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full midterm review

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Mary Jo Nadeau

Chapter 1 – Doing Social Research (1-9) • Social Research: a process in which people combine a set of principles, outlooks, and ideas (ie methodology) with a collection of specific practices, techniques, and strategies (ie a method of inquiry) to produce knowledge Alternatives to Social Research o Authority  When accepting something as being true because someone in a position of authority says it is true or because it’s in an authoritative publication  Limitations: • It’s easy to overestimate the expertise of others • Authorities may not agree, and all authorities may not be equally dependable • Authorities may speak on fields they know little about, or they may be plain wrong • Misuse of authority – orgs + inds use their authority to convince others to agree w/ them on something o Tradition  ‘the authority of the past’  Accepting something as being true b/c ‘it’s the way things have always been’  Even if trad knowledge was once true, it can become distorted as it’s passed on, and soon is no longer true o Common Sense  Most commonsense beliefs are false  It’s valuable in daily living, but it allows logical fallacies to slip into thinking  Common sense can originate in tradition  Useful and sometimes correct, but also contains errors, misinfo, contradiction + prejudice o Media Myths  Television portrayals of crime and other things don’t accurately reflect social reality  Competing interests use the media to win public support o Personal Experience  Has a strong impact and is a powerful source of knowledge  Can lead you astray  Errors: • Overgeneralization: when some evidence supports a belief, but a person falsely assumes that it applies to many other situations, too • Selective Observation: the tendency to take notice of certain people or events based on past experience or attitudes • Premature Closure: it occurs when a person feels he or she has the answers and doesn’t need to listen, seek info, or raise questions any longer • Halo Effect: when a person overgeneralizes from what he or she accepts as being highly positive or prestigious and lets its strong rep ‘rub off’onto other areas (judging a writer from a prestigious uni just b/c they go there, not based on their own merit) How Science Works o Science  Data: the empirical evidence or info that a person gathers carefully according to established rules or procedures; can be quantitative or qualitative  Qualitative Data: info in the form of words, pics, sounds, objects, etc  Quantitative Data: info in the form of numbers  Empirical Evidence: the observations that people experience through their senses (touch, sight, etc), these can be direct or indirect o The Scientific Community  Scientific Community: a collection of people who share a system of rules and attitudes that sustain the process of producing scientific knowledge o The Scientific Method andAttitude  The Scientific Method: the process of creating new knowledge using the ideas, techniques, and rules of the scientific community o JournalArticles in Science  Very cautiously screened and reviewed by respected scientists who don’t know who the author is (blind review) • Steps in the Research Process a. Select a topic – a general area of study b. Focus the topic into a specific research question for a study i. Review past research/literature on a topic or question ii. Develop a possible hypothesis c. Develop a detailed plan on how to carry out the study d. Collect the data or evidence e. Analyze the data f. Interpret the data g. Inform others by writing a report that describes the study’s bkg, how you conducted it, and what you discovered Dimensions of Research (Chapter 1) 10-21 • Use of Research o Some researchers concentrate on advancing gen knowledge over the long term, whereas others conduct studies to solve specific, immediate problems o Basic Research  Research designed to advance fundamental knowledge about the social world  Focus on testing theories that explain how the social world operates, what makes things happen, why social relations are a certain way, and why society changes  Is the source of most of the tools, methods, theories, and ideas used by applied researchers to analyze underlying causes of people’s actions or thinking o Applied Research  Research that attempts to solve a concrete problem or address a specific policy question that has a direct, practical application • Usually addressed by an employer, club, agency, social movement or organization  Rarely concerned w/ building, testing or connecting to a larger theory, developing a long-term general understanding, or carrying out a large- scale investigation that might span years  Usually conduct a quick, small-scale study that provide practical results for use in the short term  Applied research usually doesn’t reach public domain in publications • This means that well-qualified researchers rarely get to judge the quality of applied studies o Types ofApplied Research  Evaluation Research Study • One tries to determine how well a program or policy is working or reaching its goals and objectives • ‘Does it work?’ • Most common type of applied research • Widely used in large bureaucratic orgs to demonstrate the effectiveness of what they’re doing • Measure the effectiveness of a program, policy, or way of doing something + often use several research techniques • Ethical + political conflicts often arise b/c people can have opposing interests in the findings o Can affect who gets a job, build pol popularity, or may help promo an alternative program • Limitations: o reports rarely go through peer review process o raw data are seldom publicly available o focus is narrowed to select inputs + outputs more than the full process by which a program affects peoples’lives o decisions makers may selectively use or ignore evaluation findings  Action Research Study • Researcher treats knowledge as a form of power and abolishes the division b/w creating knowledge and using knowledge to engage in political action • Several types, but they all share: o People being studied actively participate in research process o Research incorporates ordinary/popular knowledge o Research focuses on issues of power o Research seeks to raise consciousness or increase awareness of issues o Research is tied directly to a plan or program of pol action • Tends to be assoc w/ a social movement, pol cause, or advocacy for an issue  Social Impact Assessment Research Study • Researcher estimates the likely consequences or outcome of a planned intervention or intentional change to occur in the future • Forecast how aspects of the social environment may change and suggests ways to mitigate changes likely to be adverse from the POV of an affected pop • Ex. Estimate the ability of a local hospital to respond to an earthquake, determine how housing availability for older adults will change if a major new highway is built, etc • Purpose of a Study o Exploration  Exploratory Research: research into an area that hasn’t been studied and in which a researcher wants to develop initial ideas and a more focused research question  May be the first stage in a sequence of studies  Tend to use qualitative data + not be committed to a specific theory or research question  Rarely yields definitive answers  Ex. Study discovers a trend in lower rates of marriage o Description  Descriptive Research: one ‘paints a picture’with words or numbers, presents a profile, outlines stages, or classifies types  Focuses on ‘how?’and ‘who?’questions  Use most data-gathering techniques – surveys, field research, content analysis, and historical-comparative research  Researcher begins w/ well-defined subject & conducts a study to describe it accurately; outcome is a detailed picture of subject  Ex. Study describes the kinds of men and women for which it is most frequent o Explanation  Explanatory Research: focuses on why events occur or tries to test & build social theory  Explaining why things are the way they are  Buildings on exploratory & descriptive research  Ex. Study focuses on why certain couple are choosing cohabitation over marriage • Time Dimension in Research o Cross-Sectional: Observe a collection of people at one time  Disadv: cannot capture social processes or change  Can be exploratory, descriptive, explanatory, but usually descriptive o Longitudinal Research: research in which the researcher examines the features of people or other units at multiple point in time  Time Series: observe diff people at multiple times  Panel: observe the same people at two or more times  Cohort: observe people who shared an experience at two or more times  Case Study: observe a small set intensely across time • Data-Collection Techniques o Quantitative Data-Collection Techniques  Experimental research: Research in which one intervenes or does something to one group of people but not to another and then compares the results of the two groups.  Survey research: Quantitative social research in which one systematically asks many people the same questions and then records and analyzes their answers.  Content analysis: Research in which one examines patterns of symbolic meaning within written text, audio, visual, or other communication medium.  Existing statistics research: Research in which one examines numerical information from government documents or official reports to address new research questions. o Qualitative Data-Collection Techniques  Qualitative interview:Aone-on-one interview between a researcher and an interviewee that is usually characterized by being semi- structured and open ended.  Focus group:Atype of group interview in which an interviewer poses questions to the group, and answers are given in an open discussion among the group members.  Field research:Atype of qualitative research in which a researcher directly observes the people being studied in a natural setting for an extended period. Often, the researcher combines intense observation with participation in the people’s social activities.  Historical–Comparative research: Research in which one examines different cultures or periods to better understand the social world.  ContentAnalysis: can also be qualitative. • Ex. Exploring implied meanings and discourses Theory and Social Research (22­36) • Introduction o Social theories explain recurring patterns, not unique or one­time events o Social theories are explanations for aggregates, not particular individuals  Aggregate: collection of many individuals, cases, or other units o Social theories state a probability, chance, or tendency for events to occur, rather  than stating that one event must absolutely follow another • What is Theory? o Social Theory: a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condenses  and organizes knowledge about the social world • The Parts of Theory o Concepts  An idea expressed as a symbol or in words • Are the building blocks of theory  Have two parts: a symbol and a definition  Created from personal experience, creative thought, or observation  A valuable goal of exploratory research is to clarify & refine concepts  Concept Clusters • A collection of interrelated ideas that share common assumptions,  belong to the same large social theory, and refer to one another  Classification Concepts • Classification: a means of organizing abstract, complex concepts  using a combination of the characteristics of similar concepts • Ideal Type: a pure model about an idea, process, or event. One  develops it to think about it more clearly and systematically. It’s is  used both as a method of qualitative data analysis and in social  theory building.  