Introduction to Research Methods Describes different approaches to research, including possible sources of data and ways to conduct research. Also gives a brief introduction to the rest of the course.

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Published on 16 Oct 2011
School
York University
Department
Social Science
Course
SOSC 1000
Page:
of 1
Different Approaches in Social Science (Mentioned as an essay question)
1. Study documents: in libraries, archives, town halls, etc. As in historical demography
(the study of past populations) or contemporary demography.
Documents such as lists of sales, grocery lists, lists with prices are important social
science documents.
2. Massive social surveys: Most popularly cited as the basis of how we know what we
know.
3. Lab experiments: Beside classical scientific experiments with lab rats, cover things
like the Asch study, the Milgram study.
4. Interviews:
- Elite interviews: Interviews with powerful people, those who have influence, are
opinion leaders.
- Interviewing people who are relatively powerless; poor, marginalized, or
ordinary.
5. Observations in a naturalistic setting: i.e. fieldwork
1st part of the course: How do you do fieldwork? How do you become visible/invisible?
How do you know that things are not being impacted by the fact that you’re watching
people? Eg. Surprisingly, in Bohannan’s study of the Tiv, the influence of the gender
difference would be more significant than that of a racial difference.
3 ways of presenting yourself while conducting an experiment:
1. Observation; don’t try to participate in any way. May complement observation with
interviews, but don’t enter the lives of who you’re studying as a member of the
community.
2. Participant observation: The researcher actively participates in the life of the
community as a member of that community would.
Reasons:
1. People you’ll study will take you for granted. People are not staging things for
you as an observer. If the observer is seen, the results may be altered.
2. They feel that until they don’t get to doing something, they won’t understand
the meaning of why they’re doing something. However, can we really ever see things as
people in the community would? Could the activity be changed by the introduction of the
outsider into the activity? Yes. The field of study becomes different once you are there.
Unless you really can be invisible, the results would be changed.
3. Participant intervention: When I’m there and I participate there, things change. In
fact, I’m going to intervene and make things change. Eg. Aidng developing communities:
people going forth and changing is a form of participant intervention. It becomes about
examining how people change. The movie next week is an example of this.
Is it more difficult to study people who are unlike yourself or people like yourself? It may
be easier to study people who are like yourself, but not always.

Document Summary

Different approaches in social science (mentioned as an essay question: study documents: in libraries, archives, town halls, etc. As in historical demography (the study of past populations) or contemporary demography. Elite interviews: interviews with powerful people, those who have influence, are opinion leaders. Interviewing people who are relatively powerless; poor, marginalized, or ordinary: observations in a naturalistic setting: i. e. fieldwork. Surprisingly, in bohannan"s study of the tiv, the influence of the gender difference would be more significant than that of a racial difference. 3 ways of presenting yourself while conducting an experiment: observation; don"t try to participate in any way. Reasons: people you"ll study will take you for granted. People are not staging things for you as an observer. If the observer is seen, the results may be altered: they feel that until they don"t get to doing something, they won"t understand the meaning of why they"re doing something. The field of study becomes different once you are there.