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Chapter 1

SOC222H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Scientific Theory, Dependent And Independent Variables


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC222H5
Professor
Weiguo Zhang
Chapter
1

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Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 WHY STUDY STATISTICS?
Sociology scientific in the sense that social scientists attempt to verify their ideas/theories through
research
Importance of stats shown by reviewing research process as it operates in social sciences
Research: any process by which information is systematically and carefully gathered for purpose of
answering questions, examining ideas, or testing theories
o Statistical analysis is only relevant for those research projects where the information collected is
represented by numbers
Data: numerical information
Purpose of stats- manipulate and analyze data
Statistics: set of mathematical techniques used by social scientists to organize and manipulate data for
the purpose of answering questions and testing theories
Mere presence of numbers guarantees nothing about quality of scientific inquiry
Researcher must be able to use statistics effectively to organize, evaluate and analyze data
1.2 ROLE OF STATISTICS IN SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY
The wheel of science: theory -> hypotheses -> observations -> empirical generalizations
o Based on Walter Wallace- how knowledge base of scientific enterpirse grows/develops
o Scientific theory and research continually shape each other
o Stats one of the most important means by which research and theory interact
o Illustrates how theory stimulates research and how research shapes theory
Theory: explanation of relationships between phenomena
Scientific theory subject to rigorous testing process
I.e. Health inequality
o Materialistic theory (Douglas Black)- health affected by social class; health linked to person’s
social class and access to items
Variable: any trait that can change values from case to case (i.e. gender, age, ethnicity)
Independent variables: cases
Dependent variables: effects/result variables
Hypothesis: statement about the relationship between variables that, while logically derived from the
theory, is much most specific and exact
Decide exactly how data will be gathered
o Leads to observation phase where we actually measure social reality
Statistics are crucial; without stats, quantitative research is not possible
Only by application of statistical techniques can mere data help us shape and refine theories
Role of statistics limited
o Scientific research proceeds through several mutually interdependent stages, and stats become
relevant only at the end of observation stage
o Inappropriate statistical applications limit usefulness of even good data
Mostly focus on assessing theory but other patterns should also be observed in data
o Develop some generalizations based on empirical patterns observed
o Develop tentative explanations and begin to revise or elaborate theory
Statistics are one of the most important links between the realms of theory and research
o Permit us to analyze data, identify and probe trends and relationships, develop generalizations,
and revise and improve theories
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