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SOC100H5 (536)
Jayne Baker (154)

Research Textbook Notes

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Jayne Baker

Research Research: the process of systematically observing reality to assess the validity of a theory  Purpose: to become aware of our biases and to test theories against systematic observations of the social world that other researchers can repeat to check up on us  Subjective experience often enhance objective problems (subjectivity leads to asking questions where an objective research process soon follows)  Bias arises only when we remain unaware of our subjectivity The Research Cycle 1. Formulate a research question  Can’t answer questions that require faith more than evidence (e.g. Does God exist?) 2. Review of the existing research literature  Stimulates researchers’ sociological imaginations, allows them to refine their initial questions, and prevents duplication of effort 3. Select a research method 4. Collect data  Observing subjects, interviewing them, reading documents produced by or about them, etc. 5. Analyze data  May confirm some expectations and confound others, requiring you to think creatively about familiar issues, reconsider the relevant theoretical and research literature, and abandon pet ideas 6. Publish results  Allows other sociologists to scrutinize and criticize the research  Errors can be corrected and new research questions can be formulated Science: social activity governed by rules defined and enforced by the scientific community Ethics in Sociological Research  Do subjects no harm (right to safety)  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)  Data can’t be used that allows tracing back to a particular subject (right to confidentiality)  Subjects are told how the information they supply will be used and they are allowed to judge the degree of personal risk involved (right of informed consent)  No Plagiarism o Growing view that everything on the web is public and therefore does not have to be cited Main Sociological Research Methods  Experiment: a carefully controlled artificial situation that allows researchers to isolate hypothesized causes and measure their effects precisely by manipulating a variable o Variable: a concept that can take on more than one value o Randomization: in an experiment, assigning individuals to groups by chance processes  E.g. drawing numbers 1-50 from a box, odd numbers go to one group, even to another  Ensures that each group has the same proportion of boys and girls, members of different races, highly motivated participants, etc. o Dependent Variable: the presumed effect in a cause-and-effect relationship o Independent Variable: the presumed cause in a cause-and-effect relationship o Experimental Group: the group that is exposed to the independent variable o Control Group: the group that is not exposed to the independent variable o Pros: allow researchers to isolate the single cause of theoretical interest and measure its effect with high reliability (the degree to which a measurement procedure yields consistent results) o Cons: highly artificial settings lowers validity (the degree to which a measure actually measures what it is intended to measure)  E.g. to determine the effects of exposure to media violence, researchers first randomly assigned children to experimental or control group, then gave them an initial score of aggressiveness before introducing the independent variable to the experimental group; researchers then reassessed children’s aggressiveness score.  Research shows that exposure to media violence has a short-term effect on violent behaviour, especially in boys. But long-term effects exhibit mixed results especially on older children and teenagers  Lacks validity – harming a toy is not the same as harming a person (may relieve frustration); aggressive behaviour may be encouraged because it is legitimized (showing violent TV program may be presented as a cue); lack of discipline in laboratory may encourage unrealistically high levels of aggression whereas in the real world punishment is given which prevents reoccurrence  Survey: research method in which people are asked questions about their knowledge, attitudes, or behaviour, either in a face-to-face or telephone interview or in a paper-and-pencil format o Most widely used sociological research method o Study a sample (the part of the population of interest that is selected for analysis) to learn about the whole population (the entire group about which the researcher wants to generalize) o To generalize from a sample, it must contain characteristics of people that matches the population  respondents are chosen at random and it must be a probability sample: sample in which the units have a known and non-zero chance of being selected o To draw a probability sample, you need a sampling frame (a list of all the people in the population of
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