SOCI 2030 – SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH METHODS:
CHAPTER 1: SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:
Knowledge and Reality:
- EPISTEMOLOGY: The science of knowing; systems of knowledge.
- METHODOLOGY: The science of finding out; procedures for scientific investigation.
- RESEARCH: A process of investigating knowledge SYSTEMATICALLY. (Procedure to Obtain Knowledge)
- SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH: Investigating (Knowledge) social life using sociological theories and
Knowledge is Based On:
3. Newspaper (Media, Myths)
6. Illogical Reasoning (Premature Closure)
… Or Scientific Investigation
Errors of Inquiry and Some Solutions:
- Chicken Soup helps get rid of cold (Traditional Knowledge)
- The newspaper says weak magnet can be used to heal many illnesses (Media, Authority, Scientific)
- Last night I was going for a walk and I saw the accident, the car hit the cyclist. The car was dark brown.
- If you work hard, you can get ahead.
- I must be right, because I cannot think of contrary cases (Premature Closure. You think you know enough, you
don’t think you need to know more.)
A. Deals with what SHOULD BE and not with what is.
B. Can settle debates on value.
C. Is exclusively descriptive
D. Has to do with disproving philosophical beliefs.
E. Has to do with how things are and why.
Errors in Inquiry and Some Solutions Cont.:
- INACCURATE OBSERVATIONS:
- Solution: Measurement devices offer accuracy.
- Cannot rely on Experience.
- PREMATURE CLOSURE:
- Solution: Various perspectives/representation of different views.
- Think that they know everything and do not need to be open with different perspectives and or views.
- SELECTIVE OBSERVATIONS:
- Solution: Avoid looking for “deviant” cases. Look for regularities.
- We look at what most people think.
- Solution: Large and representative samples are a safeguard against overgeneralization.
- Solution: Replication – repeating a research study to test and either confirm or question the findings of
an earlier study.
- ILLOGICAL REASONING:
SOCI 2030 – Chapter 1 – 5 Review Page 1 - “Gambler’s Fallacy” – If you lose all the time, the person thinks that there is no way I can keep losing.
So they think they are going to win.
- Uses systems of logic consciously and explicitly.
The Foundations of Social Science:
- The foundations of social science are LOGIC AND SYSTEMATIC OBSERVATION
- Social Research aims to find patterns of regularity in Social Life.
- AGGREGATES, NOT INDIVIDUALS – The Collective actions and situations of many individuals.
- Focus of Social Science is to explain WHY AGGREGATED PATTERNS OF HEBAHIOUR ARE REGULAR
EVEN WHEN INDIVIDUALS CHANGE OVER TIME.
Steps of Sociological Research:
1. Select a topic and define the problem – Specify what the Research Problem is and why it is studied.
2. Review the Literature – Determine what research has already been done (e.g. on homeless people) and what vital
information and questions are missing.
3. Specify your Focus Question and Hypotheses – Specification of the Research Problem
4. Choose a Research Method(s) - to Answer Questions and test hypotheses (Research Design), How to obtain
data? Method; Survey?
5. Collect Data – Collect information with the techniques you have picked
6. Analyze and Interpret Data (Results) – Arrange Information you Collected. Draw Conclusions.
7. Share Results (Inform Others) – Write a report on your findings. Identify areas for Future Research.
Scientific Research Method:
1. Define Problem
2. Review Literature
3. Formulate Hypothesis
4. Select the Research Design
5. Collect Data
6. Analyze data and Develop the Conclusion
7. Write Report
…. Ideas for further Research (It starts over, back to step 1)
- In the research project, you can also go back; you do not have to go from Step 1 to Step 7. You can go back and
change your research methods if you find that another topic is more important, another method is more effective
Social Research – Types & Techniques:
- Quantitative (Numerical) Vs. Qualitative (Non-Numerical)
- Quantitative Method:
- Questionnaires – Count numbers to see who chose each category.
