Week 3, Chapter 5
Chapter 5- Designing A Study
Preplanned and Emergent Research Questions
First step is to select a topic
Qualitative research = where you begin with a vague or unclear research question and the topic
emerges slowly during the study.
Qualitative interviews, focus groups, field research, historical comparative research, and
Quantitative research = begin by narrowing the topic into a focused question as a discrete planning
step before they finalize the study design. Use it as a step in the process of developing a testable
hypothesis & to guide the study design before they collect any data.
Experiments, surveys, content analysis, and existing statistics.
Refer to Table 5.1 on pg 83 for the differences b/w the two.
Research questions refer to the relationships among a small number of variables.
Identify a limited number of variables and specify the relationships among them
Ex. “Is age at marriage associated with divorce?”
Two variables= age at marriage and divorce
There are practical limitations to research: Time, costs, access to resources, approval by authorities,
ethical concerns and expertise.
Qualitative Design Issues
Qualitative researches use a language of cases & contexts, examine social processes & cases in their
social context & look at the creation of meaning in specific settings.
Try to look at social life from multiple points of view & explain how people construct identities.
Instead of trying to convert social life into variables or numbers, qualt researchers borrow ideas from
the people they study and place then within the context of a natural setting.
Examine motifs, themes, distinctions & ideas instead of variables & often adopt the inductive
approach of grounded theory.
Qualitative data is scientific → Document real events, recording what people say, observing specific
behaviours, studying written documents and examining visual images. These are all concrete aspects
of the world.
Develop theory during the date-collection process. Qualt researchers are willing to change
direction/focus of research.
Builds theory by making comparisons. Ex: Police officer confronts a speeding motorist. Might ask:
does the police officer always radio in the car’s licence number before proceeding? Does the officer
sometimes ask the motorist to get out the car or does he go up to the car and talk to the motorist?
When observing such an event, the researcher ponders questions and looks for similarities and
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Week 3, Chapter 5
The Context is Critical
A social action depends on the context in which it appears. When a researcher removes an event,
social action, answer to a question or conversation from the social context, social meaning &
significance are distorted. A researcher must note what came before or what surrounds the focus of
The Case and the Process
Cases are the same as unit of analysis. Quant researches typically measure variables of their
hypotheses across many cases.
Ex. Surveying 450 individuals, each individual is a case/unit on which the researcher
Use the case-oriented approach where cases (not variables) are center stage.
Examine a wide variety of aspects of one or a few cases.
These explanations/interpretations are complex and could be in the form of a story.
Passage of time is important, pay attention to what happens first, second, third and so on. B/c the
same case is examined over time, they can see an issue evolve, a conflict emerge or a social
relationship develop. Can detect process & casual relations.
Qualt & Quant researchers both interpret data but do so in diff ways. A quant researcher gives
meaning by rearranging, examining & discussing the numbers by using charts & stats.
A qualt researcher gives meaning by rearranging, examining & discussing textual or visual data in a
way that conveys an authentic voice or remains true to the original people studied.
Qualt : put greater emphasis on interpreting data. Their data is often richer, more complex & full of
meaning. Interprets to “translate” or make the data understandable to other people.
Quantitative Design Issues : The language of Variables & Hypothesis
Variable: a concept or its empirical measure that can take on multiple values. Central idea in
Variables take on two or more values
Ex. Gender is a variable and it has two values; male and female.
Marital status is a variable and has values; never married, single, married, divorced, widow
Attributes: the categories or levels of a variable.
There can be some confusion; for ex. “male” is not a variable, it is an attribute to “gender”,
but related ideas “degrees of masculinity” is a variable.
3 types of variables:
Independent variable: the 1st variable that causes or produces the effect in a casual explanation. The
one that identifies forces or con