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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Mc Kinon

SOCA02- Chapter 2- How sociologists do research (Compass) • Experience helps determine how we perceive reality; it filters the perception of reality- this is a big problem in sociological research • In sociological research, the filtering occurs in 4 stages: • 1. Values- they help decide which problems are worth investigating • 2. Theories- our values lead us to form and adopt favoured theories for interpreting and explaining those problems • 3. Previous research- sociologists’ interpretations are influenced by previous research which we consult to find out what we already know about the subject • 4. Methods- the way we gather data mould our perceptions • We can never really perceive society in an objective manner; but we can use techniques of data collection that minimize bias Scientific vs. non-scientific thinking • 10 types of non-scientific thinking: • 1. Knowledge based on tradition. Science is required to separate valid from invalid knowledge • 2. Knowledge based on authority. We often think something is true because we read it in an authoritative source • 3. Knowledge based on causal observation. • 4. Knowledge based on overgeneralization. • 5. Knowledge based on selective observation. We unconsciously ignore evidence that challenges our firmly held beliefs • 6. Knowledge based on qualification. These can be known as exceptions to the rule • 7. Knowledge based on illogical reasoning • 8. Knowledge based on ego- defence. “I just can’t be wrong.” • 9. Knowledge based on premature closure of inquiry. In science, matters are never settled; theories are only temporarily true. www.notesolution.com • 10. Knowledge based on mystification. Conducting research The research cycle • 1. Formulate a research question- the question should be stated so that it can be answered by collecting and analyzing data • 2. Review existing literature • 3. Select a research method • 4. Collecting data • 5. Analyzing data • 6. Reporting the results • The exact starting point and progression of research varies from one project to another Ethical considerations • Researchers must respect their subject’s rights; the right to safety • Subjects must have the right to decide whether their attitudes and behaviours may be revealed to the public; right to privacy • Researchers can’t use the data in a way that allows them to be traced to particular subject; right to confidentiality • Subjects must be told how the information they supply will be used; right to informed consent The main methods of sociology Field methods • Field research is based on observation of people in their natural settings • Detached observation involves classifying and counting the behaviour of interest according to a predetermined scheme www.notesolution.com • 2 problems confound direct observation. 1. The presence of the researcher may affect the behaviour of the people being observed; called the Hawthorne effect. 2. The meaning of the observed behaviour may remain obscure to the researcher • Ethnographic research is when the researcher lives with the a group of people to understand their behaviour • In some cases, ethnographic researchers have “gone native”, actually giving up their researcher role and becoming members of the group they are studying • Field researchers develop techniques for collecting data between 2 extremes of detached observation and going native • The field method they employ most is participant observation Participant observation • Observing a social milieu objectively and take part in the activities of the people they are studying; this way researchers can see the world from their subjects’ point of view • Participant observation requires that sociologists step back and observe their subjects’ milieu from an outsider’s point of view; this helps them see their subjects more objectively • In this type of research, there is tension between the goals of subjectivity and objectivity • Participation and observation is important in this type of research because sociological insight is sharpest when the researchers stand both inside and outside the lives of their subjects • Observers who seek complete objectivity must rely on their own experiences to impute meaning to a social setting. Yet the meaning a situation holds for observers may differ from the meaning it holds for their subjects. • Reactivity occurs when the researcher’s presence influences the subject’s behaviour • Sociologists can minimize reactivity by gaining access to a group in stages. At first, researchers must simply attend a group meeting. After a time, they may start to attend more regularly. Then when their faces are more regular, they may strike a conversation with some of the friendlier group members, etc. www.notesolution.com • Race, gender, class and age differences sometimes make it difficult for some researchers to study some groups. • Most participant observation studies began as exploratory research, which means researchers at first have only a vague sense of what they are looking for and perhaps no sense at all of what they will discover in the course of their study • Hypotheses are unverified but testable statements about the phenomena that interest researchers. As they immerse themselves in the lives of their subjects, their observations constitute data that allow them to reject, accept or modify their initial hypotheses.
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