an explanation • ecological fallacy - arises from a mismatch of units of analysis, refers to a poor fit between the units for which a researcher has empirical evidence and the units for which he or she wants to make statements • occurs when a researcher gathers data at a higher or an aggregated unit of analysis but wants to make a statement about a lower or disaggregated unit can avoid this error by ensuring that the unit of analysis you use in an explanation is • the same as or very close to the unit on which you collect data • reductionism - also called the fallacy of nonequivalence, error occurs when a researcher explains macro-level events but has evidence only about specific individuals • occurs when a researcher observes a lower or disaggregated unit of analysis but makes statements about the operations of higher or aggregated units • mirror image of the mismatch error in the ecological fallacy • Spuriousness - occurs when two variables are associated but are not causally related because an unseen third factor is the real cause • the unseen third or other variable is the cause of both the independent and the dependent variable in the apparent but illusionary relationship and accounts for the observed association • Simpson's Paradox - an error in explanation where apparent differences between group tend to reverse or disappear when groups are combined • Tautology and Teleology - • Tautology - refers to circular reasoning and can often be detected when the first half of a sentence appears to be a rephrasing of the second half of the sentence "people are poor because they have little money" • like a cause and effect argument with the cause being "poverty" and the outcome being "no money" • Teleology - refers to an argument that explains the cause - effect relationship as one that fulfills a function or ultimate purpose • if the explanation for the existence of a social phenomenon rests solely on the argument that it fulfills some purpose - "Religion exists because it fulfills a purpose in society" Reading # 3 - Chapter 6 Qualitative and Quantitative Measurement Quantative and Qualitative Measurement • quantitative researchers think about variables and convert them into specific actions during a planning stage that occurs before and is separate from gathering or analyzing data • qualitative measurement occurs in the data collection process Parts of the Measurement Process • conceptualization – the process of taking a construct and refining it by giving it a conceptual or theoretical definition o the process of thinking through the meaning of a construct o conceptual definition – a definition in abstract, theoretical terms, refers to other ideas or constructs • operationalization – the process of moving from the conceptual definition of a construct to a set of specific activities or measures that allow a researcher to observe it empirically – operational definition o operational definition – could be a survey questionnaire, a method of observing events in a field setting, a way to measure symbolic content in the mass media, or any process carried out by the researcher that reflects, documents, or represents that abstract construct as it is expressed in the conceptual definition Quantitative Conceptualization and Operationalization • quantitative research –conceptualization > operationalization > operational definition or measuring to collect the data • three levels: moving deductively from the abstract to concrete 1. Conceptual Hypothesis – interested in the causal relationship between two constructs 2. Empirical hypothesis – to determine the degree of association between indicators, statistics and questionaries’ are used 3. Concrete empirical world – if the operational indicators of variables (questionnaires) are logically linked to a construct (racial discrimination) they will capture what happens in the empirical social world and relate it to the conceptual level Independent Variable Dependent Variable Abstract Construct Hypothetical Causal Relationship Abstract Variable Conceptualization Conceptualization Conceptual Definition Conceptual Definition Operationalization Operationalization Indicator or Measure Tested Empirical Hypothesis Indicator or Measure Qualitative Conceptualization and Operationalization • Conceptualization – refine rudimentary “working ideas” during the data collection and analysis process, largely determined by the data • Operationalization – instead of turning refined conceptual definition into a set of measurement operations, a qualitative researcher operationalizes by describing how specific observations and thoughts about the data contributed to working ideas that are the basis of conceptual definitions and theoretical concepts o After the fact description more than a before the fact preplanned technique Reliability and Validity • Reliability – means dependability or consistency, suggest that the same thing is repeated or recurs under the identical or very similar conditions o 4 ways to increase reliability: 1. Clearly conceptualize constructs – developing unambiguous, clear theoretical definitions. Each measure should indicate one and only one concept 2. Use a precise level of measurement – if more specific information is measure, then it is less likely that anything other than the construct will be captured 3. Use multiple indicators – because two or more indicators of the same construct are better than one 4. Use pilot tests – develop one or more draft or preliminary versions of a measure and try them before applying the final version in a hypothesis testing situation • Validity – suggests truthfulness and refers to the match between a construct, or the way a researcher conceptualizes the idea in a conceptual definition, and a measure o Refers to how well an idea about reality “fits” with actual reality o Measurement validity – refers to how well the conceptual and operational definitions mesh with each other  The reason we can never achieve absolute validity is that constructs are abstract ideas, wh
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