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Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2120
Scott Brandon

Chapter 1: Doing Social Research Introduction - Used to raise children, reduce crime, improve public health, sell products or understand life - Research = going about a way to find answers to questions - People conduct social research to learn something new about the social world or to carefully document guesses or beliefs about it - Social research = process in which people combine a set of principles, outlooks, and idea with a collection of specific practices, techniques and strategies to produce knowledge Alternatives to Social Research - More structured, organized, systematic process than the alternatives o Authority  Parents, teachers, experts, books, television and other medias  When accepting something as true because someone in position of authority says its true or because its an authoritative publication  relying on authority as basis of knowledge  Its quick, simple, cheap  Limitations: its easy to overestimate the expertise of other people, authorities may not agree and all authorities may not be equally dependable, authorities may speak on fields they know little about or be plain wrong  Sometimes organizations/individuals give appearance of authority so they can convince others to agree on something that they might not otherwise agree to o Tradition  Authority of the past  Tradition = you accept something as being true because it’s the way things have always been  Some traditional knowledge begins as simple prejudice o Common Sense  Rely on what everyone knows and what just makes sense  Can originate in tradition  Useful and sometimes correct but can contain errors, misinformation, contradiction and prejudice o Media Myths  Tv, movies, newspaper and magazine articles are important sources of information  Portrayals don’t always accurately reflect social reality  Media tense to perpetuate myths of a culture o Personal Experience  4 errors of personal experience  they are the basis of misleading people through propaganda, cons or fraud, magic, stereotyping and advertising  Overgeneralization = occurs when some evidence supports your belief but falsely assume that is applies to other situations too  Selective observation = occurs when taking special notice of some people or events and seeking out evidence that already confirms what you already believe and ignore the contradictory information  Premature closure = occurs when you feel you have the answer and don’t need to listen, seek information or raise questions any longer  Halo effect = occurs 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 o Science  Social science, ex. anthropology, psychology, political science, involve the study of people – their beliefs, behaviour, interaction, institutions etc.  Data = empirical evidence or information that one gathers carefully according to rules or procedures  Quantitative = expressed as numbers  Qualitative = expressed as words, visual images, sounds or objects  Empirical evidence = observations that people experience through the senses (touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing) o Scientific Community  Collection of people who practice science and a set of norms, behaviours and attitudes that bind them together  Professional community = group of interacting people who share ethical principles, beliefs and values, techniques and training and career paths  Scientific community includes 15% of the labour force in advanced industrialized countries o The Scientific Method and Attitude  Scientific method = refers to ideas, rules, techniques, and approaches that the scientific community uses o Journal Articles in Science  Scholarly journals are highly respected and very few are published  Researchers gain prestige and honour and a reputation as an accomplished researcher through publications Steps in the Research Process - Start by selecting a topic = general area of study or issue o Ex. domestic abuse - Focus the topic into a specific research question, narrow down the topic o Ex. are people who marry younger more likely to engage in physical abuse of a spouse under conditions of high stress than those who marry when older? - Develop highly detailed plan on how to carry out the study o Decide on the many practical details of doing the research o Ex. whether to use survey or qualitative observing in the field, how many subjects to use etc. - Gather evidence or data o Ask people questions, record answers - Analyze data o Help see patterns in it - Interpret data - Inform others o By writing a report that describes the study’s background, how you conducted it, and what you discovered Dimensions of Research - Social research comes in several shapes and sizes - 4 dimensions of social research - First is a distinction in how research is used, or between applied and basic research - Next, is the purpose of doing research, or its goal, to explore, describe or explain Third, how time is incorporated into the study desig - Last, specific data collection technique used - Dimensions overlap o Use of Research  Science has 2 wings  detached, purely, scientific and academic orientation & activist, pragmatic and interventionist oriented  Some researchers concentrate on advancing general knowledge over the long terms, whereas others conduct studies to solve specific, immediate problems o Basic Research  Basic social research = advances fundamental knowledge about the social world  Focus on refuting or supporting theories that explain how the social world operates, what makes thing happen, why social relations are a certain way and why society changes  Lacks practical application short term, it provides a foundation for knowledge that advances understanding in many policy areas, problems or areas of study  Source of most tools, methods, theories and ideas about underlying causes of how people act or think o Applied Research  Designed to address a specific concern or to offer solutions to a problem identified by an employer, club, agency, social movement, organization  Rarely concerned with building, testing, or connecting to a larger theory, developing long term general understanding or carrying out large scale investigations that might span years  Conduct quick, small scale study that provides practical results for use in short term  People employed in businesses, government offices, health care, social services, education institutions use applied research and the results in decision making  Scientific community is primary consumer of basic research  Consumers of applied research are practitioners like teachers, counselors, and social workers  Results are less likely to enter public domain o Types of Applied Research  Evaluation Research study = designed to find out whether a program, a new way of doing something, a marketing campaign, policy, is effective  Does it work?  