SOAN 2120 Chapter Notes - Chapter All: Qualitative Property, Field Experiment, Institute For Operations Research And The Management Sciences

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Chapter 1: Doing Social Research
- Social research: A process in which a researcher combines a set of principles, outlooks, and
ideas with a collection of specific practices, techniques, and strategies to produce
- When you accept something as true because an authority figure says it, you are relying on
authority as a basis for knowledge
- Think tanks: Organizations composed of a body of experts in a field that are often
motivated by a particular advocacy goals
- Tradition relies on authority from the past, it’s the way things have always been
- Common sense is useful and sometimes correct, but contains errors, misinformation,
contradiction and prejudice
- Overgeneralization: When some evidence supports a belief, but a person falsely assumes
that it applies to many other situations too
- Selective observation: The tendency to take notice of certain people or events based on
past experience or attitudes
- Premature closure: When a person feels that he or she has the answers and does not need
to listen, seek information, or raise questions any longer
- Halo effect: When a person overgeneralizes from what he or she accepts as being highly
positive or prestigious and lets it impression rub off into other areas
How Science Works
- Data: The empirical evidence or information that a person gathers carefully according to
established rules or procedures
- Qualitative: Information in the form of words, pictures, sounds, visuals etc.
- Quantitative: Information in the form of numbers
- Empirical Evidence: The observations that people experience through their senses
- Scientific Community: A collection of people who share a system of rules and attitudes that
sustain the process of producing scientific knowledge
- Scientific method: The process of creating new knowledge using the ideas, techniques, and
rules of the community
Steps in the Research Process
1. Select topic
2. Focus question
3. Design study (e.g. qualitative, survey, observation etc.)
4. Collect data
5. Analyze data
6. Interpret data
7. Inform others
Academic vs Applied Research
- Academic Research: Advances fundamental knowledge about the social world
- Provides a foundation for knowledge in specific disciplines often later on
- Applied Research: Attempts to solve a concrete problem or address a specific policy
question and that has a direct, practical application
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- Public sociology: Concerned with connecting the results of research with the general
public, often through activism
- Exploratory research: Research into an area that has not been studied and wants to
develop initial ideas an a more focused research question e.g. exploring refugees of sexual
minorities in Canada
- Descriptive research: One paints a picture with words or numbers, presents a profile,
outlines stages, or classifies types e.g. undergraduate students who are parents
- Explanatory research: Focuses on why events occur or tries to test and build social theory
e.g. why immigrant youth are more likely to drop out
Time Dimension in Research
- Cross sectional research: Examined at a single point in time
- Longitudinal research: Examined at multiple points in time
- Time series: Observes different people at multiple times (different time periods)
- Panel: Observes the exact same people at two or more times
- Cohort: Observes a category of people who share similar experiences in a specified time
Quantitative Data Collection Techniques
- Experimental research: One intervenes or does something to one group of people but not
to another and then compares the results of the two groups
- Survey research: One systematically asks many people the same questions and
records/analyzes their answers
- Content analysis: One examines patterns of symbolic meaning within written text, audio,
visual or other communication media
- Existing statistics research: One examines numerical info from government documents or
official reports to address new research questions
Qualitative Data Collection Techniques
- Qualitative interview: One-on-one interview between a researcher and interviewee that is
usually open ended and semi structured
- Focus group: A type of group interview in which an interviewer poses questions to the
group and answers are given in an open discussion among the members
- Field research: Researcher directly observes the people being studied in a natural setting
for an extended period
- Historical research: One examines different cultures or periods to better understand the
social world
- Content Analysis: Can also be qualitative in nature, such as exploring implied meanings
and discourses
Chapter 2: Theory and Social Research
- Social theories explain recurring patterns
- Social theories are explanations for aggregates not particular individuals, which are
collections of many individuals, cases or units e.g. schools, families, clubs etc.
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- Social theories state a probability, chance, or tendency for events to occur
What is theory?
- Social theory is a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condenses and
organizes knowledge about the social world
- Ideas of social thinkers are different than social theory
Levels of theory
- Macrosocial theory: social theories and explanations about abstract, large scale aspects of
social reality such as social change in major institutions e.g. the family education in a whole
nation over several decades
- Microsocial theory: Social theories and explanations about the concrete, small scale level
of reality such as face to face interaction in small groups during a two-month period
- Mesosocial theory: Social theories and explanations about the middle level of social reality
between a broad and narrow scope, such as the development and operation of social
organizations, communities, or social movements over 5 years
Empirical Generalizations and Middle-Range Theory
- Empirical generalization is a quasi theoretical statement that summarizes findings or
regularities in empirical evidence. It uses few abstract concepts and makes a statement only
about a recurring pattern
- Middle-range theory: A theory that focuses on specific aspects of social life and
sociological topics that can be tested with empirical hypotheses
The parts of Theory
- Concept is an idea expressed as a symbol or in words
- We create concepts from personal experience, creative thought, or observation
- E.g. family system, gender role, self worth etc.
- A part of social theory that is not tested but acts as a starting point or basic belief about the
world, these are necessary to make other theoretical statements and to build social theory
1. Agency and Structure: Agency refers to the individual’s ability to act and make
independent choice and structure refers to the aspects of the social landscape that
appear to limit or influence the choices made by individuals. Structure refers to aspects
of the social landscape that appear to limit or influence the choices made by individuals
- Structural functionalists and conflict theorists emphasize how social structures determine
social life and that individual actions can really be reinterpreted as the outcomes of
structural forces
Ontology and Epistemology
- Ontology: A branch of philosophy that considers the way we understand the nature of
- Epistemology: A branch of philosophy that studies knowledge including how we puruse
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