Social Research Methods Exam Study Guide.doc

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Matti Siemiatycki

Social Research Methods Exam Study Guide GGR271H1 Deductive/Inductive method Deductive: researcher starts by coming up with a theory that seeks to explain a phenomenon and then deduces specific hypothesis which are then tested by empirical data Inductive: the theory is the outcome of research; researcher gathers information first and examines data. Data isnt gathered to test a theory but rather to come up with the information needed to construct a theory Positivism vs. Interpretivism Positivism: explain human behaviour** and is value-free; employs a deductive approach where theory is constructed prior to research o Uses empiricism: only phenomena confirmed by the senses can be considered knowledge o Uses natural science methods for social research Interpretivism: understands human behaviour** and knowledge is logical and contingent; it is the job of social scientists to gain access to the common sense thinking of the people they study and to interpret peoples actions o Social scientists must grasp the subjective meanings of peoples actions Ontological considerations Objectivism: social phenomena exist beyond the reach of individuals Constructivism: social phenomena and their meanings are produced through interactions Quatitative vs. Qualitative Research Quantitative: involves the use of numbers and statistics when collecting data o Mainly uses a deductive approach and has a view that society is an external objective reality Qualitative: mainly uses words and other non-numerical symbols o Takes a more inductive approach and sees social reality as a constantly shifting and emerging property of individual creations Influences on how social research is conducted Values: how the values and personal beliefs of researchers can affect their work; can intrude all processes in the research such as data collection, choice or research area or choice of method o Can deal with this by realizing research cannot be value free and researcher can acknowledge and make explicit of any potential biases Politics: taking sides such as feminists in womans issues; funding could cause a bias because a government agency could fund certain research and only publish it if it is in their favour o Concern with how public institutions such as the police are going to be portrayed in such research Practical considerations: nature of topic and people being investigated [ex. studying people doing illicit activities] Research question: states the purpose of the study and guide the literature search, decisions about the research design to employ, which methods to use and the writing of the findings Criteria for evaluating social research Validity: the integrity of the conclusions generated by a piece of research o Internal validity: relates to causality; degree of confidence one can have on whether the independent variable has an impact on the dependent variable o External validity: concerned with whether a studys findings are applicable to situations outside the research environment such as everyday lives and whether the results of a study can be generalizable Replicability: whether others are able to repeat part or all of your study and get the same results Reliability: whether measures of social concepts are reliable; would you get the same results if the same research techniques were administered to the same subject Relationship with the general research orientation Studies shouldnt be based on reliability and those above but rather on new criteria Credibility: how believable are the findings? Transferability: do the findings apply to other people and other contexts? Dependability: are the findings likely to be consistent over time? Confirmability: would another investigator reach the same conclusions? Research Designs Are broad structures that guide the collection and analysis of data; involves decisions of what the researcher wants to accomplish with the study Compares the results of the experiment group to the control group Experimental design: are strong on determining whether a particular variable affects the phenomena being studied; experiments manipulate the independent variable to determine its influence on a dependent variable o Control groups and treatment groups o Classical experiments o Lab experiments: researcher has greater control over the research environment; have low external validity since lab experiments dont really mirror real world experiences and treatment may cause different people to react differently o Quasi-experiments: do not fulfill all the external validity requirements. An example is natural experiments in which naturally occurring phenomena or changes brought about by people not doing research, result in experiment-like conditions Cross-sectional design: often uses questionnaires and structured observation, but can also employ analysis of statistics or diaries and do not involve any manipulation of the independent variable o Is the collection of data on more than one case- looking for variations between different people, families, etc. o Lacks internal validity because it is hard for researchers to draw inferences about causality o External validity is strong when the sample is random and replicability is strong if the researcher spells out the procedures very clearly o Usually quantitative but can be qualitative Longitudinal design: cases are examined at a particular time and then again at a later time and there is no manipulation of an independent variable; sample surveyed initially and then surveyed at least once again o Has a heightened ability to show cause and effect but not used frequently in social research because of its cost and time involved o Issues: sample attrition [death, moving, and withdrawals], panel conditioning [continued participation makes people change their behaviour over time] and it is also costly and very time consuming o Panel study: same people, households, etc. are studied on at least two occasions; needs to have rules for handling people who enter the study and leave o Cohort study: people sharing the same experiences such as being born the same year, are studied over time but the same people may not be studied each time
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