Used in large bureaucratic organizations  Objective is to use results in practical situations  Evaluation researchers measure effectiveness of a program or way of doing something and use several research techniques  Limitations: reports rarely go through peer review process, raw data is rarely publicly available, focus is narrowed to select inputs and outputs more than full process, decision makers can use or ignore selective findings  Action Research Study = treats knowledge as a form of power and abolishes the division between creating knowledge and using knowledge to engage in political action  Share 5 characteristics: (1) people being studied actively participate in research process; (2) research incorporates ordinary or popular knowledge; (3) research focuses on issues of power; (4) research seeks to raise consciousness or increase awareness of issues; and (5) research is tied directly to a plan or program of political action  Associated with social movement, political cause or advocacy for an issue  Most action researchers are explicitly political, not value neutral  Social Impact Assessment Research Study  Estimates the likely consequences of a planned intervention or international change to occur in the future  Examine range of social outcomes and work in an interdisciplinary research team to estimate the social outcomes  Rarely required but few governments mandate them o Purpose of a Study  Purpose can be organized into 3 groups based on what the researcher is trying to accomplish  explore a new topic, describe a social phenomenon or explain why something occurs o Exploration  Researcher examines a new area to formulate precise questions that he or she can address in future research – focus on WHAT  First stage in a sequence of studies  Tend to use qualitative data and not be wedded to a specific theory or research question o Description  Presents a picture of the specific details of a situation, social setting or relationship – focus on WHO and HOW  Descriptive researchers use most data-gathering techniques (surveys field research, content analysis, historical, comparative research) o Explanation  Identifies the sources of social behaviours, beliefs, conditions, and events  Documents causes, tests theories, and provides reasons  Builds on explanatory and descriptive research o Time Dimension in Research  Different research questions or issues incorporate time differently  Quantitative studies look at many cases, people or units in form of numbers  Qualitative study involves qualitative data and examines different features of small number cases across short or long time period o Cross Sectional Research  Examine single point in time or take a one-time snapshot approach  Simplest and least costly  Cannot capture social processes or change  Can be either explanatory, descriptive or exploratory o Longitudinal Researc  Examines features of people or other units at more than one time  Complex and costly but powerful and informative  Descriptive and explanatory researchers use this approach  3 main types: time series, panel and cohort  Time series  researcher gathers same type of information across 2 or more time periods  Panel study  researcher observes exactly the same people, group or organization across multiple time points  Cohort study  rather than observing the exact people, the study focuses on a category of people who share similar life experiences in a specified time period o Case Studies  Researcher examines many features of a few cases over a duration of time with very detailed, varied and extensive data, often in qualitative form o Quantitative Data Collection Techniques  Experiments, surveys, content analyses, and existing statistics  Experiments  create situations and examine their effects on participants; most effective on explanatory research  Surveys  asks people questions in written questionnaire or during an interview and records answers  Content analyses  technique for examining information, or content in written or symbolic material  Existing statistics researcher located previously collected information, often in form of government reports or previously conducted surveys, then reorganizes or combines information in new ways to address a research question o Qualitative Data Collection Techniques  Field research  begins with a formulates idea or topic, selects a social group or natural setting for study and gains access and adopts a social role in the setting and observes in detail  Historical-comparative research  examines aspects of social life in a pst historical era or across different cultures Chapter 2: Theory and Social Research - Important role in research and is an essential ally to the researcher - Use theory differently in various types of research - Social theories explain recurring patterns, not unique or one-time events - Social theories are explanations for aggregates (collection of many individuals), not particular individuals - Social theories state a probability, chance or tendency for events to occur, rather than state that one event must follow another What is a Theory? - Social theory = system of interconnected abstractions of ideas that condenses and organized knowledge about the social world - Classical social theorists played important role in generating innovative ideas – they developed original theories that laid the foundation for subsequent generations of social thinkers o Blame Analysis = type of counterfeit argument presented as if it were a theoretical explanation  Substitutes attributing blame for a causal explanation that is backed by supporting empirical evidence  Belongs to the realm of making moral, legal, or ideological claims  Implies intention, negligence or responsibility for an event or situation  Assumes there is a part or source to which a fixed amount of responsibility can be attached  Goal of inquiry is to identify responsible party  Confuses blame with cause – it gives an account