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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC 101
Professor
Barry Mc Clinchey
Semester
Winter

Description
Research, Methodology & Ethics Connecting Theory to Research Questions - research is conducted in both biomedical and social-science disciplines to create knowledge through a process of discovery - research: a systematic approach of gathering data using an agreed-upon set of methods - the kind of research question you ask will depend on the theoretical perspective from which you are working -ex. for a general topic of families, a functionalist perspective would be interested in the smooth functioning of society, so how roles and shared values promote equilibrium & may pose: What are the consequences of changing family forms for the smooth running of society? -ex. conflict theorists are concerned with the struggle over scarce resources by different groups in society and how elites control the less powerful so they may be interested in examining gov’t and corporate policies that disadvantage families by privatizing or withdrawing particular social supports -both functionalist & conflict theorists ask macrosociological questions (large) -symbolic interactionists would be interested in how immigrant families negotiate their sense of identity in their new surroundings Avenues to Knowledge and Reasoning - research methods are not only related to theoretical orientation, but also depend on your understanding of what can constitute knowledge Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches - two main approaches to social research -quantitative refers to numerical data -qualitative refers to non-numerical data - Quantitative Approaches: -involves converting aspects of social life into numbers & determining whether a significant relationship exists between a set of numbers -quantitative studies tend to have larger samples so that researchers can generalize from their findings -ex. taking a survey of first year students investigating students’ study habits, comparing living arrangements, study habits, gender and age; a conclusion that can be drawn is that first-year students prefer to prepare for exams by studying in groups - Qualitative Approaches: -focus is on rich detail -these studies tend to have smaller samples because they’re generally more in-depth, and more expensive -in qualitative studies, the researches themselves are the research instruments -this approach use interviewing and observation as the main techniques of data collection -ex. in interview-based studies, researchers conduct interviews with participants and make observations about feelings, moods, body language etc. -Elizabeth McDermott noticed that class differences surfaced when her participants talked about their lives as lesbians Systems of Reasoning -researchers use two systems of reasoning: inductive logic & deductive logic - Inductive Logic: -inductive logic: a system of reasoning that moves from data to the formation of a theory -a researcher gathers information about a topic before developing theories about how to explain particular aspects of it -ex. Pail Willis’ interest in learning how working-class youth end up with working-class jobs; through his observation, he theorized that despite the boys’ attempts to create countercultural activities, most of these activities resulted in the reproduction of culture rather than its transformation -Deductive Logic: -deductive logic: a system of reasoning that moves from theory to the formulation of hypotheses for testing -begins at the level of theory -researchers develop a theory or set of theories to explain or predict a pattern; then they test their theory to see if the expected pattern transpires -ex. Paschall, Kypri & Saltz predicted that based on the students’ experiences during first semester, heavier- drinking students would be less likely to schedule a Friday class the next semester; surveyed 866 students & confirmed their prediction -researchers who use a qualitative approach often use inductive reasoning and those who use quantitative approach often use deductive reasoning Overall Research Process - before you can conduct an interview, you may want to consider how that interview fits into the whole of a research project - typically you begin with an area of interest - conduct a search of the scholarly literature to find out what others have written about your general area of interest - how might your research extend the literature or fill a gap in it? - with your research questions in hand, you have to determine how you will be able to get the information you need - once you have your method, you have to figure out where, and with whom, you will be able to get your information needed - depending on where you are conducting your research & if it involves human subjects, you may need to submit an ethical review application for permission to proceed -ex. one that will protect your participants’ confidentiality and how you will ensure that informed consent is given to participate in the project - once you have permission (if necessary), you are ready to gather data - once the data are collected, analyse the data (qualitative vs. quantitative) - last stage is dissemination, meaning you will write up your research and share it with others Essential Research Concepts Hypotheses - hypothesis: a tentative statement about a particular relationship (between objects, people, or groups of people) that can be tested empirically - when beginning a quantitative study, you usually have a theory that you want to test Independent and Dependent Variables - variables: characteristics of objects, people, or groups of people that can be measured - independent variables can be varied or manipulated by researchers - dependent variable is the reaction (if one occurs) of the participants to this manipulation - operational definition: description of how a variable is measured - a study concluded that when women live in cities where they have higher incomes, labour force participation, levels of education, and occupation status, sexual assault rates are significantly lower Validity and Reliability - validity: the accuracy of a given measurement - if a measurement is valid, it means that it is accurately measuring the concept - reliability: the consistency of a given result - reliability and validity are interconnected; researchers must have a reliable measurement before they can be confident that they have a valid measurement - a measurement can be reliable yet not be valid Correlation and Causality - correlation: a measure of how strongly two variables are related to each other - it can range from weak to strong - causality: relationship in which one variable causes a change in another variable - ex. cigarette smoking causes bronchitis and non-neoplastic bronchopulmonary disease and lung cancer - spurious correlation: a false correlation between two of more variables, even though it appears to be true -ex. it can be said that ice-cream sales cause sexual assaults because data may show that when ice-cream sales are highest, so are sexual assaults, however this is probable because of the warm weather Research Population - research population: a group of people that a researcher wishes to learn something about - sample: a subset of the larger research population - in quantitative studies, a random sample is often used - qualitative studies—> small and non-random samples do not allow the researcher to generalize to a larger population, but these studies yield in-depth, detailed data not typically seen in the larger quantitative studies Research Methods - research methods: strategies used to collect data Surveys - survey: a research method in which respondents answer pre-set questions - often used in large-scale research projects but many small-scale projects also use them - most extensively used method for data collection in the social sciences - well suited to asking about what people do or think, but not as helpful in answering why people do particular things or think a certain way - three main types of surveys… - Self-administered Questionnaires -can be mailed to participants & often come with postage-paid envelopes -tend to be used mainly in quantitative research -close-ended answers that the respondent has to choose from -ex. Census - Telephone Surveys -a researcher asks respondents questions over the phone -the researcher then provides a list of possible answers if closed-ended questions are being used, but if the questions are open-ended, the researcher notes the respondents’ answers -advantage of a telephone survey over a mailed survey is that a respondent can talk with the researcher directly if they have any questions or require clarification before answering a particular question - In-person Surveys -similar to telephone surveys and have the same advantage -particularly useful with children, people whose first language is not English, people who lack strong literacy skills, or people with visual impairment…all of which would have difficulty completing a mailed survey Interviews - interviews: involve a researcher asking a series of questions of participants; they may be structured, semi- structured, or unstructured - qualitative researchers typically use semi-structured or unstructured interviews, though quantitative researchers may use them as well - semi-structured interviews  researchers approach the interview with a set of questions but are also open to the interviewees introducing topics that they think are important - unstructured interview  begins without any predetermined questions set by the interviewer; it is meant to proceed conversationally - structured interviews are typically used in quantitative studies where it is crucial for analysis that each and every respondent is asked the same questions in the same order with no room for deviation - examples of types on interviews on pg 139 Participant Observation - participant observation: active participation by a researcher in a research setting; combines observation and participation in daily-life activities of research subjects (also known as fieldwork) - degree of involvement varies from study to study - is a qualitative method that uses processes of induction as opposed to deduction - these researchers don’t develop hypotheses; instead, they’re interested in exploring a particular place and people in an in-depth way - ex. Jane Helleiner brought a trailer in a fairly settled Traveller camp and then lived there for 9 months. Her interactions and observations enabled her to understand that production of Traveller culture - participant observation is meant to be informal - researchers want the research to unfold before them rather than have a preconceived, rigid plan in place before “entering the field” - can be difficult to explain and justify to a university’s research ethics board (REB), who has to approve studies ahead of time…they’re uncomfortable not knowing ahead of time which people will be included in a study, what questions will be asked of which participants, etc. - participant observation can be convert, semi-convert, or open - convert research means that the people in the research setting are not informed of the researcher’s status; they do not know that they are being observed for the purpose of a research project (this kind of deception is uncommon, however, and REBs require extensive justification of the benefit of such an approach) - semi-convert research involves revealing the nature of your study to only some of the people involved Content Analysis - content analysis: a research method involving analysis of texts - ex. magazines, newspapers, television programs, movies, blogs ( a text can be printed, visual, aural or virtual) - can be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both - a quantitative approach means that you will be measuring your variable/s by counting in order to answer your research questions - a qualitative approach is interested in a thematic analysis and a qualitative analysis will consider what themes underlie the material under study -there will typically be fewer predefined categories directing the researcher’s attention & more concern is focused on how a topic is presented rather than on how many times a topic is addressed - remember that content analysis can also be a combined effort of both qualitative and quantitative approaches Secondary Analysis - secondary analysis: a research method involving analysis of existing data - is well suited for studying past events and examining trends over time - ex. Jane Helleiner analyzed articles and debates and was able to identify historical discourses of racism and gender that were used to justify Ireland’s implementation of a program to settle Travellers in the mid 1960s - criminologists often make use of court records in their research - advantage  information already exists, the researcher simply has to access it - disadvantage  the researcher is restricted to whatever information has already been collected and recorded Participatory Action Research -participatory action research (PAR): research that brings together two approaches: action research and participatory research - action research: designed to effect change, which may come in the form of a new social policy, modification to an existing social policy, or other changes to the lives of disadvantaged people -no commitment to involve members of the concerned group or population in the design and implementation of the research project - participatory research: invites concerned individuals to be part of a project’s design and execution - PAR puts the above two together; PAR projects have both an action component and a collaborative component Multiple Research Methods - two main classifications associated with multiple research methods: mixed methods triangulation - mixed methods: when researchers choose to design a single research project that uses elements of both qualitative and quantitative procedures - people who advocate for the use of a mixed method approach argue that no one approach is the best & that all methods have limitations -by straddling both approaches, the hope is that the biases inherent in particular methods are neutralized by the use of multiple approaches - triangulation: happens when