- Experiments (Ex. New Teaching Method. Use of clickers in one section and not the other – measuring the
variable of usage of clickers and success)
- Content Analysis
- Existing Statistics
- Qualitative Method:
- Observing people and talking to people, visual images, sounds
- Interviews (In-depth)
- Focus Groups
- Field Research
- Historical – Comparative Research ( Examine, Different Cultures/ Time Periods and Compare)
- Content- Analysis (Look at text and think about the meaning created in this text)
SOCI 2030 – Chapter 1 – 5 Review Page 2 - Time Dimension in Research:
- Cross Sectional (Single point in time) Vs. Longitudinal (Multiple Points in Time)
Social Research: Is 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.
- When you accept something as true because someone is in a position of authority says it is true or
because it is an authoritative publication, you are rely on authority as a basis for knowledge.
- Relying on the wisdom of authorities is a quick, simple and cheap way to learn something.
- Authorities often spend time and effort to gain knowledge, and you can benefit from their experiences
- Problems with Authority:
1. It is easy to overestimate the expertise of other people. You may assume that they are right when they
are not. (For example: Some “experts” in the past measured intelligence by counting bumps on the
skull; other “experts” use bloodletting to try to cure diseases”
2. Authorities may not agree, and all authorities may not be equally dependable. Whom should we depend
3. Authorities may speak on fields they know little about, or they may be plain wrong. An expert who is
very informed about one area may use his or her authority in an unrelated area.
- Sometimes organizations or individuals give an appearance of authority so they can convince others to
agree to something that they might not otherwise.
- Too much reliance on authorities can be dangerous to a democratic society. Experts may promote ideas
that strengthen their own power and position. When we accept the authority of experts but do not know
how to experts arrived at their knowledge, we lose the ability to evaluate what the experts say.
- People sometimes rely on tradition for knowledge. Tradition is a special case of authority – the
authority of the past.
- Tradition means you accept something as being true because “It’s the way things have always been.”
- Problems with Tradition:
- Even if traditional knowledge was once true, it can become distorted as it is passed on, and soon it is no
- Common Sense:
- You know a lot about the social world from your everyday reasoning or common sense. You rely on
what everyone knows and what “just makes sense.”
- Common sense is valuable in daily living, but it allows logical fallacies to slip into thinking. (For
example: The so-called gambler’s fallacy is, “If I have a long string of losses playing a lottery, the next time I
play, my chances of winning is better.” In terms of probability and the facts, this is false.
- Problems with Common Sense:
- Also, common sense contains contradictory ideas that often go unnoticed because people use the ideas
at different times, such as “opposites attract” and “birds of a feather flock together.”
- Common sense can originate from tradition. It is useful and sometimes correct, but it also contains
error, misinformation, contradiction, and prejudice.
- Media Myths:
- Unfortunately, the media tend to perpetuate the myths of a culture, as do some bloggers and individuals
on social networking tools such as Twitter.
- Because what bloggers and Twitters users post is very current, people often mistake the information on
such sites for fact, when it is just an opinion.
- Personal Experience:
- If something happens to you, if you personally see it or experience it, you accept it as true.
- Personal experience or “seeing believes” has a strong impact and is a powerful source of knowledge.
- Problems with Personal Experience:
SOCI 2030 – Chapter 1 – 5 Review Page 3 - Personal experience can lead you astray. What appears true may actually be due to a slight error or
distortion in judgment.
- Four errors of Personal Experience:
1. Overgeneralization: An error that people often make when using personal experience as an
alternative to science for acquiring knowledge. It occurs when some evidence supports a
belied, but a person falsely assumes that applies to many other situations, too. (For example:
Over the years, the authors have known a number of blind people. All of them have been very
friendly. Can the authors then conclude that all blind people are friendly?)
2. Selective Observation: The tendency to take notice of certain people of events based on past
experience of attitudes. We are sensitive to features that confirm what we think but ignore
features that confirm what we think but ignore features that contradict out ideas. Psychologists
found that people tend to “seek out” and distort their memories to make them more consistent
with what they already think.
3. Premature Closure: An error that is often made when using personal experience as an
alternative to science for acquiring knowledge. It occurs when a person feels he or she has the
answers and does not need to listen, seek information or raise questions any longer. (For
example: We want to learn whether people in particular town support Mary Smith or Jon Van
Horn for mayor. We ask 20 people, 16 favors Mary, 2 Undecided, and only 2 favors Jon, so
we stop there and believe Mary will win on the basis of a small sampling of town residents.)
