SOC101Y NOTES- Research Method
Understanding complexities of scientific methods requires distinguishing between times when
subjectivity is beneficial and times when it is not. Good science integrates strong theory and
Our values and expectations filter reality. Values and expectations influence our perceptions of
reality, but they do not completely determine what we see.
2 ways of reducing bias: public (open) scrutiny and skeptical reasoning.
Casuality is controversial because it often involves something we cannot observe directly; we
infer that conclusion from assembled evidence that fits with theoretical conjecture.
4 basic conditions for casuality: 1) variables must be associated/correlated 2)
cause/independent variable must precede the effect/dependent variable 3) original association
must not disappear once the effects of other variables on the dependent variable are examined
4) must offer a theoretical account of how one variable causes another; illustrate social
Methods of social research: explanation and understanding (they work together).
Techniques of social research: experiments, surveys, observational studies (participant
observation), historical sociology, documentary analysis, use of official statistics.
Experiment: carefully controlled artificial situation that allows researchers to isolate causes and
measure their effects precisely.
• Advantages: very high reliability, and very good for theory testing.
• Disadvantages: low validity and bad for exploratory research.
Participant observation: researchers observe a social setting from an outsider’s point of view
and take part in activities of their subjects.
• Advantages: promotes understanding the meaning of subjects’ actions and good for
exploratory research (theory construction).
• Disadvantages: high potential for reactivity (influencing subjects’ actions), bad for theory
testing and low reliability.
Types of surveys: mail questionnaire, face-to-face interview, telephone survey, closed-ended
and open-ended question
• Advantages: good reliability, validity, good for theory construction and theory testing.
• Disadvantages: possibility of reactivity, invalidity and chance of respondent fatigue.
Sampling: A sample is part of a group; population is the entire group; voluntary response
sample is a group of people who chose themselves in response to a general appeal;