SOC 3111 Week One Notes
SOC 3111 Week One Notes SOC 3111
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This 13 page Class Notes was uploaded by Danielle Notetaker on Monday January 18, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 3111 at University of Utah taught by Michael Timberlake in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 163 views. For similar materials see Research Methods in Sociology at University of Utah.
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Date Created: 01/18/16
SEVEN GOALS OF SOCIAL RESEARCH 1. Identifying General Patterns and Relationships o Focus on phenomenon that are common and affect many people o Too much attention on a single case may be misleading o To generalize we need to look across a great number of cases. o Which age group is more likely to be a victim of homicide? At what age is a person more likely to be a homicide victim? (18-24, even as the years went on the rates for all groups have gone up but for those 18-24 it has been higher than all other age groups.) o Illustrates that research is looking for patterns and relationships o According to a recent study on Market Wages and Youth Crime by NBER Faculty Research Fellow Jeffrey Grogger, there is a strong relationship between wage levels and criminal behavior, which explains why, over the past 20 years, crime rates for young men have increased while their haves have decreased. This also at least partially explains why the crime rate is higher for blacks than whites. o Knowing Allows intelligent doing Only when we understand the broad, general patterns about a condition considered a social problem are we in a position to do something effective about it. We know that those at risk for homicide victimization are a certain age group and can then look more closely at that age group and attempt to create policy to decrease victimization in that age group. 2. Testing and Refining Theories o Learning about general patterns allows us to make theories better o Bad theories have led t4o bad, harmful decisions and actions by people who strongly believe them. It is good to test these theories for this reason. o Shows how science works in a broad level of looking for general patterns. (More about this in module 2) o Many examples throughout history of bad theories Lobotomies were thought to be a cure for certain emotional and behavioral disorders. Frontal lobes were removed from the individual but in fact often changed people’s personalities and made them very passive. o Theory Gone Awry Scientific Origins of Eugenics Elof Carlson, State University of New York at Stony Book th “The eugenics movement arose in the 20 century as two wings of a common philosophy of human worth. Francis Galton, who coined the term eugenics in 1883, perceived it as a moral philosophy to improve humanity by encouraging the ablest and healthiest people to have more children. The Galtonian ideal of eugenics is usually termed positive eugenics. Negative eugenics, on the other hand, advocated culling the least able from the breeding population to preserve humanity’s fitness. The eugenics movements in the United States, Germany, and Scandinavia favored the negative approach.” 3. Making Predictions o Knowledge about general patterns and relationships allow social scientists to make general predictions o Once we have tested our theory we can look to the future to predict things o If the economy gets worse and wages begin to decline, then we can expect that the crime rate will rise. 4. Interpreting Culturally or Historically Significant Phenomenon o Specific cases are objects of research when they have a powerful hold over social life over a long period of time Civil War: traumatic, very costly in way of human life, had an effect over other aspects of culture (right to bear arms) Civil Rights Movement 5. Exploring Diversity o Atypical cases can be explored in depth to provide useful comparisons to the general patterns o We learn more about the processes at work that generate the general patterns when we study diversity across cases. o Outliers When we looked at SPSS regression output, we saw the following plot: 6. Giving Voice o Social Research may also make cases (people, cultures, countries) visible that would otherwise be ignored and they may have lessons for social life. o Mi’kmaq Indians This group is a historic tribe and the work that has been done was to determine if this group was allowed to have the same rights as other Native tribes in Canada. This may become known as “advocacy research” 7. Advancing New Theories o When social researchers encounter different ideas and new information, they may create new theories about how things work. o New theories may re-cast the way we think about the world Can reshape policies that are implemented to deal with social problems o Surprising Data, borrowing data from other theories or from other disciplines can lead to new theories. The process is much more inductive than deductive o You can array different strategies of social research on an axis. The main coordinates have to do with the sample size (population size or number of cases) and the aspects of those cases. You can array research from qualitative to quantitative within the axis. Quantitative research examines a large number of cases but is looking at very specific aspect of those cases o Example: Study of U.S. population to determine attitudes toward integrated schools. This would look at the characteristics of the individuals that explain their opinion toward the issue. (We look at a large number of people but are studying a very specific aspect). Comparative Research looks at a handful of cases to make broad comparisons across them to gain insight into causes o Often examining one case in great detail. Looking at lots of aspects of one case. The Goals and Strategies of Social Research o What the best type of research is for each of the goals that you may be looking for during research o Chapter 1 Science, Society, and Social Research Introduction o We live in the social world with limited perceptions and observations o Because we are all individuals and have our own perception of things there is not a trustworthy basis for understanding our world o We need systematic methods for investigating the social world and the tools for doing this are found in social research o Cannot avoid asking questions about the complex social world we live in or attempting to make sense of each person’s position in it o The more we begin to “think like a social scientist” the more of these questions will come to mind (a