Soan 2120 Chapter Notes.docx

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Soan 2120 Chapter Notes 09/10/2012 7:41:00 PM
Chapter 1 Doing Social Research
Social Research: a process in which people combine a set of principles, outlooks, and
ideas with a collection of specific practices, techniques, and strategies to produce knowledge
Alternatives to Social Research
Authority: you accept something as being true because someone in a position of
authority says it is true or because it in an authoritative publication, you are
relying on authority as a basis for knowledge
o Limitations: it is easy to overestimate the experience of people,
authorities may not agree, authorities may not be equally dependable.
Sometimes organizations or individuals give an appearance of authority so
they can convince others to agree with something that they might not
otherwise agree to
Tradition: tradition means you accept something as being true because “it’s the
way things have always been”
o Limitations: even if traditional knowledge was one true, it can become
distorted as it is passed on, and soon it is no longer true. People may cling
to traditional knowledge without real understanding, they assume that
because something may have worked/been true in the past it will continue
this way
Common Sense: you rely on what everyone knows and what “just makes sense”
o Limitations: allows logical fallacies to slip into thinking. Common sense
can originate in tradition. It is useful and sometimes correct, but it also
contains errors, misinformation, contradiction, and prejudice
Media Myths: Television shows, movies and newspapers are important sources
of information
o Limitations: they do not accurately reflect social reality. Tend to
perpetuate the myths of a culture
Personal Experience: “seeing is believing”. Has a strong impact and is a
powerful source of knowledge
o Limitations: personal experience can lead you astray, something similar to
an optical illusion can occur
Overgeneralization: occurs when some evidence supports your
belief, but you falsely assume that it applies to many other
situations, too.
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Selective Observation: occurs when you take special notice of
some people or events and tend to seek out evidence that confirms
what you already believe and ignore contradictory information
Premature Closure: occurs when you feel you have the answer
and do not need to listen, seek information, or raise questions any
Halo Effect: when we overgeneralize from what we accept as
being highly positive or prestigious and let its strong reputation or
prestige “rub off” onto other areas
How Science Works
Social research involves thinking scientifically about questions about the social
world and following scientific processes
Data: the empirical evidence or information that one gathers carefully according
to rules or procedures
Quantitative: expressed as numbers
Qualitative: expressed as words, visual images, ages, sounds or objects
Empirical Evidence: refers to observations that people experience through the
senses (touch, sight, smell, hearing, taste)
Scientific Method: refers to the ideas, rules techniques and approaches that the
scientific community uses
Research Process: Social research proceeds in a sequence of steps, most
studies follow seven steps:
o Select Topic
o Focus Question
o Design Study
o Collect data
o Analyze Data
o Interpret Data
o Inform others
Dimensions of Research
Use of Research: how research is used, between applied and basic research
o Basic Research: basic social research advances fundamental knowledge
about the social world, focuses on refuting or supporting theories that
explain how the social world operates, what makes things happen, why
social relations are a certain way, and way society changes.
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Provides a foundation for knowledge that advances understanding
in many policy areas, problems, or studies.
It provides major break-thoughs that make significant advances in
The painstaking study of broad questions
o Applied Research: designed to address a specific concern or to offer
solutions to a problem identified by an employer, club, agency, social
movement, or organization
Rarely concerned with building, testing or connecting to a larger
theory, developing a long term general understanding or carrying
out a large-scale investigation that might span years
They usually conduct a quick, small scale study that provides
practical results for use in the short term
Applied research results are less likely to enter the public domain
in publications and may be available only to a few decision makers
or practitioners.
Because applied research often has immediate implications or
involves controversial issues, it often generates conflict
o Types of Applied Research:
Evaluation Research Study: applied research designed to find
out whether a program, new way of doing something, a marketing
campaign, or policy is effective. They measure the effectiveness of
a program, policy, or way of doing something and often use several
research techniques
Limitations: the reports of research rarely go through a peer
review process, raw data are rarely publicly available and
the focus is narrowed to select inputs and outputs more
than the full process by which a program affects people.
Selectively use or ignore evaluating findings
Action Research Study: Action research is applied research that
treats knowledge as a form of power and abolishes the division
between creating knowledge and using knowledge to engage in
political action. 5 characteristics
The people being studied actively participate in the research
The research incorporates ordinary or popular knowledge
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