Scope • Concepts vary by scope • More abstract concepts have a wider scope o Can be used for a much broader range of specific time  points & situations o Assumptions  A part of a social theory that is not tested but acts as a starting point or  basic belief about the world. These are necessary to make other theoretical  statements and to building social theory. o Relationships  Theories specify how concepts relate to each other or if they’re related at  all  Proposition: a relationship in theory in which the scientific comm starts  to gain greater confidence and feels it is likely to be truthful • The Aspects of Theory o Direction of Theorizing  Two directions to approach building and testing a theory • With abstract thinking • With specific observations of empirical evidence  Deductive • One begins w/ abstract ideas and principles then works toward  concrete, empirical evidence to test the ideas  Inductive • One begins w/ concrete empirical details, then works toward  abstract ideas or general principles • Grounded Theory: social theory that is rooted in observations of  specific, concrete details o Range of Theory  Highly specific theories w/ concrete concepts of limited scope to whole  systems w/ many theories that are extremely abstract  Empirical Generalization: a simple statement about a pattern or  generalization among two or more concrete concepts that are very close to  empirical reality • Ex. More men than women choose engineering as a uni major  Middle­range theories are slightly more abstract than empirical  generalizations or a specific hypothesis • Focuses on a specific substantive topic area, includes a multiple  empirical generalization, and building a theoretical explanation  Theoretical Framework is more abstract than ^ o Levels of Theory  Mirco­level theory: deals with small slices of time, space, or people.  Usually not very abstract concepts.  Meso­level theory: links macro and mirco levels and operates at an  intermediate level. Theories are of organizations, social movements and  communities  Macro­level theory: concerns the operation of larger aggregates such a  social institutions, entire cultural systems, and whole societies. More  abstract concepts. o Forms of Explanation  Prediction and Explanation • Prediction: a statement about something that’s likely to occur in  the future  Causal Explanation • A statement about why events occur that’s expressed in terms of  causes and effects. Correspond to associations in the empirical  world • need three things to establish causality: temporal order,  association, and the elimination of plausible alternatives • Temporal Order: the cause must come before the effect • Association: a co­occurrence of the events, factors, characteristics,  or activities, such that when one happens, the other is likely to  occur as well. Many statistics measure this.  Structural Explanation • Functional theory: based on biological analogies in which the  social world or its parts are seen as systems, with its parts serving  the needs of the system  Interpretive Explanation • Purpose is to foster understanding • Attempts to discover the meaning of an event of practice by  placing it w/i a specific social context Chapter 2 – Theory and Social Research (36-41) The Three MajorApproaches to Social Science o Paradigm: a general organizing framework for social theory and empirical research. It includes basic assumptions, major questions to be answered, models of good research practice and theory, and methods for finding the answers to questions o PositivistApproach  Positivism sees social science research as basically the same as natural science research; assumes that social reality’s made up on objective facts that value-free researchers can measure + that the researchers can use stats to test causal theories  Emphasizes getting objective measures of ‘hard facts’in the form of numbers  Put a great value on the principle of replication • Replication: the principle that scientists must be able to repeat scientific findings in multiple studies to have a high level of confidence that the findings are true  It’s Nomothetic: an approach based on laws or one that operates according to a system of laws  Tend to use ‘experiment’as the ideal method for research + usually have quantitative studies o InterpretiveApproach  Human social life is qualitatively diff from other things studied by science  Believe it’s necessary to create a special type of science based on the uniqueness of humans + that can capture human social life  Most adopt constructivist view of social reality • View holds that human social life is based less on objective, hard, factual reality than on the ideas, beliefs, and perceptions that people hold about reality  Idiographic: an approach that focuses
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