4. Halo Effect: An error often made when people use personal experience as an alternative to
science for acquiring knowledge. It is when a person overgeneralizes from what he or she
accepts as being highly positive or prestigious and lets its strong reputation or prestige “rub
off” onto other areas. (For example: You pick up a report by a person from a prestigious
university – say Mc Gill or Queen’s. You assume that the report will be excellent. You do not
make this assumption about a report by someone from an unknown university or college.)
CHAPTER 2: THEORY AND SOCIAL RESEARCH:
- We all have a social location in our lives. We are situated somewhere compared to others.
- Our social location depends on our: Sexual Orientation, Gender, Citizenship, Class, Race, Physical Ability etc.
- We are interested in how Social Location affects you, and other people.
- Life is like a card game, who deals the cards? Society. The cards are dealt, you don’t pick them. That means that
you are born into a society – a family, born in a social class.
- Sociology gives us a new perspective in things we didn’t realize before.
- Sociology is about looking behind those curtains – we are looking at everything critically.
- When you are looking in a sociological perspective (e.g. Girl lost her economic crisis, department…) we look for
reasons outside of the individuals.
- You blame the social structure/ society’s problem if there is a problem – not the individuals themselves.
Social Concepts/ Variables:
- ATTRIBUTES: Characteristics of people or things, a general concept. (Age, Ex, Occupation, Race/ Ethnicity,
Social Class, Political Views)
- VARIABLES: Logical groupings of attributes. A concept or its empirical measure that can take on multiple
values. These values are empirical (you can point to). (Young, middle- aged, Old, Female, Male, Plumber,
Lawyer, African American, Asian, Upper, Middle, Lower Class, Liberal, Conservative.
- HYPOTHESIS: A basic statement tested in research which typically states a relationship between two variables.
Independent Variable (Causes that affect the other variable, X) and Dependent Variable is what is affecting you.
- (Example: Variable 1: Education “Educated” and “Uneducated”, Variable 2: “Prejudice” and “Unprejudiced”
- The Uneducated people are more prejudiced than the educated.
Chapter 2: Theory and Research:
SOCI 2030 – Chapter 1 – 5 Review Page 4 - THEORY: A logical explanation of an aspect of social reality.
- Explains how society is organized, how it functions, how it’s changed.
- System of interconnected ideas that organizes knowledge about the social world.
- Theories shape and direct our research.
- Theory – An explanation of observed regularities or patterns – specifies how concepts related to each other.
- What is the relationship between Theory and Research?
- You use theory to guide your study and to guide the interpretational results
- Theory is not fixed; it can be changed by research.
Direction of Theorizing:
- DEDUCTIVE VS INDUCTIVE:
1. Deductive Theorizing: Using deduction, one begins with a theory or explanation for something, then
goes out into the world and tests it. (You formulate a theory and a hypothesis)
3. Data Collection
5. Hypothesis Confirmed or Rejected
6. Revision of Theory (Can go back to Hypothesis)
2. Inductive Theorizing: Using Induction, one begins by gathering or examining data and then tries to
derive a theory or explanation from the data. (Step 1: Observations, Step 2: Finding a Pattern, Step 3:
- Grounded = Inductive (Qualitative)
- Deriving theories/ explanations from inductive method: grounded theory.
- Grounded because, the theme emerges from looking at the data after it has been collected.
Deductive VS. Inductive Differences:
- Step 1: Hypothesis / Observation
- Step 2: Observations/ Finding a Pattern
- Step 3: Accept/Reject Hypothesis/Tentative
Levels of Theory:
- Macro Perspective VS. Micro Perspective:
- Macro Level Theory: Focus on the society, or a bigger group of individuals.
- Aims to understanding the big picture, institution, cultures, or interactions amongst society.
- Wants to understand different class struggles in society.
- Micro Level Theory: Focus on person to person interactions.
- Looks for the trends and patterns on a smaller scale – your interactions with others.
- Seeing how people interact with each other.
- Meso- Level Theory: