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SOC101 Chapter Notes -Participatory Action Research, Inductive Reasoning, Participant Observation

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Barry Mc Clinchey

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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
- 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
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

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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
- 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

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- 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
- 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: 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
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