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SOCA01H3 (480)
Chapter 2

Chapter 2 how sociologists do research.docx

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Robert Brym

Chapter 2 How Sociologists Do Research 2.1 Science and Experience OTTFFSSENT  Puzzle: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. Levels of Experience  Concrete experience – obtained by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling or hearing. o Percepts – the smallest bits of concrete experience. o Patterns – collections of related precepts. o Eg. A single dot – precept, selection of dots – pattern. o Two characteristics of concrete experience  Experience you share with all other living creatures  Concrete level of experience is meaningless by its self  Full of sensations but no meaning.  Abstract experience – the imaginary world of the mind o Concepts – abstract terms used to organize concrete experience. o Propositions – ideas that result from finding the relationship between concepts. o Eg. You see a pen, and develop different experiences for each one: colour, size, and flawed/unflawed. Each of them is a “pen”, naming process known as conceptualization, organize concrete experience by placing the objects into a single, meaningful category. Scientific VS. Unscientific Thinking  In everyday life, believing is seeing; our bias influences what we observe o Chicken soup gets rid of colds- its works for my family.  Knowledge based on tradition  Although some are valid, science determines validity o Read about it in newspaper, magnets heal illness.  Knowledge based on authority  Authoritative sources can be wrong o I was walking when I saw the accident  Knowledge based on casual observation  Observations could be uncertain, better to be fully conscious o People, who are poor and work hard, get ahead, just like my family.  Knowledge based on overgeneralization  Scientists do sample (part of the population of research interest that is selected for analysis) cases that represent the population (entire group about which the researcher wants to generalize). o I’m right because I can’t think of any contrary cases  Knowledge based on selective observation  We tend to ignore evidence that challenges us, scientists however use random sampling to avoid this so that the population is equally represented. o Smith is poor even though he works hard, but he has a disability. So disabilities are the only exception to that rule.  Knowledge based on qualification  Easily accepted as valid, but scientists treat them as statements that must be further researched. o Because it happened before, they’ll win next Thursday.  Knowledge based on illogical reasoning  We expect reoccurrence without reasonable cause, ignoring chance. Scientists use statistics to avoid this. o I just can’t be wrong  Knowledge based on ego-defence  Passionate scientists, but scientific community puts strict limits. o The matter is settled once and for all  Knowledge based on premature closure of inquiry  We believe all relevant evidence has been gathered. However, science believes things are only temporary true o There must be supernatural forces at work here  Knowledge based on mystification  When something can’t be explained by attribute it to forces that aren’t observed nor understood. However, science is skeptical 2.2 Research Preliminaries The Research Cycle  1. Formulate a research question o Must be answered by systematically collecting and analyzing data o Require evidence more than faith  2. Review the existing research literature o Must elaborate the question seeing what others have already done o Stimulates imagination  3. Selecting a research method o Each data method has strengths and weaknesses  4. Collecting data o Observing subjects, interviewing, reading documents by/about them.  5. Analyzing the data o Confirm expectations, confound others  6. Publish the results o Allows scrutiny and criticizing so that errors can be corrected and new questions can be made Ethical Considerations  Respect the subjects rights o Do no harm. Right to decide whether they can be studied and in what way – right to safety o Right to decide whether their attitude and behaviors may be revealed to the public and in what way – right to privacy o Cannot use data that allows them to be traced to a particular subject – right to confidentiality o Subjects must be told how the information will be used They must be allowed to judge the degree of personal risk involved in answering questions – right to informed consent.  Plagiarism is a no no. Measuring Variables  Operationalization – process of translating concepts into variables and propositions into hypotheses.  Variable – a measure of a concept that has more than one value or score  Hypothesis – a testable form of a proposition (educated guess)  After operationalization, the original idea (proposition), which expressed a relationship between concepts, can be translated into a relationship between variables (hypothesis). 2.3 The Main Methods of Sociological Research Experiments  1960s teens watched TV, and the rate of violent crime began to rise  Experiment – a carefully controlled artificial situation that allows researchers to isolate hypothesized causes and measure their effects precisely. o Eg. Social scientists investigated the connection between media and real world violence using experimental methods  Randomization – an experiment that involves assigning each individual by chance processes to the group that will be exposed to the presumed cause or to the group that will not be exposed to the presumed cause. o Eg. Drawing numbers, assigning group eliminates any inequality  Dependent variable – the presumed effect in a cause-and-effect relationship o Eg. Aggressive behaviour towards toys  Independent variable – the presumed cause in a cause-and-effect relationship o Eg. Violent TV show  Watching violent TV increases violent behavior  Experiments allow researchers to isolate the cause of theoretical interest and measure its effect with high reliability – the degree to which a measurement procedure yields consistent results. Removing people from natural environment lowers validity – degree to which a measure actually measures what is intended to measure  Why do experiments on the effects of media violence lack validity? o Violent acts towards toys enable children to relieve anger, lowering chance of acting violent in public o Aggressive behaviour is not controlled in a lab as it is in the real world Surveys  Survey – sociologists ask respondents questions about their knowledge, attitudes, or behavior, either in a face-to-face or telephone interview or in a paper-and-pencil format.  Close-ended questions (options, numbered) – easy to input data into computer  Open-ended questions (uses own words) – useful when researchers don’t have enough knowledge to create a list of answers  They can make sure the survey questions elicit valid responses by guarding against 4 dangers: o 1. The exclusion of part of the population from the sampling frame o 2. The refusal of some people to participate in the survey o 3. The unwillingness of some respondents to answer questions frankly o 4. The asking of confusing, leading, or inflammatory questions or questions referring to several, unimportant, or non-current events Reading Tables  Contingency table – a cross-classification of cases by at least two variables that allows you to see how, if at all, the variables are associated.  Independent variable – x axis (presumed cause) o Eg. TV viewing  Dependent variable – y axis (presumed effect) o Eg. Attitude towards a man every punching an adult male  Relationship – between two variables exists if the value of one variable changes with the values of the others o Positive relationship – Eg. Higher approval of punching of those who watch more TV o Negative relationship – Eg. Lower approval of punching of those who watch less TV o Stronger the correlation – stronger the relationship – greater percentage difference between the 2 relationships Determining Causes  Researchers are interested in casual relationships  Three casual criterion: o The researcher must demonstrate that the variables systematically change together – relationship test. o Researchers must establish sequencing - showing that the independent variable changes before changes in the dependent variable occur. o Non-spuriousness  Control variable – identify the context for the relationship between independent and dependent variables.  Existence of control variables ad an important implication for the interpretation of relationship:  The appearance of relationship between two variables does not always signify that the relationship is real.  Appearances and reality do not always coincide.  Relationship authentic or fake?  Spurious relationship (phony)– exists between an independent and a dependent variable when a control variable causes change in both the independent and dependent variables.  Variation in the third variable causes this  In a graph no line would connect the independent and dependent variable showing that they're not really connected  In comparison of the two variables you with see independent and dependent variables changing together systematically o Eg. Relationship between the
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