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SOCI 211 (34)
Chapter 10

Chapter 10 Unobtrusive Research

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Sociology (Arts)
SOCI 211
Yasmin Bayer

Chapter 10: Unobtrusive research Unobtrusive research: methods of studying social behaviour without affecting it. There are 3 types of unobtrusive research methods. 1. Analysis of existing statistics (Durkheim’s study of suicide was an example of it) 2. Content Analysis (researcher examines a class of social artifacts that are usually written documents like newspaper editorials) 3. Historical and comparative research (a form of research in which the main resources for observation and analysis are the historical records). Analyzing Existing Statistics:  In this method, we look at ways of drawing on data analysis reported by others, such as government agencies.  It differs from secondary analysis in which you obtain a copy of someone else’s data and do your own statistical analysis.  Nonetheless, much overlapping and limitations in both of these two methods.  the limitations and constraints of available measures and lack of knowledge about how these measures were collected and coded.  Lack of ethical approval in both methods.  Existing statistics can often provide the historical context within which to locate your original research.  For example, Sosteric did participant observation study in a nightclub in a small Canadian city. In support of his claim that the club’s workers made above average incomes, he reported data from statistics Canada on industry averages for full and part-time workers.  Existing stats can also provide the main data for a social scientific inquiry. An example for it the classics study of Emile Durkheim.  He wanted to discover the environmental and social conditions that encourage or discourage the suicide patters.  He noticed that the predominantly protestant countries had 190 suicides per million population; mixed protestant Catholics 96, and predominantly catholic countries 58.  Thus he suggested that the suicides are a product of anomie, or a general sense of social instability and disintegration.  During times of political strife, people may feel that old ways of society are collapsing and they become more stressed and demoralized. Suicide is one answer to this severe discomfort.  Seen from other direction, social integration and solidarity reflected in personal feelings of being part of a coherent enduring social whole offer protection against depression and suicide. Here the religious difference comes in. Catholicism is more structured and integrated system, which gives a greater sense of coherence than the loosely structured Protestantism. Units of Analysis:  The unit of analysis in the study of existing statistics is often not the individual. Durkheim for example worked with geographical-political units like countries, regions, states and cities.  This can sometimes cause a problem. As in Durkheim’s case, he wanted to know whether Catholics or Protestants were more likely to commit suicide. The difficulty was that none of the records available to him indicated the religion of those people who committed suicide. Because protestant countries, regions and states had higher suicides than Catholic countries, regions and states, so he drew the obvious conclusion.  There’s a danger in drawing these kinds of conclusions. It’s always possible that patterns of behaviour at a group level may not reflect corresponding patterns on individual level. Problems of validity:  Two characteristics of science are used to handle the problem of validity in analysis of existing statistics. - Logical Reasoning and- Replication. (How do you know if the measurement is an accurate reflection of what you are measuring?)  Durkheim’s study provides the example of logical reasoning. Although he could not determine the religion of people who committed suicide, he reasoned that most of the suicides in a predominantly protestant region would be protestants.  Replication can be done by repeating or retesting your measures and seeing if you get the same results. Problems of Reliability: (is it an accurate report of what it claims it reports?)  This problem can also be solved through logical reasoning and Replication. Sources of existing statistics:  Statistics Canada: responsible for Canadian census, labour statistics, official stat crimes and stats on health and welfare, finance, agric
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