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Research Methods

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Research Methods Definition of science Data collection and analysis Sociology as a Science Debate over the scientific status of sociology: Sociology is a science ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Research Methods


1
Research Methods
  • Definition of science
  • Data collection and analysis

2
Sociology as a Science
  • Debate over the scientific status of sociology
  • Sociology is a sciencea view often supported
    by quantitative sociology
  • Sociology is an art or humanitya view often
    supported by qualitative sociology
  • Caution the distinction is not absolute

3
  • Characteristics of science
  • Knowledge is based on facts
  • Facts are real and observable
  • Objectivity in observation
  • Use of scientific methods of observation and
    analysis
  • The goal of science is truth
  • A superior understanding of reality

4
  • Should social sciences model themselves on
    natural sciences?
  • The natural-science model
  • May be irrelevant, because they deal with
    different subject matter
  • Is unrealistic

5
  • Production of scientific knowledge relies on
    negotiations and rituals, not only on objective
    observations
  • Complete objectivity is impossible, because
    researchers cannot fully separate themselves from
    prior knowledge

6
  • Does lack of complete objectivity make science
    impossible?
  • Yes
  • Relativism science is not distinct from other
    ways of acquiring knowledge. There is no ultimate
    truth
  • No
  • Science is possible, so long as it develops
    conventions that differentiate defensible claims
    to knowledge
  • Rules about research methods distinguish good
    sociology from bad sociology

7
Operationalization
  • Research tests theories or explores their
    applicability to different situations
  • Operationalization is the process of translating
    theories into observable ideas, so that they can
    be tested
  • Hypotheses are observable (testable) statements
    consistent with a theory

8
  • Variables are observable equivalents of concepts
  • They have a range of different values
  • Independent variables causes
  • Dependent variables effects

9
Validity and Reliability
  • Operational definitions of concepts specify
  • What will be observed
  • How it will be observed
  • How observations will be differentiated from
    non-observations
  • They should ensure validity and reliability of
    observations

10
  • Validity is the degree to which an empirical
    indicator reflects the concept
  • Reliability is the degree of consistency of a
    measure
  • A reliable measure produces the same measurement
    for the same phenomenon

11
Validity
  • Validity of an empirical indicator
  • Face validity the indicator fits with our mental
    image of the concept
  • Construct validity the indicator performs as
    expected against indicators of related concepts
  • Content validity the indicator covers most or
    all meanings of the concept, without overlapping
    onto other concepts

12
  • Validity of research findings
  • External validity generalizability of results
    beyond the sample
  • It depends on sampling and research techniques
  • Internal validity the degree to which
    conclusions are actually supported by the data

13
Another Approach to Validity and Reliability
  • Goal of qualitative research is to gain
    understanding of the topic or group studied
  • Validity and reliability of measurement processes
    are not an issue.
  • Validity and reliability of findings are
    established if a convincing argument can be made
    that the topic or group is properly understood

14
Bias and Error
  • Error an unintentional, unpredictable random
    error in every research
  • Sources sampling error, respondents mistakes,
    errors in coding and analysis
  • Bias systematic inaccuracies in data or
    analysis. They distort results in systematic ways
  • Multiple sources

15
  • Respondent biases
  • Acquiescence bias
  • Social desirability bias

16
Experiments
  • Experiments are traditionally the standard of
    research
  • Controlled environment where factors can be
    manipulated to determine effects on the outcome
  • Experimenting is not often feasible in social
    sciences
  • Variables cannot be manipulated for practical or
    ethical reasons
  • External validity of findings is problematic

17
  • Surveys are normally done with a
    quasi-experimental design
  • Much information is collected about naturally
    occurring phenomena
  • Effects of confounding variables can be removed
    during the analysis

18
Surveys and Pseudo-surveys
  • Good for study of large populations
  • Goals
  • Description of a population
  • Theory testing
  • Generalization

19
  • Pseudo-surveys have a low generalizability
    because of
  • Poor sampling (based on convenience and luck, not
    at random)
  • Low response rate (people who do not answer the
    questionnaire may be systematically different
    from those who do)
  • Goal of pseudo-surveys may be manipulation,
    rather than data collection

