SchoolUniversity of Guelph
DepartmentSociology and Anthropology
Course CodeSOAN 2120
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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
•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
•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 ding 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"
•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 newspaper are important sources of information
•Limitations: they do not accurately reflect social reality. Tend to perpetuate the myths of a
Personal Experience: "seeing is believing". Has a strong impact and is a powerful source of
•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.
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 longer.
Halo Effect: when we over generalize what we accept as being highly positive or prestigious and
let its strong reputation or prestige "rub off" onto other areas.
How Science Works
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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
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
Research Process: Social research proceeds in a sequence of steps, most studies follow seven
Dimensions of Research
Use of Research: how research is used, between applied and basic research
•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
•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 knowledge
•The painstaking study of broad questions
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
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