very good thing and goal for this course) o Our everyday reasoning about the social world, our own prior experiences and orientations can have major influences on what is perceived and how those perceptions are interpreted. Avoiding Errors in Reasoning About the Social World o How can we avoid errors rooted in particularities of individual backgrounds and improve reasoning about the social world? First, identify the different processes involved in learning about the social world and the types of errors that can result as we reason about the social world 1. Observing: through five senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasking, and/or smelling) 2. Generalizing: from what we have observed to other times, places or people 3. Reasoning: about connections between different things that have been observed 4. Reevaluating: Our understanding of the social world on the basis of these processes Observing Common mistake in learning about the social world is selective observation (choosing to look only at things that are in line with our preferences or beliefs) o Example: If we are convinced in advance that all heavy internet users are antisocial, we can easily find many confirming instances but what about elderly people who serve as internet pen pals for grade-school children? o Exhibit 1.3: depicts the difference between selective observation and a related error in reasoning (overgeneralization). Our observations can be inaccurate o If you glance around a computer lab and think there are 14 students when there are really 17, you have made an inaccurate observation. o The Difference Between Selective Observation and Overgeneralization Generalizing Overgeneralization occurs when we conclude that what we have observed or what we know to be true for some cases is true for all or most cases Example: “Yesterday I had to go to jury duty to perform my civil duty. Unlike most people I enjoy jury duty because I find the whole legal process fascinating, especially when it is unfolding right in front of you and you get to help decide yay or nay.” (http://www.tonypierce.com/blog/bloggy.htm, posted on June 17, 2005) o According to a Harris Poll 75% of Americans consider jury service to be a privilege (Grey 2005) Reasoning When we prematurely jump to conclusions or argue on the basis of invalid assumptions, we are using illogical reasoning. This is not always easy to spot. Example: 63% of Americans age 18 or older now use the Internet. Would it be reasonable to propose that the 37% who don’t participate in the “information revolution” avoid it simply because they don’t want to participate? Reevaluating Resistance to change: The reluctance to reevaluate our ideas in light of new information, may occur for several reasons o Ego-based commitments: it is easy to make statements about the social world that conform to our own needs rather than the observable facts o Excessive devotion to tradition: When we distort our observations or alter our reasoning so that we can maintain beliefs that “were good enough for my grandfather so they are good enough for me” we hinder the ability to accept new finding and develop new knowledge o Uncritical agreement with authority: If we do not have the courage to evaluate critically the ideas of those in positions of authority, we will have little basis for complaint if they exercise their authority over us in ways that we do not like Science, Social Science, and Pseudoscience o Scientific approach to answering questions about the natural and social world is designed to greatly reduce potential sources of error in everyday reasoning o Science relies on logical and systematic methods to answer questions o Allows others to inspect and evaluate methods o Scientific research develops a body of knowledge that is continually refined as beliefs are rejected or confirmed on the basis of testing empirical evidence. o Science: A set of logical, systematic, documented methods for investigating nature and natural processes; the knowledge produced by these investigations o Shows one example of the use of scientific methods: the rapid increase in transportation speeds as scientific knowledge in the past two centuries has fueled transportation technologies o Social Science relies on scientific methods to investigate individuals, societies, and social processes. o It is important to realize that when applying scientific methods to understanding ourselves we engage in activities that are similar to things we do in our everyday lives (asking questions, observing social groups, and/or counting people). o However, social scientists develop, refine, apply, and report their understanding of the social world more systematically than the public does. o Social Scientists Face 3 Specific Challenges 1. Objects of research are people, so biases rooted in personal experiences and relationships are more likely to influence conclusions 2. Those who are studied can evaluate the researcher, even as they are studied. As a result, subjects’ decisions to respond to investigation can produce misleading information 3. In physics or chemistry research subjects may be treated to extreme conditions and then discarded when they are no longer useful. However, social (and medical) scientists must concern themselves with the way their human subjects are treated in the course of research. They must also be on guard against natural tendency to be impressed with knowledge that is justified with what sounds like scientific evidence, but has not been thoroughly tested. o Pseudoscience: claims are not always easy to identify and many people believe them Pseudoscience claims presented so that they appear scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility Motives for Social Research o Policy motivations: many government agencies, elected officials, and private organizations seek better descriptions of social ties so that they can identify unmet strains in communities, deficits in organizations or marketing opportunities o Academic motivations: Questions about changing social relations have stimulated academic social science o Personal motivations: Some social scientists who conduct research on social ties feel that by doing so they help improve the quality of communities, the effectiveness of organizations, or the physical and mental health of many social groups. Types of Social Research o Descriptive Research Defining and describing Example: What is the level of social ties in America? o Exploratory Research Seeks to find out how people get along in the setting under question, what meanings they give to