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Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCC31H3
Professor
Shirin Montazer
Chapter
1

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Why the Social Researcher Uses Statistics
The Nature of Social Research
Social scientists make educated guesses in a structured manner by examining the
characteristics of human behavior called variables.
oVariables are characteristics that differ from individual to individual (ex:
class, age, race) or from one point to another (ex: crime rate, unemployment,
population
Not all characteristics vary (ex: gender is constant, we are certain that only females
give birth)
Social scientists also determine the unit of observation for the research (ex:
individuals)
However, sometimes researchers focus on aggregates (i.e. population of individuals,
ex: metropolitan area)
The ideas that social scientists come up with are called hypotheses (i.e. a statement
expressing the relationship between two or more variables
oIndependent variable: presumed cause
oDependent variable: presumed effect
Ex: Hypothesis-Socially isolated children watch more television than
children who are well integrated into their peer groups.
He/she may conduct survey in which both socially-isolated children
and well-integrated children are questioned regarding the time they
spend watching TV
Social isolation = independent variable
TV-viewing behavior = dependent variable
Research methods employed by social scientists include:
oExperiment: to determine if arresting a wife batterer will deter this behavior
in future
oSurvey: to investigate a political opinion
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oContent analysis: of values in youth magazines
oParticipant observation: of an extremist political group
oSecondary analysis: of government statistics on unemployment
Why Test Hypotheses?
We narrow observations based on biased preconceptions and personal experience
which can lead us to accept invalid assumptions
oEx: what we know about mass murderers is far different from their true
identities and causes of killing people
The Stages of Social Research
1. The problem to be studies is reduced to a testable hypothesis
oEx: one-parent families generate more delinquency than two-parent families
2. An appropriate set of instruments is developed
oEx: a questionnaire or an interview schedule
3. The data are collected
oEx: researchers goes in to the field and conducts a survey
4. The data are analyzed for their bearing on the initial hypothesis
5. Results of the analysis are interpreted and communicated to an audience
oEx: by means of a lecture or journal article
Using Series of Numbers to do Social Research
Most researchers would agree on the importance of measurement in analyzing data
as they are able to assign to it a series of numbers according to a set of rules
Series of numbers have 3 important functions depending on the level of
measurement they employ:
o1. Classify or categorize at the nominal level
o2. Rank of order at the ordinal level
o3. Assign a score at the interval/ratio level
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