researchers employ more than one research method in an attempt to more fully understand what they are researching - using more than one method often gives the researcher a fuller picture - difference between triangulation and mixed methods is that all data from a particular project could be generated from more than one qualitative method or more than one quantitative method—there is no expectation that the data will necessarily include both quantitative and qualitative data Connecting Research Questions to Methods - there are microsociological theories, macrosociological theories, and theories that combine them or aim for a middle ground; certain research methods are suited to these different levels of theory and problems - macro approach: -Conflict theorists, for example, tend to use a macro approach in examining particular relationships and happenings in society. They would therefore devise a research project that asks a question with a wide-reaching scope. For example, conflict theorists may be interested in current gov’t policies on social support and the effects that these policies have on families. Researching this topic would require a macro method—and here, quantitative surveys would be useful. You could devise a survey that determined the social supports that people think are most essential to families in Canada. -micro approach: -Symbolic interactionists, for example, would choose a qualitative method, such as semi-structured or unstructured interviews or secondary analysis of journals or diaries. To continue with the above example, a symbolic interactionist may interview family members who are caregivers to elderly relatives. The researcher could explore how these family members negotiate their multiple identities (spouse, child/elder caregiver, parent, etc) - when researchers adopt a combined micro and macro approach, the method needs to be in line with the proposed project Sexist Bias in Social Research - feminist scholars maintain that some social research has been and continues to be characterized by sexist bias - sexism: belief that one sex is innately superior to the other - Canadian academic, Margarir Eichler identified 7 distinct problems of sexism in research: 1. Androcentricity is a vision of the world in male terms. Women are not seen as active subjects to the same extent as men but, rather, as passive objects to whom things happen 2. Overgeneralization occurs when researchers include only one sex in their study but present their findings as being applicable to both men and women; overspecificity occurs when sex-specific terms are used in situations that are relevant to both sexes…such as mankind and man-made 3.Gender insensitivity occurs when gender is ignored as a socially important variable. If, at the end of readying a study, you are not sure whether men, women, or both were involved, that study is gender insensitive, also if it fails to take into account how a particular social policy may affect women and men differently. 4. A study uses a double standard when it employs different means to evaluate or measure the same actions, qualities, or circumstances. 5. Sex appropriateness is a specific instance of a double standard. It occurs when human traits or attributes are assigned only to one sex or the other and are treated as more important for the sex to which they have been assigned. Childbirth is a sex-specific attribute, as is ejaculation; child rearing is not. 6. Familism is a problem derived from gender insensitivity. It occurs when families are taken as the smallest unit of analysis in situations where specific individuals within those families are responsible for particular actions or experiences. 7. Sexual dichotomism is an extreme form of double standard. It occurs when the two sexes are treated as completely separate and distinct social and biological groups rather than as two groups with overlapping or similar characteristics. The Ethics of Research - ethical principles (statements about right & wrong) and policies are in place to guide researchers’ actions during all phases of a research project - in the university setting, researchers are subject to scrutiny of a REB - 1998  the Tri-Council Policy on Ethics Involving Human Subjects was adopted by the three gov’t research funding bodies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada -any research that would be funded by one of these three bodies was meant to be approved under the guidelines of this policy; now, all research at Canadian universities and colleges is now subject to this policy as well - one of the main principles of current research ethics is respect for others -upheld through current practises of informed consent; every person who takes part in a research project must understand his/her obligations in the study, risks, benefits, etc -every person must voluntarily agree to participation - ethical guidelines intend to ensure that the risks to participants should not outweigh benefits to the scientific community and to wider society - some concerns that current ethical guidelines are inflexible, monolithic, paternalistic, protectionist, and unsuitable to certain kinds of research - ethical policies resulted from atrocities that occurred during experiments conducted by Nazi doctors during WWII - the Nuremberg Code was developed in 1949 to outline ethical standards for research involving human subjects -did not specifically address patient-physician relationships in the context of research -the WHO released the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 for the interests of individual patients before the interests of society Ethical Debates in Research - many egregious examples of unethical research - ethical issues do not just arise in the form of “unethical” research—the ethics of research can be debated from many vantage points - three examples, the first two are widely heralded as epitomes of unethical research, while the last example takes up the ethical dilemma a Canadian researcher faced when he was presented with a court order to breach the confidentiality he had promised his research participants -Milgram’s Obedience Study -social psychologist at Yale interested in the effects of authority on obedience -intrigued by the war crime trials during which Nazi soldiers had denied responsibility for their actions on the basis that they were simply following orders -he devised an experiment in which he could witness whether people were willing to “harm” others simply because the researcher told them to do so - men were recruited as participants, they thought it was a study on learning and memory - participants were told that the researchers were interested in the effects of punishment on learning - experimenter instructed participants to administer electric shocks to another participant in an adjoining room whenever a wrong answer to a question was given; the participant didn’t know that the other person was a part of the experiment and that the electric shocks weren’t actually administered -he discovered that 2/3s of participants continued to “shock” another being even as they
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