their actions, and what issues concern them Example: Can internet resources help elderly persons manage heart conditions? o Explanatory Research Seeks to identify causes and effects of social phenomena and to predict how one phenomenon will change or vary in response to variation in some other phenomenon Example: What effect does internet use have on social relations? o Evaluation Research Seeks to determine the effects of programs, policies, or other efforts to impact social patterns, whether by government agencies, private non- profits, or for-profit businesses Example: Does high-speed internet access change community life? Alternative Research Orientations o In addition to deciding the type of research to conduct, social researchers also choose among several alternative orientations to research o Choosing among these orientations involves answering three questions Will the research use primarily quantitative or qualitative methods, or some mixture? Is the goal to accumulate new knowledge (basic science) or to make a practical contribution (applied research), or to do both? Should the research be guided by a positivist philosophy or by some type of interpretivist philosophy, or by principles reflecting multiple philosophies? Quantitative and Qualitative Methods o Quantitative methods: Methods such as surveys and experiments that record variation in social life in terms of quantities Data that are treated as quantitative are number or attributes that can be ordered in terms of magnitude Quantitative methods are most often used when the motives for research are explanation, description, or evaluation o Qualitative methods: Methods such as participant observation, intensive interviewing, and focus groups that are designed to capture social life as participants experience it rather than in categories predetermined by researchers Rely on written or spoken words or observations that do not normally have a direct numerical interpretation and typically involve exploratory research questions, an orientation to social context, and the meanings attached by participants to events and to their lives Exploration is more often the motive for using qualitative methods but researchers also use these methods for descriptive, explanatory, and evaluative purposes. o Triangulation: Using multiple methods to study one research question Suggests that a researcher can get a clearer picture of the social reality being studied by viewing it from several different perspectives. Each will have some liabilities in a specific research application, and all can benefit from combination with one or more other methods. Basic Science or Applied Research o Goal of basic science: to figure out what the world is like and why it works as it does (academic motivations) o Applied research: evaluation research and other social research motivated by practical concerns Positivist and Interpretivist Philosophies o Positivism: Researchers with positivist philosophy believe that there is an objective reality that exists apart from the perceptions of those who observe it, and that the goal of science is to better understand this reality o Postpositivism: a philosophy of reality that is closely related to positivism. Postpositivists believe that there is an external, objective reality, but they are very sensitive to the complexity of this reality and to the limitations and biases of the scientists who study it. o Positivist Research Guidelines 1. Test ideas against empirical reality without becoming too personally invested in a particular outcome 2. Plan and carry out investigations systematically 3. Document all procedures and disclose them publicly 4. Clarify assumptions 5. Specify the meaning of all terms 6. Maintain a skeptical stance toward current knowledge 7. Replicate research and build social theory 8. Search for regularities or patterns o Interpretevism and Constructivism Interpretive social scientists believe that social reality is socially constructed and that the goal of social scientists is to understand what meanings people give to reality, not to determine how reality works apart from these interpretations Constructivist paradigm: extends interpretivist philosophy by emphasizing the importance of exploring how different stakeholders in a social setting construct their beliefs Gives particular attention to the different goals of researchers and other participants in a research setting and seeks to develop a consensus among participants about how to understand the focus of inquiry Interpretevism: the belief that reality is socially constructed and that the goal of social scientists is to understand what meanings people give to that reality The steps are diagrammed as a circular process, called a hermeneutic circle In this process, researchers conduct an open-ended interview with the first respondent to learn about their thoughts and feelings on the subject of inquiry (their construction). The researcher then asks this respondent to nominate a second respondent, who feels very differently. The second respondent is then interviewed in the same way, but also is asked to comment on the themes raised by the previous respondent. The process continues until all major perspectives are represented, and then may be repeated again with the same set of respondents. o Interpretivist/Constructivist Research Guidelines 1. Identify stakeholders and solicit their claims, concerns, and issues 2. Introduce the claims, concerns, and issues to each stakeholder group to the other stakeholder groups and ask for their reactions 3. Focus further information collection on claims, concerns, and issues about which there is disagreement among stakeholder groups 4. Negotiate with stakeholder groups about the information collected and attempt to reach consensus on the issues about which there is disagreement. Feminist Research o Feminist Research: a term used to refer to research done by feminists and to a perspective on research that can involve many different methods Includes the interpretivist and constructive elements of concern with personal experience and subjective feelings with the researcher’s position and standpoint Strengths and Limitations of Social Research o Using social scientific research methods to develop answers to questions about the social world reduces the likelihood of making everyday errors in reasoning o Research always has some limitations and flaws. o Findings are always subject to differing interpretations o In areas of research that are filled with controversy the quest for new and more sophisticated research has value