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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Notes

12 Pages

Course Code
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

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CHAPTER 2How Sociologists Do ResearchScience and Experience Ottffssent y Experience helps determine how we perceive reality including what patterns we see and whether we are able to see patterns at all y The fact that experience filters perceptions of reality is the single biggest problem for sociological researchy In sociological research the filtering occurs in four stagesFirst our values often help us decide which problems are worth investigatingSecond our values lead us to formulate and adopt favoured theories for interpreting and explaining those problemsThird sociologists interpretations are influenced by previous research which we consult to find out what we already know about a subjectFourth the methods we use to gather data mould our perceptionsy Given that values theories previous research and research methods filter our perceptions you are right to conclude that we can never perceive society in a pure or objective form we use techniques of data collection that minimize bias y On the one hand researchers generally try to be objective in order to perceive reality as clearly as possible on the other hand the values and passions that grow out of personal experience are important sources of creativity As Max Weber said we choose to study only those segments of reality which have become significant to us because of their valuerelevance y Although objectivity is a reality check subjectivity leads us to define which aspects of reality are worth checking on in the first placeScientific versus Nonscientific Thinking y Scientists including sociologists develop ways of collecting observing and thinking about evidence that minimize their chance of drawing biased conclusionsy Below we describe 10 types of nonscientific thinking 1 Knowledge based on tradition science is required to separate valid from invalid knowledge2 Knowledge based on authority scientists should always question authority to arrive at more valid knowledge3 Knowledge based on casual observation uncertainty can be reduced by observing in a conscious and deliberate manner and by recording observationsscientists do this 4 Knowledge based on overgeneralization scientists sample cases that are representative of entire populations to avoid overgeneralization5 Knowledge based on selective observation the scientific requirement that evidence be drawn from representative samples of the population minimizes bias arising from selective observation6 Knowledge based on qualification qualifications or exceptions to the rule are often made in everyday life and they are in science too the difference is that in everyday life qualifications are easily accepted as valid while in scientific inquiry they are treated as statements that must be carefully examined in the light of evidence7 Knowledge based on illogical reasoning we may expect the recurrence of events without reasonable cause ignoring the fact that rare sequences of events occur just by chance scientists use statistical techniques to distinguish between events that are probably due to chance and those that are not 8 Knowledge based on egodefence the whole institution of science with its commitment to publishing research results and critically scrutinizing findings 9 Knowledge based on the premature closure of inquiry science is committed that all theories are only temporarily truematters are never settled 10 Knowledge based on mystification scientists remain sceptical Conducting Research The Research Cycle y Sociological research is a cyclical process that involves six stepsFirst sociologist must formulate a research questionSecond the sociologist must review the existing research literatureThird selecting a research methodFourth involves collecting dataFifth analyzing the dataSixth publish the results y Thus the practice of science is a social activity governed by rules defined and enforced by the scientific community y However the exact starting point and progression of research varies from one project to the next sociologists dont have to start at stage one and end at stage 6Ethical Considerations y Throughout the research cycle researchers must be mindful for the need to respect their subjects rights the right to safety y Second research subjects must have the right to decide whether their attitudes and behaviours may be revealed to the public the right to privacy y Third researchers cannot use data in a way that allows them to be traced to a particular subject this is the subjects right to confidentialityy Fourth subjects must be told how the information they supply will be used the right to informed consent
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