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Chapter 1

SOC202H1 Chapter One

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1 SOC202H1 Chapter Notes CHAPTER ONE – Why the Social Researcher Uses Statistics The Nature of Social Research - Social scientists attempt to explain and predict human behaviour. They also take educated guesses - They examine characteristics of human behaviour o Variables: characteristics that differ or vary from one individual to another (age, class, attitude) or from one point in time to another (unemployment, crime rate, etc) - Not all human characteristics vary – for example, gender; sex of mother is always constant. In contrast her age, race and mental health are variables - Social researcher must also determine unit of observation – usually on individual persons but can also be on aggregates – way in which measures vary across entire collections of people - Whether focusing on individuals or aggregates, ideas that social scientists have concerning the nature of social reality are called hypotheses o These are frequently expressed in a statement of the relationship between two or more variables o Independent variable: presumed cause o Dependent variable: presumed effect - Research methods for testing hypotheses include o Experiment o Survey o Content analysis o Participant observation o Secondary analysis Why Test Hypotheses? - Necessary to test hypotheses about the nature of social reality - Our everyday commonsense observations are generally based on narrow, often biased preconceptions and personal experiences which can lead us to accept without criticism invalid assumptions about the characteristics of social phenomena and behaviour The Stages of Social Research 1. Problem to be studied is reduced to testable hypothesis 2. Appropriate set of instruments is developed 3. Data are collected 4. Data are analyzed –data are collected or gathered by researcher and analyzed for their bearing on the initial hypotheses – in this stage raw data are tabulated, calculated, counted, summarized, rearranged, compared on organized so that accuracy or validity of hypotheses can be tested 5. Results of analysis are interpreted Using Series of Numbers to Do Social Research - Problems in data analysis must be confronted in the planning stages of research project because they have a bearing on the nature of decisions at all other stages 2 - Numbers have at least three important functions: o Classify or categorize at the nominal level of measurement o Rank or order at the ordinal level of measurement o Assign a score at the interval/ratio level of measurement The Nominal Level - This level of measurement involves naming or labeling – that is placing cases into categories and counting their frequency or occurrence - Every case must be placed in one, and only one category – this indicates that categories must be nonoverlapping, or mutually exclusive - Categories must be exhaustive – must be a place for every case that arises (other category) - Nominal data are not graded, ranked or scaled for qualities such as better or worse they are merely labeled always for purpose of grouping the cases into separate categories to indicate sameness or differentness with respect to a given quality or characteristic The Ordinal Level - Order cases in terms of the degree to which they have any given characteristic - Nature of relationship among ordinal categories depends on that characteristic the researcher seeks to measure - This level of measurement yields information about the ordering of categories but does not indicate the magnitude of differences betw
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