SOC200H1 Logic of Social Inquiry 1
September 20, 2011
The Practice of Social Research
The logic of social inquiry – how we do research
Can’t have the same situation happen twice – for example doing a survey this class
compared to next class – factors change, it is difficult for social scientists to do research
because of this fact.
We need to know what people have been talking about in order to engage in a
conversation, can’t just jump into a conversation with a completely different topic.
The better you can understand the better you can grasp the issue, and the better your
When you think about research you think of a philosopher sitting down and thinking about
different kinds of issues – just by pondering an issue we can come up with a better
solution? Yes, by considering all kinds of factors can help us but still need to show if
thinking is correct or not.
When we think about what we want to do for research – always have to bear in mind how
you’re going to test what you’re going to do. You sit down and consider all different ideas.
Can also just go out and talk to people in order to find out what they think about a topic.
Finally, as a social scientist may have techniques/statistics to help us understand patterns
and general ideas of what’s going on in social world?
What is reality of social world?
- Looking for reality
o How do we know about reality? Reality is very complicated. In early yeas
before university there were philosophers who know about math and
philosophy and art – know everything but world has become more
complicated – more we know the more we need to separate reality.
Therefore we have scientists to study different areas – Same goes for social
science. To understand social world, not just focusing on your area but you
need to have a broader perspective. Because reality is complicated we have
to separate it into different segments.
o Scientific criteria
Logical – in a sense that logic we learn is very fundamental to
understand the social world. For example: talking with friends is
subset of social interaction/daily activities. What is proposed has to
be logical and consistent.
Empirical – things that are proposed can be tested with data in the
real world. SOC200H1 Logic of Social Inquiry 2
September 20, 2011
- Ordinary human inquiry
o Observation – things occur around you, two kinds of relationships:
Causal: future circumstances or events are determined by the present
circumstances or events
Probabilistic: future circumstances or events are more likely to occur
with the present circumstances or events – when one thing occurs
most likely another will follow for example, speeding will lead to
higher chance of car accident
o Functions: why we want to do it? To find out things around us
Prediction – not only do we want to understand, we want to predict –
want to understand so you can predict what will happen next – satisfy
our uncertainty and make us feel like we’re more in control
o Tradition – how ordinary person finds out things around them, tradition is
something we always use to determine whether something is right or wrong?
In the past people do it like this – if I’m going to do it like this I will likely
have similar results
Cumulative – knowledge is cumulative
Prevent to see alternative perspectives because we always see
that this is the way of doing it.
Extra effort to deconstruct traditional view, once you accept
view it is difficult to deconstruct.
Affected by the status
Wrong perspective and provide wrong information
Misuse of authority – medical doctor commenting on
something political – step out of their authority
o Inquiry: Errors and Solutions
Inaccurate observations – we see and collect inaccurate information,
therefore come out with a conclusion that is wrong
Measurement devices help this by adding precision
Overgeneralization – don’t want to assume what is true for one is true
Replication – repeat a study to make sure that the same results
are produced each time.
Selective observation – only selecting certain groups, you miss out on
other ones and findings may not be completely accurate for all groups.
Make an effort to find cases that do not fit general pattern
Illogical reasoning – sometimes we are not considering if it’s a logical
way when reading or thinking about issues
Use systems of logic explicitly SOC200H1 Logic of Social Inquiry 3
September 20, 2011
- Use of social research – suggests three ways:
o Exploratory research (explore)
o Descriptive research (describe)
o Explanatory research (explain): most often used
- Foundations of social science
o A scientific understanding of the world, must make sense and correspond
with what we observe
o Both are essential and relate to three major aspects of the overall scientific
enterprise: theory, data collection, and data analysis
o Theory -
What is, not what should be
Not about value
Concepts – building blocks of a theory
Concept clusters – associated concepts that are consistent and
mutually reinforcing’ form a web of meaning. For example,