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SOCI 210 (61)
Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Research Methods

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Sociology (Arts)
SOCI 210
Yasmin Bayer

SOC CHAPTER 2: RESEARCH METHODS  Reality isn’t something we can perceive objectively—experience helps determine how we perceive reality.  Levels of experience: o The Concrete level: Concrete experience is obtained by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, or hearing. Percepts are the smallest bits of concrete experience, and patterns are collections of related percepts. The concrete level is the level of experience you share with all living creatures. But if we experienced just the concrete level, life would be all sensations but devoid of meaning (ex. like a newborn baby). o The Abstract level: the abstract experience is the imaginary world of the mind. It is composed of concepts, which are abstract terms used to organize concrete experience (ex. we use the term “pen” to organize/conceptualize all pens even though they are not all the same). Propositions are ideas that result from finding the relationship between concepts (ex. “the pen is on the table,” or “this provincial government is the corrupt in Canada”).  Scientific versus Unscientific thinking: Our biases easily influence our observations, which leads to incorrect conclusions. There are ten types of unscientific thinking: 1. Tradition—which can often be invalid (“Chicken soup gets rid of a cold—it worked for my grandparents, it will work for me.”) 2. Authority—thinking something is true because an authority or expert said it was. 3. Casual observation—to prevent uncertainty observations need to be done in a conscious and deliberate manner. 4. Overgeneralization—this can be avoided by using a sample that is representative of entire populations or by repeating research to ensure the set of research finding were not an exception. 5. Selective Observation—sometime we consciously ignore evidence that contradicts out firmly held beliefs. 6. Qualifications—or “exceptions to the rules” need to be carefully examined in the light of evidence, and they aren’t as easily accepted as they are in everyday life. 7. Illogical reasoning—“the Blue Jays win 65% of the game they play on Tuesdays so they’ll win this Tuesday”. Some sequences of events just occur by change and in the absence of the apparent reasoning, it should be assumed it is just coincidental. 8. Ego-Defence—being too committed to conclusions that you have invested time, money and energy in so assuming “you just can’t be wrong.” 9. Premature Closure of Inquiry—deciding all the relevant information has been gathered on a particular subject when it isn’t settled. 10. Mystification—attributing something to forces that can’t be fully observed or understood when you can’t find a rational explanation for a phenomenon.  The Research Cycle: o First, formulate a research question that can be answered by systematically collecting and analyzing sociological data. o Second, review the existing research literature and understand what sociologists have already debated and discovered. This prevents duplication of effort and allows you to refine your initial question. o Third, select the research method keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses of different methods. o Fourth, collect the data, bringing you close to the puzzling facts that fascinate you. o Fifth, analyze the data, which helps you confirm some of your expectations and confound others. o Sixth, report the results and publish them, which allows other sociologists to scrutinize and criticize.  Ethical considerations: o Researchers must respect their subject’s rights: research subjects need the right to decide if they want to be studied or not, whether their attitudes and behaviours may be revealed to the public, and their confidentiality must be respected. o Subjects must be told how the information will be used and they must be allowed to judge the degree of personal risk involved in answering questions (right to informed consent). o Plagiarism is also an issue of ethics.  Sample is the part of the population of research interest that is selected for analysis.  Population is the entire group about which the researcher wants to generalize.  Measuring Variables: o Operationalization is the process of translating concepts into variables and propositions into hypothesis (a variable is a measure of a concept that has more than one value or score). o Ex. If the abstract concept is education, operationalization asks us to consider what variables would indicate whether someone is more educated than someone else. So “years of schooling” is an operationalization. o After operationalization, the original idea (proposition) can be translated into a relationship between variables, or a hypothesis (the testable form of a proposition). A hypothesis is an educated guess that we can test.  Methods of Sociological Research (4 major ways): o An experiment is a carefully controlled artificial situation that allows researchers to isolate hypothesized causes and measure their effects precisely. Experiments often use randomization, randomization (assigning each individual by chance processes to the group that will be exposed to the presumed cause or to the group that will not be exposed to the presumed cause) to create two similar groups. One group is the experimental group and one is the control group. They analyze the dependent variable (the presumed effect in a cause-and-effect relationship) and the independent variable (the presumed cause in a cause-and-effect relationship). Experiments are good in the short term but results are mixed when it comes to assessing long-term effects. Experiments allow for a high reliability (the degree to which a measurement procedure yields consistent results). But the fact that it puts people in artificial situations and removes people from their natural social settings lead some people to believe that experiments have less validity (the degree to which a measure actually measures what it is intended to measure) than other methods. Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4 Control Randomize Measure Do no Measure Group assignment dependent introduce dependent of subjects variable independent variable to group variable again Experimental Randomize Measure Introduce Measure Groups assignment dependent independent dependent of subjects variable variable variable to group again o Surveys are the most widely used method. In a survey, sociologists ask respondents questions about their knowledge, attitudes, or behaviour, either in a face-to-face or telephone interview or in a paper-and-pencil format. They aim to get a sample of the population, so it is best to choose respondents at random, and an individual’s chance of being chosen must be known and greater than zero. Surveys can have open- ended questions where the respondents answer in their own words or closed-ended questions with a list of permitted answers (like multiple choice). They can make sure their results are reliable by asking the same questions in subsequent surveys and they can make sure their results are valid by making sure they do not exclude part of the population in the sample, refuse the participation of some people in the survey, ask confusing/leading/inflammatory questions, or not allowing respondents to answer frankly. o Read
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