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Chapter 9

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Jayne Baker

Chapter 9: Experimental Research March 18 Pages 184-190, 196-204 Introduction  Experiment is when you modify something in a situation and then compare an outcome to what existed without the modification  Three things researchers do in experiments: o Begin with hypothesis o Modify something in a situation o Compare outcomes with and without the modification  Best way to test causal relationships because the three conditions for causality (temporal order, association, and no alternative explanations) are best met in experiment designs Research Questions Appropriate for an Experiment The Issue of an Appropriate Technique  Match between research question and technique is not fixed but rather depends on informed judgment (develop judgment from reading research reports, understanding strengths and weaknesses of different techniques, assisting others with their research or through personal experience) Research Questions for Experimental Research  Questions appropriate for using an experimental logic confront ethical and practical limitations of intervening in human affairs for research purposes  Immoral and impossible to manipulate certain areas of human life  Therefore, experiments are limited to research questions in which a researcher is able to manipulate conditions  Experiments usually best suited for issues that have a narrow scope or scale  **experiment better suited for micro-level than for macro-level concerns or questions  Also limits ability to generalize to larger settings  Experiments not appropriate for research questions or issues that require researcher to examine impact of several variables simultaneously Random Assignment  Valid comparison depends on comparing things that are fundamentally alike  Random assignment facilitates comparison in experiments by creating similar group  Researchers want to compare cases that do not differ with regard to variables that offer alternative explanations Why Randomly Assign?  Random assignment: dividing subjects into groups at beginning of experimental research using a random process, so the experimenter can treat the groups as equivalent  It is a mechanical method; the assignment is automatic, and the researcher cannot make assignments based on personal preference or features of specific cases  **Random assignment is random in a statistical or mathematic sense(random refers to a process in which each case has a known chance of being selected; equal chance of ending up in one or the other group)  Unbiased because a researcher’s desire to confirm a hypothesis or a research subject’s personal interests does not enter into selection process  When a researcher randomly assigns, he sorts a collection of cases into two or more groups using a random process  In random sampling, he selects a smaller subset of cases from a larger pool of cases  Ideally, a research would both randomly sample and randomly assign How to Randomly Assign  Researcher begins with collection of cases and then divides them into two or more groups by random process (i.e. coin toss) Matching vs. Random Assignment  some researchers match cases in groups on certain characteristics such as age and sex  matching is an alternative to random assignment but it not used often  hard to decide what the relevant characteristics are to match on Experimental Design Logic Language of Experiments  subjects: in experimental research, the cases or people used in research projects and on whom variables are measured Parts of the Experiment  can be divided into 7 parts 1. treatment or  a researcher creates a situation/enters ongoing situation and then modifies it; independent the treatment is what the researcher modifies variable  the independent variable is what the researcher intervenes; researchers “measure” independent variables by creating a condition/situation 2. dependent variable  the physical conditions, social behaviours, attitudes, feelings, or beliefs of subjects that change in response to a treatment 3. pretest  measurement of the dependent variable of an experiment prior to the treatment 4. post-test  measurement of dependent variable in experimental research after the treatment 5. experimental group  the group of the two that receives the treatment 6. control group  the group that does not get the treatment 7. random assignment Steps in Conducting an Experiment  decide on topic, narrow it into testable research question, then develop hypothesis with variables  crucial early step is to plan specific experimental design (i.e. number of groups to use, how and when to create treatment conditions, number of times to measure dependent variable, etc) o also develops measures of dependent variable and pilot-tests the experiment  experiment itself begins after researcher locates subjects and randomly assigns them to groups and gives them instructions o then the researcher measures dependent variable in pretest before the treatment o researcher then measures dependent variable in post-test Control in Experiments  control all aspects of experimental situation to isolate effects of treatment and eliminate alternative explanations  deception: when an experimenter lies to subjects about true nature of an experiment or creates a false impression through his/her actions or the setting o by focusing their attention on a false topic, the researcher induces the unaware subjects to act “naturally” Steps in Conducting an Experiment begin with straightforward hypothesis appropriate to experimental research decide on an experimental design that will test the hypothesis within practical limitations decide how to introduce the treatment or create situation that induces independent variable develop valid and reliable measure of dependent variable set up an experimental setting and conduct pilot test of treatment and dependent variable measures locate appropriate subjects/cases randomly assign subjects to groups and give instructions gather data for pretest measure of dependent variable for all groups introduce treatment to experimental group only and monitor all groups gather data for post-test measure of depende
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