instead of logical explanation with intervening causal mechanisms and fails to explore empirical evidence for and against alternative causes  First presents unfavourable situation, then identifies one or more responsible parties and then provides selective evidence that shields certain parties or sources The Parts of Theory o Concepts= idea expressed as a symbol or in words  All theories contain concepts; building blocks of theory  Most social science concepts are expressed as words  Have 2 parts  symbol (word or term) and a definition  Social scientists borrow concepts from everyday culture, but they refine these concepts and add new ones  We create concepts from personal experience, creative thought or observation  Some concepts, especially simple, concrete concepts can be defined through simple nonverbal process  Most social concepts are more complex and abstract  Abstract concepts refer to aspects of the world we don’t directly experience – they organize thinking and extend understanding of reality o Concept Clusters  Concepts are rarely used in isolation, they form interconnected groups = concept clusters  Theories contain collections of associated concepts that are consistent and mutually reinforcing and together they form a web of meaning  Concepts take on range of values, quantities or amounts  Others express types of nonvariable phenomena o Classification Concepts  You can break complex concepts into a set of simple or single dimension concepts  Classifications = partway between a single, simple concept and a theory  Help organize abstract, complex concepts  To create new classification, logically specify and combine characteristics of simpler concepts  Ideal type = well known classification  pure, abstract models that define the essence of the phenomenon in question  Mental pictures that define central aspects of concepts  They are not explanations because they do not tell why/how something occurs  Smaller than theories and used to build a theory  Broader, more abstract concepts that bring several narrower concrete concepts together  Used to see how well observable phenomena match up to ideal model o Scope = concepts vary by scope  Some are highly abstract, some are middle level abstraction and some are concrete level  More abstract concepts have wider scope and can be used for broader range of specific time points and situations  More concrete concepts are easy to recognize but apply to fewer situations  Theories that use abstract concepts can apply to wider range of social phenomena than those with concrete concepts o Assumptions = statements about the nature of things that are not observable or testable  We accept them as a necessary starting point  concepts and theories build on assumptions about nature of human beings, social reality or a particular phenomenon  Remain hidden or unstated  All concepts contain assumptions about social relations or how people behave o Relationships = theories specify how concepts relate to one another  Theories tell us whether concepts are related or not  If they are, the theory states how they relate to each other  Theories give reason for why the relationship exists or does not exist  Hypothesis = when a researcher tests or evaluates such a relationship  Proposition = relationship in theory in which scientific community starts to gain greater confidence and is likely to be truthful The Aspects of Theory - Comes in so many forms; we can categorize a theory by: a) The direction of its reasoning b) Level of social reality that it explains c) Forms of explanation it employs d) Overall framework of assumptions and concepts in which it is embedded o Direction of Theorizing  Approach the building and testing of theory from 2 directions – some begin with abstract thinking, others begin with specific observations of empirical evidence o Deductive  Begin with abstract, logical relationship among concepts then move toward concrete empirical evidence  Group position theory = states that dominant and subordinate racial ethnic groups are in competition for resources and status in a multiethnic society that has a racial hierarchy, and such competition affects racial beliefs and attitudes o Inductive  Begin with detailed observations of the world and move toward more abstract generalizations and ideas  build theory from ground up  Grounded theory = part of inductive approach in which a researcher builds ideas and theoretical generalizations based on closely examining and thinking about data o Range of Theory  One end are highly specific theories with concrete concepts of limited scope  Opposite end, are whole systems with many theories that are extremely abstract o Empirical Generalizations – least abstract theoretical statement and has very narrow range  Simple statement about a pattern or generalization among two or more concrete concepts that are close to empirical reality  Generalization = because the pattern operates across many time periods and social contexts o Middle Range Theory = slightly more abstract than empirical generalizations or a specific hypothesis  Focus on specific substantive topic area, includes a multiple empirical generalization, and builds a theoretical explanation o Theoretical Frameworks  More abstract than middle range theory  Frameworks are orientations of looking at the social world  Provide collections of assumptions, concepts and forms of explanation  Include theories for many substantive areas  Can be a structural function theory, an exchange theory and conflict theory of the family  Theories within the same framework share assumptions and major concepts  Four major frameworks in sociology  structural functionalism, exchange theory, symbolic interactions, conflict theory o Levels of Theory  Can be divided into 3 broad groupings by level of social reality with which they deal: micro level theory, meso level theory and macro level theory  Micro level theory  deals with small slices of time, space or numbers of people. Concepts are not usually abstract  Meso level theory  links macro and micro levels and operates at an intermediate level. Theories of organizations, social movements and communities are often on this level  Macro level theory  concerns the operation of larger aggregates such as social institutions, entire cultural systems and whole societies. Uses more concepts that are abstract o Forms of Explanation o Prediction and Explanation  Theory’s primary