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Week 2 Notes - SOC 3111

by: Danielle Notetaker

Week 2 Notes - SOC 3111 SOC 3111

Marketplace > University of Utah > Sociology > SOC 3111 > Week 2 Notes SOC 3111
Danielle Notetaker
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Notes for Week 2 of Research Methods
Research Methods
Michael Timberlake
Class Notes
research methods, sociology, SOC 3111, week 2
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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Danielle Notetaker on Saturday February 6, 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 39 views. For similar materials see Research Methods in Sociology at University of Utah.


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Date Created: 02/06/16
Research Methods – Week 2 January 18 , 2016 Chapter 2 – The Process and Problems of Social Research  Social Research Question o A questions about the social world that you seek to answer through the collection and analysis of firsthand, verifiable, empirical data o Formulating a good research question can be surprisingly difficult and can be broken into three stages o 1. Identifying Social Research Questions  Social research questions may emerge from “personal troubles” (C.Wright Mills)  Research literature is often the best source for research questions  Many social scientists find the source of their research questions in social theory  Some research questions have pragmatic sources, such as requirements of a funding source o 2. Refining Social Research Questions  Even more challenging to focus on a problem of manageable size than to come up with an interesting question for research  Often more interest than can reasonably be investigated with limited time and resources available to social researchers  Best way to avoid these problems is to develop research questions one bit at a time o 3. Evaluating Social Research Questions  We evaluate the best candidate against the criteria for good social research questions: feasibility, given the time and resources available; social importance; and scientific relevance  Must be able to conduct any study within the time and given the resources that are available  Social Importance o Social research is not a simple undertaking; it is hard to justify the expenditure of effort and resources unless there is focus on a substantive area that is important o For most research undertakings, it should be considered whether the research question is important to other people o Also need motivation to carry out the study  Scientific Relevance o Every research question needs to be grounded in social science literature o Be sure that some prior study is relevant to any research question you can think of  Social Research Foundations o How do you find prior research on questions of interest?  Find reports of previous investigations that sought to answer the same research question  Reviewing the literature is important at the beginning and later stages of the research process  Finding Information o Conduct a thorough search of research literature and critically review what is found o Focus on scholarly journals that choose articles for publication after they have been reviewed by other social scientists o Some newspaper and magazine articles may raise important issues or summarize social science research but are not enough to support research  Reviewing Research o Literature review will suggest specific research questions for further investigation and methods to use to study those questions o Prior research may not have used very rigorous research designs o Effective review of prior research is an essential step to build a foundation for new research o Reviewing literature is a two-stage process  First Stage  Assess each article separately  Second Stage  Assess the implications of the entire set of articles and materials for the relevant aspects of the research question and procedures and then write an integrated review that highlights the implications  The goal of the second stage is to integrate the results of separate article reviews and develop an overall assessment of the implications of prior research  Integrated literature review should accomplish three goals:  1. Summarize prior research  2. Critique prior research  3. Present pertinent conclusions  Summarize prior research  Summary must focus on the particular research questions that will be addressed but also general background o Ask three questions about the summary of literature  1. Have you been selective?  2. Is the research up-to-date?  3. Have you used direct quotes sparingly? o Critique Prior Research  Evaluate strengths and weaknesses  How was the report reviewed prior to publication?  What is the author’s reputation?  Who funded and sponsored the research? o Present Pertinent Conclusions  Don’t leave guessing about implications of prior research for your own investigation  Distinguish clearly your own opinion of prior research from conclusions of articles that have been reviewed  Make it clean when your own approach is based on theoretical framework being used rather than results of prior research o Acknowledge the potential limitations of any empirical research project. Don’t emphasize problems in prior research that you can’t avoid either o Explain how the unanswered questions raised by prior research or the limitations of methods used in prior research make it important to conduct more investigation  Theoretical Perspectives for Social Research o As you review research literature about your research question, you will find that these publications often refer to one or more theories that guided the research o Theory: a logically interrelated set of propositions that helps us make sense of many interrelated phenomena and predict behavior or attitudes that are likely to occur when certain conditions are met o Building and evaluating theory is therefore one of the most important objectives of social science  Some Important Theories o Rational Choice Theory  A social theory that explains individual action with the principle that actors choose actions which maximize their gains from taking action o Specific Deterrence Theory  Applies Rational choice theory to crime and punishment o Conflict Theory  Identifies conflict between social groups as the primary force in society o Procedural Justice Theory  Predicts that people will obey the law from a sense of obligation that flows from seeing legal authorities as moral and legitimate o Symbolic Interaction Theory  Focuses on the symbolic nature of social interaction – how social interaction conveys meaning and promotes socialization o Labeling Theory  Uses a symbolic interactionist approach to explain deviance as an “offender’s” reaction to the application of rules and sanctions o Social researchers work with these theories, seeking to extend, challenge, or specify it  May test alternative implications of the different theories against each other  You’ll find that in any area of research, developing an understanding of relevant theories will help you to ask important questions, consider reasonable alternatives ad choose appropriate research procedures  Social Research Strategies o When constructing social research the attempt is to connect theory with empirical data o Deductive Research  Starting with a social theory and then testing some of its implications with data  A specific expectation is deduced from a general theoretical premise and then tested with data that have been collected for this purpose  The specific expectation deduced from the more general theory is a hypothesis  A hypothesis proposes a relationship between two or more variables  Variation in one variable is proposed to predict, influence, or cause variation in the other variable  The proposed influence is the independent variable