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Chapter 1

SOC221 - Chapter 1.docx

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Lingqin Feng

SOC221 Week 1, Chapter 1 Chapter 1 - Doing Social Research Social Research: is a process in which people combine a set of principles, outlooks & ideas (i.e methodology) w/ a collection of specific practices, techniques & strategies (i.e a method of inquiry) to produce knowledge. It is a challenging process of discovery that requires persistence, personal integrity, tolerance for ambiguity, interaction with others & commitment to doing quality work. Alternatives to Social Research Authority: When you accept something as true b/c someone in a position of authority says it is true or b/c it is in an authoritative publication, you are relying on authority as a basis for knowledge. Relying on the wisdom of authorities is a quick, simple & cheap way to learn something. Authorities often spend time & effort to gain knowledge & you can benefit from their experience & work. Limitations: 1) Easy to overestimate the expertise of other people. You may assume that they are right when they are not. 2) Authorities may not agree & all authorities may not be equally dependable. 3) Authorities may speak on fields they know little about, or they may be plain wrong. 4) The misuse of authority. Sometimes organizations/ individuals give an appearance of authority so they can convince others to agree to something that they might not otherwise. Too much reliance on authorities can be dangerous to a democratic society. Experts may promote ideas that strengthen their own power & position. When we accept the authority of experts but don't know how the experts arrived at their knowledge, we lose the ability to evaluate what the experts say. Tradition: is a special case of authority - the authority of the past. Tradition means you accept something as being true b/c "It's the way things have always been. Common Sense → Limitations : Allows logical fallacies to slip into thinking. Also, common sense contains contradictory ideas that often go unnoticed because people use the ideas at different times, such as "opposites attract" & "birds of a feather flock together." Common sense can originate in tradition. It is useful & sometimes correct, but it also contains errors, misinformation, contradiction & prejudice. Media Myths  Tv shows, movies, newspaper & magazine articles are imp sources of info. The writers distort reality, either out of ignorance or b/c they rely on authority, tradition & common-sense. Their primary goal is to entertain, not to represent reality accurately.  Unfortunately, the media tend to perpetuate the myths of a culture, as do some bloggers & individuals on social networking tools such as Twitter.  Competing interests use the media to win public support. Public relations campaigns try to alter public opinion about scientific findings, making it difficult for the public to judge research findings. Personal Experience The 4 errors reinforce each other & can occur in other areas as well. They are a basis for misleading people through propaganda, cons or fraud, magic, stereotyping & some advertising. Page 1 of 5 SOC221 Week 1, Chapter 1 4 errors: 1) Overgeneralization - occurs when some evidence supports your belief, but you falsely assume that it also applies to many other situations. 2) Selective Observation: when you take special notice of some people or events & tend to seek out evidence that confirms what you already believe & to ignore contradictory info. 3) Premature Closure: often operates w/ & reinforces the 1st two errors. Premature closure occurs when you feel you have the answer & don't need to listen, seek info, or raise quesns any longer. 4) Halo Effect: when we over generalize from what we accept as being highly positive or prestigious & let its strong reputation or prestige "rub off" onto other areas. Science  Scientists gather data using specialized techniques & use the data to support or reject theories. Data are the empirical evidence or info that one gathers carefully according to rules or procedures. Data can be quantitative (i.e expressed as numbers) or qualitative (i.e expressed as words, visual images, sounds or objects)  Empirical evidence refers to observations that people experience through the senses - touch, sight, hearing, smell & taste. These can be direct or indirect. The Scientific Community  SC : a collection of people who practice science & a set of norms, behaviours & attitudes that bind them together. It is a professional community - a group of interacting people who share ethical principles, beliefs & values, techniques & training & career paths.  At the core of the S.C are researchers who conduct studies on a full-time or part-time basis, usually w/ the help of assistants.  Scientific Method: not one single thing. It refers to the ideas, rules, techniques & approaches that the S.C uses. It includes a way of looking at the world that places a high value on professionalism, craftsmanship, ethical integrity, creativity, rigorous standards & diligence.  Scientific Method Def: the process of creating new knowledge using the ideas, techniques & rules of the S.C Steps In The Research Process 1) Select a topic: a general area of study or issue, such as domestic abuse, homelessness etc. 2) Narrow down the topic or focus the topic into a specific research quesn for a study. 3) Decide on the many practical details of doing the research (use a survey or qualt observation in the field, how many subjects to use) 4) Collect the data/evidence (ask people the quesns, record answers etc) 5) Analyze the data. This will help you see any patterns 6) Interpret data 7) Finally, you must inform others by writing a report that describes the study's background, how you conducted it & what you discovered. Dimensions of Research 4 dimensions: 1st - is a distinction of how research is used or b/w applied and basic research 2nd - purpose of doing research, or its goal : to explore, describe or explain 3rd - how time is incorporated into the study design Page 2 of 5 SOC221 Week 1, Chapter 1 4th - the specific data-collection technique used Use of Research  Basic Research: focus on testing theories that explain how the social world operates, what makes things happen, why social relations are a certain way & why society changes. Basic research is the source of most new scientific ideas & ways of thinking about the world.  Although basic research often lacks a practical application in the short term, it provides a foundation for knowledge that advances understanding in many policy areas, problems or areas of study. Basic research is the source of most of the tools, methods, theories & ideas used by applied researchers to analyze underlying causes of people's actions or thinking. Often, the applications of basic research appear many years or decades later.  Applied Research: designed to address a specific concern or to offer solutions to a problem identified by an employer, club, agency, social movement or orgz. Applied social researchers are rarely concerned w/ building, testing or connecting to a larger theory.  They usually conduct a quick, small-scale studies that provide practical results for use in the short term.  The S.C is the primary consumer of basic research. The consumers of applied research findings are practitioners such as teachers, counsellors & social workers or they are decision makers such as managers, agency administrators & public officials. Types of Applied Research  Evaluation Research Study :
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