Science and Experience
most IQ and SAT tests ask you to find patterns in sequences of letters, and you learn certain
ways of solving these problems.
ADGJ, there are two missing letters between each adjoining pair. Insert the missing letters
and you get the first 10 letters of the alphabet: A(BC)D(EF)G(HI)J. (answer: Spell out the
numbers 1 to 10.)
experience helps determine how we perceive reality, including what patterns we see and
whether we can see patterns at all
There are two levels of experience (concrete and abstract)
Levels of Experience
You obtain concrete experience by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and hearing.
The parts of concrete experience are percepts , which form patterns when aggregated. For
example, a single dot on a page is a percept, while a collection of dots constitutes a pattern.
Two levels of concrete experience
First, this is the level of experience you share with all other living creatures.
Second, the concrete level of experience is meaningless by itself ( everything needs a
William James described an uncontaminated concrete experience as “one great blooming,
Abstract experience occurs in your mind. It is the world of imagination, of fantasy
The abstract level is composed of concepts that, when linked together
Concepts are abstract terms for organizing sense experience.
Your mind also relates concepts to one another and, in doing so, forms propositions
Propositions are abstract statements that express the relationship between two or more
(example: “The watch is on the table” and “More educated people receive more income” are
Scientific versus Unscientific Thinking
In science, seeing is believing. In everyday life, believing is seeing.
Certain unscientific methods include, tradition, authority, casual observation, overgeneralization,
selective observation, qualification, illogical reasoning, ego-defence, premature closure of inquiry,
and mystification. Research Preliminaries
The Research Cycle
Sociological research seeks to overcome the kind of unscientific thinking described above. It is a
cyclical process that involves six steps
1. First, the sociologist must formulate a research question
2. Second, the sociologist must review the existing research literature
3. Selecting a research method is the third step
4. The fourth stage of the research cycle involves collecting data
5. Other researchers find the fifth step of the research cycle, analyzing the data, the most
6. publish the results is the sixth step
researchers must be mindful of the need to respect their subjects' rights
1. People must have the right to decide whether they can be studied
2. right to privacy, if it will be disclosed to the public
3. subject's right to confidentiality, must not be able to lead back to the subject
4. subjects must be told how the information they supply will be used
Ethical issues arise not only in the treatment of subjects but also in the treatment of research
results. For example, plagiarism.
sociologists need to translate abstract propositions into testable forms called operationalization
Operationalization is the process by which a concept is translated into a variable
A variable is a measure of a concept that has more than one value or score
Take the abstract concept “education.” Operationalization asks us to consider what variable(s) would
indicate whether one person is more or less educated than another. One operationalization might be
“years of schooling.” How about the concept of “income”? What variable(s) might be used to
measure it? “Individual gross taxable annual income” might qualify.
After operationalization, the original idea (proposition), which expressed a relationship
between concepts, can be translated into a relationship between variables. The result of
this translation is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is the testable form of a proposition because you can imagine being able to
experience (measure) different levels of the variables in concrete form.
The six basic research steps include formulating a question, reviewing the existing literature,
selecting a data collection method, gathering the evidence, analyzing the data, and
reporting the results.
Sociological research is governed by ethical standards that protect subjects' right to safety,
privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent.
Before conducting research, sociologists must convert their propositions into testable
hypotheses by turning the concepts that interest them into variables.
The Main Methods of Sociological Research
In the mid-1960s, the first generation of North American children exposed to high levels of TV
violence virtually from birth reached their mid-teens, therefore causing an increase in street crime,
because it appeared to be acceptable.
An experiment is a carefully controlled artificial (fake) situation that allows researchers to
isolate presumed causes and measure their effects precisely.
Experiments use a procedure called randomization
Randomization involves assigning individuals to two groups by chance processes.
researchers ensure that each group has the same proportion of boys and girls, members of
different races, children highly motivated to participate in the study, and so on.
dependent variable is the effect in any cause-and-effect relationship.
independent variable is the presumed cause in any cause-and-effect relationship. (
basically the reason for the action.)
Experiments allow researchers to isolate the single cause of theoretical interest and measure
its effect with high reliability
Some sociologists believe that removing people from their natural social settings lowers the
validity of experimental results
In a survey , sociologists ask people about their knowledge, attitudes, or behaviour.
Those who study through surveys use sample groups to learn about the interest of the
population researchers must be sure that the characteristics of the people in the sample match those of
the population (ppl must be chosen by random)
Surveys can be conducted through emails, face to face or over the telephone. ( questions
are presented and answered)
TABLE 2.1 Steps in a Simple Experiment
Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4
Source: Created by Bob Brym
Control group Randomize Measure Do not introduce Measure
assignment of dependent independent dependent
subjects to group variable variable variable again
Experimental Randomize Measure Introduce Measure
group assignment of dependent independent dependent
subjects to group variable variable variable again
Questionnaires may contain two types of quest