its effect or consequence is the dependent variable  After the researcher formulate one or more hypotheses and develop research procedures, they collect data with which to test the hypothesis  Hypothesis: A tentative statement about empirical reality, involving a relationship between two or more variables  Variable: a characteristic or property that can vary (take on different values or attributes)  Independent variable: a variable that is hypothesized to cause, or lead to, variation in another variable  Dependent Variable: a variable that is hypothesized to vary depending on, or under the influence of, another variable  Hypotheses can be worded in several different ways, and identifying the independent and dependent variable is sometimes difficult  When in doubt, try to rephrase the hypothesis as an “if-then” statement. o “If the independent variable increases (or decreases), then the dependent variable increases (or decreases) o Inductive Research  First collecting the data and then developing a theory that explains patterns in that data  Begins with specific data, which are then used to develop (induce) a general explanation (theory) to account for the data  Inductive reasoning enters into deductive research when unexpected patterns in data are found  These patterns may be called serendipitous or anomalous findings o The Links Between Theory and Data   Direction of Association o When researchers hypothesize that one variable increases as the other variable increases, the direction of the association is positive o When one variable increases as the other decreases, or vice versa, the direction of association is negative, or inverse  Exploratory Research o Qualitative research is often exploratory and inductive  Researchers begin by observing social interaction or interviewing social actors in depth and then developing an explanation for what has been found  Questions often asked are similar to:  What is going on here?  How to people interpret these experiences?  Why do people do what they do?  Rather than testing a hypothesis, the researchers are trying to make sense of some social phenomenon  May even put off formulating a research question until after they begin to collect data o The idea is to let the question emerge from the situation itself  Descriptive Research o Some social research is purely descriptive o Begins with data and proceeds only to the stage of making empirical generalizations based on those data o Research for the government and public and private organizations is descriptive o Questions are similar to:  How many poor people live in this community?  Is the health of the elderly improving?  Social Research Goals o Social science research can improve our understanding of empirical reality o The goal of validity has been achieved when the conclusions about the empirical reality are correct o Concerned with three aspects of validity  Measurement validity  Exists when a measure measures what we think it measures  Generalizability  Exists when a conclusion holds true for the population, group, setting, or event that we say it does, given the conditions that are specified  Causal Validity (also known as internal validity)  Exists when a conclusion that A leads to or results in B is correct  Authenticity  When the understanding of a social process or social setting is one that reflects fairly the various perspectives of participants in that setting  Social Research Proposals o All Research Proposals should have at least five sections  1. An introductory statement of the research problem  Clarifying what it is that you are interested in studying  2. A literature review  Explain your problem and plans build on what has already been reported in the literature on the topic  3. Methodological Plan  Detailing just how research will respond to the particular mix of opportunities and constraints you face  4. Ethics Statement  Identifying human subjects issues in the research and how you will respond to them in an ethical fashion  5.Statement of Limitations  Reviewing weaknesses of the proposed research and presenting plans for minimizing their consequences  You will also need to include a budget and project timeline, unless you are working within the framework of a class project  Conclusions o Answers to research questions will never be completeor entirely certain o Always need to ground research plans and results in the literature about related research o Approach should be guided by explicit consideration of a larger theoretical framework o When a research project is completed the confidence that can be placed on the conclusions should be evaluated to point out how the research could be extended and to consider the implications for social theory o The mandate of every social scientist  To be conscientious, thoughtful, and responsible  If you formulate a feasible research problem, ask the right questions in advance, try to adhere to the research guidelines, and steer clear of the most common difficulties, you will be well along the road to fulfilling this mandate. The Logic of Scientific Inquiry  Goals of Social Science Inquiry o Knowledge  Social science methods as tools for knowing  One of the goals of social science inquiry is to produce knowledge of different phenomenon  Raises issue of “what can we know?” What is reality? Is reality real?  Deep philosophical issues and questions  For this class we assume that reality is real and search to know about reality  What other ways of knowing are there?  Intuition  Gut feelings  Lessons from personal experience o Scientific Methods are Different  Science is public  Has shared meaning  Procedures are well-established and have been subjects to testing and review  Replication is demanded before conclusions are accepted  Everything has to be done again. Facts and experiments are checked  General Start to a Social Science Project o  1. Ask Questions  2. Gather Data  3. Answer Questions o This however, needs to be done a bit more systematically in order to meet the standards of good science o Begin by describing the scientific process as a deductive one that is based on logic and systematic observation and the principle of “corroboration”  Corroboration: why we can’t “prove” statements about the way the world works  “Fail to disprove”  ‘hypothesis testing and replication   Social Science Project System o Assuming we have a Research Question  First step is: Beginning with a theory  Diving into research will bring us to a theory  General and specific  Theoretical and empirical  Second step: The Hypothesis  What is a hypothesis? o Relational  Concepts and variables o Embedded in theory or derived from theory  Defining the concepts  Conceptual definitions o Closely linked to theory  Operational Definitions  Operationalization o Measurement  How are we measuring our data? o Coding Instructions (male or Female) o Systematic observation  Decide ahead of time what will be categorized as an element in the concept that is being searched for o Data collection  Gathering Information o How do we get the information we need in order to test hypotheses?  Dictated by the operational definitions  Measurement  Observations  Data collection procedures  Secondary data  Organizing Data o Data analysis  Quantitative data analysis  Correlation and regression  Qualitative data analysis  Finding patterns, regularities, anomalies  Making a Decision o What does the data tell us about the hypothesis? o Is it false? o Is it corroborated? o Statistical Decision o Interpretive decision  Reject or Accept the (null) Hypothesis o On the basis of the empirical evidence – the data and the interpretation of it  Implications for Theory o Reject theory? o Accept theory? o Revise theory?  Graphs and Visual Aids o  o o Babbie’s Diagrams o


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