SY101 Chapter Notes -Postcolonialism, Bourgeoisie, World Bank Group
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September 17, 2013
Sociology Textbook Notes
Ch.2: What do sociologists do?
•Sociologists use 6 research methods (research designs) for gathering data:
surveys, participant observation, qualitative interviews, secondary analysis,
documents and unobtrusive measures.
•Selecting a sample of individuals from amount your target population allows you
to conduct a survey of a large population.
•You must choose a representative sample best is a random sample where
everyone in the population has the same chance of being included in the study.
•You must make sure your questions are neutral and not biased.
•Questions must allow respondents, people who respond to a survey, to select
appropriate responses to standardized questions.
•Questionnaires: the list of questions to be asked.
•Technique most used in surveys is self-administered questionnaires, where the
respondents fill in their own answers.
•In other cases, structured interviews work best because they are fast to
administer and make it easy for the answers to be categorized so they can be fed
into a computer for analysis.
•Both these techniques use closed-ended questions with a list of possible answers.
•Participant Observation (fieldwork):
•The researcher participates in a research setting and observes and records what is
happening in the setting.
•Participant observers face the problems of generalizability, the ability to apply
findings to larger populations.
•However, generalizability is rarely a concern in modern-day science.
•A qualitative or field interview is also commonly referred to as a structured
•A researcher might begin by creating an interview schedule or list of questions
about the topic he wants to study.
•The interviewer and interviewee should treat it as a conversation even though the
interviewer is asking most of the questions.
• A researchers personal characteristics are extremely important in fieldwork- their
sex, height, weight etc. can affect their findings.
•Ex. Should male researchers conduct participant observation of women who have
been beaten by their husbands?
•Many feminist methodologists reject the emphasis on control sand the impersonal
nature of scientific research.
•Instead they are drawn to qualitative techniques, principle interviewing,
•The interview from a feminist point of view is like a conversation between equals
and allows females to ‘tell their own stories’.
•Researchers analyze data that have already been collected by others.
•To avoid many methodological pitfalls of secondary analysis, such as reliability
and validity of the data, many researchers in Canada use Statistics Canada
databases to conduct secondary analyses.
•The recent creation of the Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) had proved
invaluable to students and faculty across the country.
•It allows low cost access to stats Canada databases, and files for Canadian
university students and faculty.
•Documents- written sources.
•Films, videos, photographs, books, newspapers, bank records, diaries, police
reports, household accounts, immigration files, and records kept by various
•Ex. To study spousal abuse you could look at police records and court records.
•Access is a problem faced by researchers, as people are not always willing to
•Observing the behavior of people who do not know they are being studied.
Deciding which method to use
•Four primary factors affect their choice:
1. The purpose of the research- the questions that sociologists wish to answer.
2. Resources/sources of funding.
3. Access to subjects.
4. Researchers training/background.
•Sociologists who have been trained in quantitative research methods-which
emphasize measurement- are likely to use structured questionnaires or surveys.
•Sociologists with training in qualitative research methods- which emphasize
observing, describing, and interpreting peoples behavior- lean toward participant
observation or qualitative interviews.
A Research model
•Eight basic steps in sociological research:
1. Selecting a topic- look for something you have a personal interest in, or where
there is funding or a social implication (spousal violence).
2. Defining the problem- what do you want to learn about your topic?
3. Reviewing the literature- what has already been written on the problem?
•Most important step in the research process if sociologists are to distinguish
themselves from nonscientists (TV reporters ex.)
4. Formulating a hypothesis or research question- a statement of what you expect
to find according to predictions from a sociological theory and what other
researchers have found.
•A hypothesis predicts relations between or among variables (usually two-
dependent and independent)- the dependent is the outcome, the independent is the
•Hypotheses need operational definitions – precise ways to measure their
5. Choosing a research method- the means by which sociologists collect data is
called research methods.
•Classified as either quantitative (measurements) or qualitative (observing).
6. Collecting the data- make sure the validity and reliability of their data.
•If you’re using a quantitative method, like a questionnaire, validity is the extent to
which operational definitions measure what they are intended to measure.
•Reliability: the extent to which different studies result in similar results.
•Triangulation: a research strategy that includes not only the comparison of
different data sources but also the use of different data-gathering techniques and
methods to investigate a single phenomenon.
•Triangulation helps to threats of validity.
7. Analyzing the results- to analyze collected data sociologists use qualitative and
•Qualitative analysis is especially useful for data gathered by participant
observation and in-depth interviews.
•Sociologists classify statements people have made in qualitative interviews to
identify the main themes,
•Quantitative analysis involves statistically analyzing relationships between
variables, sometimes known as number crunching.
•Quantitative analysis is especially useful in testing hypothesis’s
8. Sharing the results- researchers write a report to share their findings with the
•Report includes: review of the preceding steps to help others evaluate the
research, how the findings are related to the literature- published results of other
research on the topic.
•When research is printed it then ‘belongs’ to the scientific community.
•These findings are available for replication.
Ethics in Sociological Research
•Sociologists must also consider ethics- their research must meet the profession’s
ethical criteria, which center on basic assumptions of science and morality.
•Research ethics include openness, honesty and truth.
•No plagiarism or harming of research subjects.
•Unethical for research to misrepresent themselves.
The Brajuha Research