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Chapter 1

Chapter 1- Doing Social Research.docx

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Jayne Baker

Chapter 1: Doing Social Research Introduction  Use findings from social research to reduce crime, improve public health, sell products or understand aspects of their lives  Research is a means of finding answers to questions  Social research: process in which a researcher combines a set of principles, outlooks, and ideas with a collection of specific practices, techniques, and strategies to produce knowledge Alternatives to Social Research  Based on what other people have told you, personal knowledge, media or common sense  Social research as process for producing knowledge; it is more structured, organized and a systematic process as opposed to its alternatives  Knowledge from alternatives often correct but knowledge from research more likely to be true and have fewer errors Authority  knowledge from parents, teachers and experts  wisdom of authorities (quick, simple and cheap)  benefitting from experiences and work of authority figures  easy to overestimate 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 they can just be wrong..  halo effect- expertise in one area may spill over illegitimately to be authority in different area  misuse of authority  experts may promote ideas that strengthen their own power and position  no ability to evaluate what the experts say because we dont know where they got their knowledge from Tradition  "the way things have always been"  sometimes can begin as simple prejudice  can become distorted or no longer true as it passes on Common Sense  everyday reasoning  can be false  contradictory ideas that often go unnoticed because people use ideas at different times  can originate in tradition  contains errors, misinformation, contradiction and prejudice Media Myths  media portrayal sometimes doesn’t reflect social reality  primary goal is to entertain, not distribute information  opinions often mistaken for facts seen in the media  mass media “hype” can create perception of problem being a major one  competing interest use media to win public support  barely any scientific evidence Personal Experience  accept something as true if it happens to you or you see it; “seeing is believing”  distortion in judgment  four errors of personal experience: overgeneralization, selective observation, premature closure and halo effect Overgeneralization -most common problem -defn: error that people often make when using personal experience as an alternative to science for acquiring knowledge; occurs when some evidence supports belief, but a person falsely assumes that it applies to many other situations too Selective Observation -defn: tendency to take notice of certain people or events based on past experience or attitudes -seek out evidence that confirms what you already believe and ignore contradictory information Premature Closure -defn: error that is often made when using personal experience as an alternative to science for acquiring knowledge; occurs when a person feels he has the answers and does not need to listen, seek information or raise questions any longer -operates with and operates the other two errors Halo Effect -defn: error often made when people use personal experience as an alternative to science for acquiring knowledge; when person overgeneralizes from what he accepts as being highly positive or prestigious and lets its strong reputation or prestige “rub off” onto other areas How Science Works  science that distinguishes social research Science  study of people, their beliefs, behaviour, interaction, and institutions (in terms of social sciences)  data: empirical evidence or information that a person gathers carefully according to established rules or procedures; it can be qualitative or quantitative  qualitative data: information in the form of words, pictures, sounds, visual images, or objects  quantitative data: information in form of numbers  empirical evidence: observations that people experience through their senses- touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste The Scientific Community  defn: collection of people who share a system of rules and attitudes that sustain the process of producing scientific knowledge  collection of people who practice science and set of norms, behaviours, and attitudes that bind them together  usually includes people from natural and social sciences Scientific Method and Attitude  defn: process of creating new knowledge using ideas, techniques, and rules of the scientific community  method arises from loose agreement within community of scientists Steps in the Research Process  7 steps of the research process: 1. Select Topic (general area of study/issue; however, it is too broad to conduct a study) 2. Focus Question (specific research question for the study, looking at past research and also developing a hypothesis at this stage) 3. Design Study (highly detailed plan on how to conduct a study, practical details on methods data collection) 4. Collect Data 5. Analyze Data (helps to see patterns and gives meaning [interpret] the data) 6. Interpret Data 7. Inform Others (writing report describing study’s background, how it was conducted and what you found)  In reality, this process is interactive in which steps blend into each other Dimensions of Research  Four dimensions of research: 1. Distinction of how research is used (applied or basic research) 2. Purpose of doing research or its goal (to explore, describe or explain) ¾. How time is incorporated into study design and specific data collection technique used Use of Research  Two wings of science: either detached, purely scientific and academic approach or more activist, pragmatic and interventionist orientation  Some researchers focus on advancing general knowledge whereas others seek to solve immediate problems Basic Research  Defn: research designed to advance fundamental knowledge about the social world  Focus on testing theories that explain how social world operates, what makes things happen, why social relations are certain and why society changes  Often lacks practical application in short term but provides foundation for knowledge that advances understanding in policy areas, problems or areas of study Applied Research  Defn: research that attempts to solve a concrete problem or address specific policy question and that has a direct, practical application  Designed to address specific concern or offer solutions to problem identified  Usually conduct a quick, small-scale studies that provide practical results for use in short term  Results often used in decision making by institutions such as businesses, government offices, health care facilities, etc.  Scientific community is the primary consumer of basic research  Applied research results less likely to enter public domain in publics and may be available only to few decision makers or practitioners (makes it hard to peer review) Types of Applied Research  Evaluation Research study: type of applied researcher in which one tries to
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