purpose is to explain  Two meanings or uses of the term explanation  theoretical and ordinary  Theoretical explanation = logical argument that tells us why something occurs. It refers to a general rule or principle  Ordinary explanation = makes something clear or describes something in a way that illustrates it and makes it intelligible  Prediction = statement that something will occur  Explanation rarely predicts more than one outcome  Good explanation depends on a well developed theory and is confirmed in research by empirical observation o Causal explanation = used when relationship is one of cause and effect  Most common type of explanation  Need three things to determine causality: temporal order, association and elimination of plausible alternatives  Temporal order = cause must come before the effect  Establishes direction of causality – from the cause toward the effect  Necessary but not sufficient to infer causality  Temporal order condition eliminates from consideration potential causes that occurred later in time  With cross sectional research, temporal order is tricky  Simple causal relations are unidirectional, operating in a single direction from the cause to the effect  More complex theories specify reciprocal effect causal relations  Association = two phenomena are associated if they occur together in a patterned way or appear to act together  If researcher cannot find an association, a causal relationship is unlikely  Researcher can find association without causality  Association eliminates potential causes that are not associated but cannot definitely identify a cause  Association does not have to be perfect to show causality  Eliminating alternatives = researcher interested in causality needs to show that the effect is due to the causal variable and not to something else (also called no spuriousness)  Cannot observe eliminating alternatives – can only demonstrate it indirectly  Done in 2 ways  through built in design controls and by measuring potential hidden causes  Relationship between variables can be positive or negative  Positive relationship = that a higher value on the causal variable goes with higher value on effect variable  Negative relationship = higher value on causal variable goes with lower value on the effect variable o Structural Explanations  Used with three types of theories  network, sequential and function theories  Uses set of interconnected assumptions, concepts and relationships  Concepts and relations within a theory form mutually reinforcing system  Researcher specifies sequence of phases or identifies essential parts that form an interlocked whole  Used in network theory  Also used in sequence theory  Used in functional theory – explain events by locating it within a larger, ongoing, balanced social system  Explain something by identifying its function within a larger system or the need it fulfills for the system  Functional theory of social change says that over time, a social system or society moves through developmental stages becoming more differentiated and more complex o Interpretive Explanation  Purpose is to foster understanding  Attempt to discover the meaning of an event or practice by placing it within a specific social context The Three Major Approaches to Social Science - Paradigm = integrated set of assumptions, beliefs, models of doing good research and techniques for gathering and analyzing data - Organized core ideas, theoretical frameworks and research methods - Some fields operate with multiple or competing paradigms - Multiple paradigms are sign of immaturity or underdevelopment of the sciences in social sciences - Others accept coexistence of multiple paradigms - Each one brings important kinds of knowledge and insight o Positivist Approach  Sees social science research as fundamentally the same as natural science research  Assumes social reality is made up of objective facts that value free researchers can measure and use stats to test causal theories  Emphasizes getting objective measures of hard facts in form of numbers  Great value on the principle of replication= occurs when researchers or others repeat the basics of a study and get identical or similar findings  If researcher repeats a study and does not get similar findings, one or more of five possibilities may be occurring  initial study was an unusual fluke, important conditions were present in initial study but no one was aware of there significance so they weren’t specified, initial study was sloppy, initial study was improperly conducted and repeated study was unusual fluke  Positivist approach is nomothetic = explanations use law or law like principles  Majority of positivist studies are quantitative o Interpretive Approach  Says that human social life is qualitatively different from other things studied by science  Necessary to create a special type of science based on human uniqueness and one that really captures human social life  Adopt version of constructionist view of social reality = holds that human social life is based less on objective, hard, factual reality than on ideas, beliefs and perceptions that people hold about reality  People socially interact and respond based as much on what they believe to be real than what is objectively real  Researchers are skeptical of the positivist attempt to produce precise quantitative measures of objective facts because view of social reality is very fluid  Trust and favour qualitative data – more accurately capture fluid processes of social reality  Not likely to adopt nomothetic approach but instead favour an idiographic form = specific description and refers to explaining an aspect of social world by offering detailed picture of description of specific social setting, process or relationship o Critical Approach  Blends an objective/materialistic with a constructionist view of social reality  Desire to put knowledge into action and a belief that research is not value free  Emphasizes the multilayered nature of social reality  People are often misled, subject to manipulated messages and hold false ideas  Part of task of social research is to strip away the surface layer of falsehood  Has activist orientation and favours action research  Praxis = ultimate test of how good an explanation is in the critical approach Dynamic Duo - Theory frames how we look and think about a topic - Gives us concepts, b
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