SOC 1100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Spurious Relationship, Signify, Creatures 2

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10 Aug 2016
Week #4 – January 27th-29th, 2015
Chapter 2: How Sociologists Do Research – Page #35-58:
Scientific ideas differ from common sense and other forms of knowledge. Scientific ideas are
assessed in the clear light of systematically collected evidence and public scrutiny
Sociological research depends not just on the rigorous testing of ideas but also on creative
insight. Thus, the objective and subjective phases of inquiry are both important in good
The main methods of collecting sociological data include experiments, surveys, systematic
observations of natural social settings, and the analyzing of existing documents and official
Each data collection method has characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Each method is
appropriate for different kinds of research problems
Science and Experience:
Reality (in this case, a pattern of letters) is not just a thing “out there” we can learn to
perceive “objectively”
Experience helps determine how we perceive reality, including what patterns we see and
whether we can see patterns at all
To understand how sociologists use science to conduct research, it is helpful to distinguish
two levels of experience
Levels of Experience:
Concrete experience is obtained by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, or hearing
o Percepts the smallest bits of concrete experience
o Patterns are collections of related percepts
Two characteristics of concrete experience are worth noting
1. This is the level of experience you share with all other living creatures
2. The concrete level of experience is meaningless by itself the experience of a newborn
infant approximates this condition
Fortunately, you do not live exclusively at the concrete level; your experience is not confined
to meaninglessness
The abstract level of experience saves you from a state of confusion
Abstract experience is in the imaginary world of the mind
o Concepts are abstract terms used to organize concrete experience
Your mind is full of concepts, they let you organize and give meaning to concrete experience
Your mind also relates concepts to one another and, in doing so, forms propositions
o Propositions are ideas that result from finding the relationship between
Social issues, such as poverty, deviance, and educational attainment, are often on people’s
minds, as is evident by browsing through newspapers or blogs
Citizens use concepts to characterize these issues and express propositions about how
concepts are related
In the marketplace of possibilities, propositions about almost any topic span the whole range
of possibilities
Ideas about social life are like all propositions: they reside in the abstract world of people’s
minds; they are fantasies
The distinguishing feature of sociological ideas is that sociologists connect their abstract
concepts and propositions to concrete percepts and patterns
Sociology is interested in sorting out which ideas on a topic best describe experience
The methods of social science research are the principles, protocols, and tools sociologists
use to link the abstract and concrete levels of experience
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Week #4 – January 27th-29th, 2015
Scientific vs. Unscientific Thinking:
In everyday life, our biases easily influence our observations
This circumstance often leads us to draw incorrect conclusions about what we see
In contrast, scientists, including sociologists, develop ways of collecting, observing, and
thinking about evidence that minimize their chance of drawing biased conclusions
10 types of unscientific thinking:
1. Knowledge based on tradition
2. Knowledge based on authority
3. Knowledge based on casual observation
4. Knowledge based on overgeneralization
5. Knowledge based on selective observation
6. Knowledge based on qualification
7. Knowledge based on illogical reasoning
8. Knowledge based on ego-defense
9. Knowledge based on the premature closure of inquiry
10. Knowledge based on mystification
Research Preliminaries:
The Research Cycle:
Cyclical process that involves 6 steps
1. The sociologist must formulate a research question must be stated so it can be
answered by systematically collecting and analyzing sociological data
2. The sociologist must review the existing research literature researches must elaborate
their research questions in light of what other sociologists have already debated and
3. Selecting a research method each data collection method has its strengths and
weaknesses and each method is therefore best suited to studying and different kind of
4. Collecting data by observing subjects, interviewing them, reading documents produced
by or about them, and so on
5. Analyzing the data data confirms some of your expectations and confounds others,
requiring you to think creatively about familiar issues, reconsider the relevant theoretical
research literature, and abandon pet ideas
6. Publish the results in a report, a scientific journal, or a book; allows sociologists to
scrutinize and criticize the research so that errors can be corrected and new and more
sophisticated search questions can be formulated for later
Ethical Considerations:
Throughout the research cycle, researchers must be mindful of the need to respect their
subjects’ rights, which means, in the first instance, that researchers must do their subjects no
harm right to safety
Research subjects have the right to decide whether their attitudes and behaviours may be
revealed to the public and, if so, in what way right to privacy
Researchers cannot use data in a way that allows them to be traced to a particular subject
right to confidentiality
Subjects must be told how the information they supply will be used the right to informed
Ethical issues arise not only in the treatment of subjects but also in the treatment of research
results plagiarism
We must explicitly identify, credit, and reference the author when we make any use of
another person’s written work, whether it is published, unpublished, or electronically available
Measuring Variables:
Sociologists need to translate abstract propositions into testable forms
Operationalization is the process of translating concepts into variables and propositions into
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