Principles Chapter 2
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Describe the key steps in conducting qualitative research.
With qualitative research, interpretive description (words) rather than statistics (numbers) is used to analyze underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships. A researcher taking the qualitative approach might (1) formulate the problem to be studied instead of creating a hypothesis, (2) collect and analyze the data, and (3) report the results.
State the major strengths and weaknesses of secondary analysis of existing data.
On strength of secondary analysis is that data are readily available and inexpensive. Another is that because the researcher often does not collect the data personally, the chances of bias may be reduced. However, secondary analysis had inherent problems. For one thing, the data may be incomplete, unauthentic, or inaccurate. A second issue is that the various data from which content analysis is done may not be strictly comparable with one another, and coding this data-sorting, categorizing, and organizing them into conceptual categories-may be difficult.
Describe the major ethical concerns in sociological research.
Because sociology involves the study of people ("human subjects"), researchers are required to obtain the informed consent of the people they study; however, in some instances what constitutes "informed consent" may be difficult to determine.
Describe the research cycle from the deductive and inductive points of view.
In the deductive approach, the researcher begins with a theory and uses research to test the theory. This approach proceeds as follows: (1) theories generate hypotheses, (2) hypotheses lead to observations (data gathering), (3) observations lead to the formation of generalizations, and (4) generalizations are used to support the theory, to suggest modifications to it, or to refute it. In inductive, the researcher collects information or data (facts or evidence) and then generates theories from the analysis of that data. Under the inductive approach, we would proceed as follows: (1) Specific observations suggest generalizations, (2) generalizations produce a tentative theory, (3) the theory is tested through the formation of hypotheses, and (4) hypotheses may provide suggestions for additional observations.
Describe the six steps in the conventional research process.
A conventional research process based on deduction and the quantitative approach has these key steps: (1) selecting and defining the research problem; (2) reviewing previous research; (3) formulating the hypothesis, which involves constructing variables; (4) developing the research design; (5) collecting and analyzing the data; and (6) drawing conclusions and reporting the findings.
Explain why validity and reliability are important considerations in sociological research.
In addition to problems with sampling, sociologists must maintain the validity and reliability of the data they collect. Validity is the extent to which a study or research instrument accurately measures what it is supposed to measure. To maintain validity, some sociologists study the relationship between suicide and religion not only in terms of people's specific behaviors (frequency of attendance at church services) but also as a set of values, beliefs, or attitudes. Reliability is the extent to which a study or research instrument yields consistent results when applied to different individuals at one time or to the same individuals over time. An important issue in reliability is the fact that sociologists have found that the characteristics of interviews and how they ask questions may produce different answers from the people being interviewed. As a result, different studies of college students who have contemplated suicide may arrive at different conclusions. Problems of validity are also linked to how data is analyzed. Analysis is the process through which data are organized so that comparisons can be made and conclusions drawn. Sociologists use many techniques to analyze data.
Explain the concept of triangulation.
Many sociologists believe that it is best to combine multiple methods in a given study. Triangulation is the term used to describe this approach. Triangulation refers not only to research methods but also to multiple data sources, investigators, and theoretical perspectives in a study. Multiple data sources include persons, situations, contexts, and time. Multiple methods and approaches provide a wider scope of information and enhance our understanding of critical issues. Many researchers also use multiple methods to validate or refine one type of data by use of another type.
Describe the need for systematic research.
Sociologists obtain their knowledge of human behavior through research, which results in a body of information that helps us move beyond guesswork and common sense in understanding society. The sociological perspective incorporates theory and research to arrive at a more accurate understanding of the "hows" and "whys" of human social interaction. Once we have an informed perspective about social issues, such as who commits suicide and why, we are in a better position to find solutions and make changes. Social research, then, is a key part of sociology.
Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative research and give examples of each.
Quantitative research focuses on data that can be measured numerically (comparing rates of suicide or surveys). Qualitative research focuses on interpretive descriptions (words) rather than statistics to analyze underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships (interviewing or case studies).
Distinguish between a representative sample and a random sample and explain why sampling is an integral part of quantitative research.
- In random sampling, every member of an entire population being studied has the same chance of being selected. Researchers frequently select a representative sample (a small group of respondents) from a larger population (the trial group of people) to answer questions about their attitudes, opinions, or behavior.
- In representative sampling the population is divided into subpopulations (strata) and random samples are taken of each stratum.
- An important step in quantitative research model is to collect and analyze data. The researcher must decide on which population-persons about whom we want to be able to draw conclusions-will be observed or questioned. Then it is necessary to select a sample of people from a larger population to be studied. It is important that the sample accurately represent the larger population.
Describe the major types of surveys and indicate their major strengths and weaknesses.
- A survey is a poll in which the researcher gathers facts or attempts to determine the relationships among facts. Describes a population without interviewing each individual. Standardized questions categories. Relies on self-reported information. Survey data are collected by using self-administered questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, and/or telephone interviews. A questionnaire is a printed research instrument containing a series of items to which subjects respond. The questionnaires are typically mailed or delivered to the respondents' homes; however they may also be administered to groups of respondents gathered at the same place at the same time. Self-administered questionnaires have certain strengths. They are relatively simple and inexpensive to administer, they allow for rapid data collection and analysis, and they permit respondents to remain anonymous. A major disadvantage is the low response rate. The response rate is usually somewhat higher if the survey is handed out to a group that is asked to fill it out on the spot.
- Interviews have specific advantages. They are usually more effective in dealing with complicated issues and provide an opportunity for face-to-face communication between the interviewer and the respondent. An interview is a data-collection encounter in which an interviewer asks the respondent questions and records the answers.
- A quicker method of administering questionnaires is the telephone survey, which is becoming an increasingly popular way to collect data. Telephone surveys save time and money compared to self-administered questionnaires or face-to-face interviews. Some respondents may be more honest than when they are facing an interviewer. Telephone surveys also give greater control over data collection and provide greater personal safety for respondents and researchers than do personal encounters.
Describe the major methods of field research and indicate when researchers are most likely to utilize each of them.
- Field research is the study of social life in its natural setting: Observing and interviewing people where they live, work, and play. Researchers use these methods to generate qualitative data: Observations that are best described verbally rather than numerically. Participant observation refers to the process of collecting data while being part of the activities of the group that the researcher is studying. Field research is used to bring people closer to real world conditions and discover particular information that is needed. Like to answer the question "Why do people engage in acts of self damage which may result in death?"Case study, which is often an indepth, multifaceted investigation of a single event, person, or social grouping. The case study is well suited for identifying "black swans" because of its in-depth approach: what appears to be "white" often turns out on closer examination to be "black." They are used to know more about the subjects. Instead of answering "How many homeless are there?" case studies answer "What are they carrying in those [shopping] bags?"Ethnography is a detailed study of the life and activities of a group of people by researchers who may life with that group over a period of years. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing.
- An unstructured interview is an extended, open-ended interaction between an interviewer and an interviewee. Unlike a structured interview they do not offer a limited, pre-set range of answers for a respondent to choose, but instead advocate listening to how each individual person responds to the question. Used to test hypothesises, do an opinion poll, or market research.
Describe the structure of an experiment and distinguish between laboratory and field experiments.
- An experiment is a carefully designed situation in which the researcher studies the impact of certain variables on subjects' attitudes or behavior. Experiments are designed to create "real-life" situations, ideally under controlled circumstances, in which the influence of different variables can be modified and measured. Conventional experiments require that subjects be divided into two groups: an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group contains the subjects who are exposed to an independent variable to study its effect on them. The control group contains the subjects who are not exposed to the independent variable.
- In a laboratory experiment, subjects are studied in a closed setting so that researchers can maintain as much control as possible over the research.
- A field experiment applies the scientific method to experimentally examine an intervention in the real world (or as many experimental economists like to say, naturally-occurring environments) rather than in the laboratory.
Indicate the relationship between dependent and independent variables in a hypothesis.
Hypothesis- a statement of the relationship between two or more concepts. The most fundamental relationship in a hypothesis is between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables.
Distinguish between sociology and common sense.
Sociological research provides a factual and objective counterpoint to commonsense knowledge and ill-informed sources of information. It is based on an empirical approach that answers questions through a direct, systematic collection and analysis of data.
In research studies, a tentative statement of the relationship between two or more concepts.
A variable that is presumed to cause or determine a dependent variable.
A variable that is assumed to depend on or be caused by one or more other (independent) variables.
A study approach in which every member of an entire population being studied has the same chance of being selected.
Choosing participants for a study on the basis of specific characteristics, possibly including such factors as age, sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment.
In sociological research, the extent to which a study or research instrument accurately measures what it is supposed to measure.
In sociological research, the extent to which a study or research instrument yields consistent results when applied to different individuals at one time or to the same individuals over time.
Specific strategies or techniques for systematically conducting research.
A poll in which the researcher gathers facts or attempts to determine the relationships among facts.
Persons who provide data for analysis through interviews or questionnaires.
A printed research instrument containing a series of items to which subjects respond.
A research method using a data collection encounter in which an interviewer asks the respondent questions and records the answers.
A research method in which researchers use existing material and analyze data that were originally collected by others.
The systematic examination of cultural artifacts or various forms of communication to extract thematic data and draw conclusions about social life.
A research method in which researchers collect data while being part of the activities of the group being studied.
A detailed study of the life and activities of a group of people by researchers who may live with that group over a period of years.
An extended, open-ended interaction between an interviewer and an interviewee.
A research method involving a carefully designed situation in which the researcher studies the impact of certain variables on subjects' attitudes or behavior.
In an experiment, the group that contains the subjects who are exposed to an independent variable (the experimental condition) to study its effect on them.
In an experiment, the group containing the subjects who are not exposed to the independent variable.
A relationship that exists when two variables are associated more frequently than could be expected by chance.
A phenomenon in which changes in a subject's behavior are caused by the researcher's presence or by the subject's awareness of being studied.
The study of social life in its natural setting: observing and interviewing people where they live, work, and play.
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