20
Constructing Survey Questions
  • Goal to make questions unambiguous for both the
    respondent and the researcher
  • Questions should have focus (only one), brevity,
    clarity, and relevance, and should avoid bias

21
  • Potential problems
  • Double-barreled questions (have two or more
    subjects or referents)
  • Respondents inability to answer accurately
  • Threatening topics (threat can be reduced by the
    wording)
  • Question order (ask threatening questions near
    the end)

22
Random Sampling, Sample Size and Response Rates
  • Random sample each element in the population has
    an equal (non-zero) chance of being selected into
    the sample
  • It is not a guarantee that the sample will be
    representative
  • Simple random sampling is seldom used, because
    complete list of the population is not often
    available

23
  • Generalizability of findings does not depend on
    the size of the sample, but on its selection
    process
  • Response rate a percentage of people who
    actually complete the survey
  • It influences generalizability

24
Field research Ethnographic or Participant
Observation
  • Goal collecting rich, nuanced qualitative data
    that may or may not be generalized
  • Techniques
  • Participant observation (ethnography)
  • In-depth interviewing
  • Documentary analysis

25
  • The researcher participates in daily activities
    of research subjects, usually for an extended
    period of time
  • Field notes (or recordings)
  • No rigid research design
  • Particularly appropriate for some theories (e.g.,
    Goffmans dramaturgical approach)

26
Field research In-depth interviews/Documentation
  • In-depth interviews varying degree of structure
  • Semi-structured interviews are usual the
    researcher sets basic questions, but allows
    participants to explore other topics
  • Documentation usual when studying formal
    organizations

27
  • Choosing a site and informants
  • Research topic
  • Practicality
  • Length of stay on site until the researcher is
    no longer gaining much new information
  • Flexibility of field research allows for
    correcting mistakes in research design and
    pursuit of unexpected leads

28
Secondary Data Analysis
  • Sources official statistics and existing surveys
  • Has grown because of increased availability of
    computers and statistical software
  • Advantages
  • Broad coverage of data
  • Use of data whose collection needs more expertise
    and resources than the researcher has

29
  • Disadvantages
  • Data are often not directly related to the
    researchers ideas
  • The researcher needs to learn new techniques of
    analysis

30
Historical Research and Content Analysis
  • Historical methods use of documents, records,
    interviews with participants
  • Problems
  • Bias in the documents
  • Loss or destruction of documents

31
  • Content analysis records are sampled and
    analyzed to reveal patterns
  • Manifest content analysis words, phrases, and
    images are counted
  • Latent content analysis focus is on implicit
    themes

32
Selecting a Research Method
  • Any method can be used to investigate social
    phenomena from any theoretical perspective
  • Some methods are seldom used in some perspectives
  • e.g., surveys in symbolic interactionism
  • The problem determines the method
  • However, some researchers prefer to use familiar
    techniques, and frame their research questions
    accordingly

33
The Context of Social Research
  • Purposes of research
  • Exploratory (descriptive) research to find out
    more about a topic
  • Explanatory research to test competing theories
    or applicability of a theory
  • Predictive research prediction is distinct from
    explanation
  • Participatory action research to empower the
    studied group

34
Feminism and Research Methods
  • Empowerment is among the goals of feminist
    research
  • Feminist critique of traditional science
  • Subordination of womens perspective by
    insistence on (male) characteristic of
    objectivity
  • Unbiased science is impossible, therefore biases
    should be openly acknowledged

35
  • Variants of feminist methodology
  • Deliberate abandonment of science
  • Use of science to eradicate suppression of women
  • Use of lived experiences of women as a standpoint
    to establish a less distorted understanding of
    society

36
Research Ethics
  • Nuremberg trials highlighted the contrast between
    the acquisition of knowledge and the protection
    of research subjects

37
  • Principles of research ethics
  • Voluntary participation (people may not be
    coerced or tricked into participating)
  • Informed consent voluntary participation is
    based on it
  • Deception may only be used as a last resort, and
    when benefits of the research outweigh the harm
    of deception
  • Identity of participants must be protected
    through anonymity or confidentiality
  • No unnecessary harm to participants
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