Textbook Notes (280,000)
CA (160,000)
UTSC (20,000)
Sociology (1,000)
SOCA02H3 (300)

How Sociologists Do Research

Course Code
Mc Kinon

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How Sociologists Do Research
The fact that experience filters perceptions is the single biggest problem for
sociological research.
In sociological research, the filtering occurs in four stages:
oFirst, the real-life experiences and passions of sociologists motivate much
oSecond, our values lead us to formulate and adopt favoured theories for
interpreting and explaining those problems.
oThird, sociologists interpretations are influenced by previous research.
oAnd fourth, the methods we use to gather data mould our perceptions.
We can never perceive society in a pure or objective form. What we can do is use
techniques of data collection that minimize bias. We can also clearly and publicly
describe the filters that influence our perceptions. Doing so:
oEnables us to eliminate obvious sources of bias.
oHelps others see biases we miss and try to correct for them.
Researchers generally try to be objective in order to perceive reality as clearly as
Although objectivity is a reality check, subjectivity leads us to define which aspects
of reality are worth checking on in the first place.
Scientific versus Non-scientific Thinking
Scientists, including sociologists, develop ways of collecting, observing, and thinking
about evidence that minimize their chance of drawing biased conclusions.
10 types of non-scientific thinking:

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oKnowledge based on tradition science is required to separate valid from
invalid knowledge.
oKnowledge based on authority scientists should always question authority
to arrive at more valid knowledge.
oKnowledge based on casual observation uncertainty can be reduced by
observing in a conscious and deliberate manner and by recording
oKnowledge based on overgeneralization scientists sample cases that are
representative of entire populations.
oKnowledge based on observation the scientific requirement that evidence be
drawn from representative samples of population minimizes bias arising from
selective observation.
oKnowledge based on qualification qualifications or exceptions to the rule
are often made in everyday life, and they are in science. In science inquiry
they are treated as statements that must be carefully examined in the light of
oKnowledge 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. They also use statistical techniques to
distinguish between events that are probably due to chance and those that
are not.
oKnowledge based on ego-defence the whole institution of science, with its
commitment to publishing research results and critically scrutinizing
oKnowledge based on the premature closure of inquiry science is only
temporarily true. Matters are never settled.
oKnowledge based on mystification scientists remain skeptical.
The Research Cycle

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Sociological research seeks to overcome the kind of unscientific thinking described
The research cycle includes the following:
oFormulate question,
oReview existing literature,
oSelect method,
oCollect data,
oAnalyze data, and
oReport results
Ethical Considerations
Throughout the research cycle, researchers must be mindful of the need to respect
their subjects rights.
oRight to safety
oThe right to decide whether their attitudes and behaviors may be revealed to
the public
oRight to privacy
oRight to confidentiality
oRight to informed consent
Ethical issues arise not only in the treatment of subjects but also in the treatment of
research results.
oExample: plagiarism
Ethical standards better known can help remedy the problem of plagiarism better
The most effective remedy, however, is for instructors to ensure that what they teach
really matters to their students.
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