Intro to Sociology Notes Week4
Intro to Sociology Notes Week4 Soc 100
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This 14 page Class Notes was uploaded by Jordan Pimental on Thursday February 11, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Soc 100 at Indiana University taught by Professor Felicia Helvey in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 21 views. For similar materials see Introductory Sociology in Sociology at Indiana University.
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Date Created: 02/11/16
Lecture Notes February 3, 2016 Research Methods: Asking & Answering Sociological Questions Damned Lies & Statistics 3 questions to ask when encountering statistics: 1. Who created this statistic? 2. Why was this statistic created? 3. How was this statistic created? Statistics are socially constructed tools Perceptions of the broader social world may be based on statistics Policies are also based on statistics Sociological Research -Sociology is a science. We use a number of research methods to answer the questions we ask -Each research method follows a basic scientific design Basic Research Process: Define the research problem: What are you studying? Review the literature: Go through relevant lit. to gather knowledge on your topic Form a hypothesis: Based on what you know after reviewing lit, develop idea/guess about topic Select a research design: The type of design chosen should be informed by the questions you’re attempting to answer Carry out the research: Collect & record data Interpret the results: Was the hypothesis supported? What are the implications of the data? Report the findings: Research Methods Research methods: Diverse methods of investigation to gather empirical material. -Quantitative Method Descriptive; describing a process and the meaning behind it or its meaning to others Exploratory; tries to learn something new -Qualitative Methods Descriptive (demographic variables) Explanatory (correlations)-> not causality Evaluation Quantitative Methods -Data collected is quantifiable: Statistical research Means of gathering quantitative data: Survey Surveys Surveys are questionnaires that are administered to the population being studied Survey information is not overly detailed, but can be generalized to bigger population. Population: the people who are the focus of social research Sample: A small proportion of a larger population Generalizability: The extent to which research findings from a sample can be extended to the population from which they came Random Sampling/Selection: A sampling method in which a sample is chosen so that every member of the population has the same probability of being chosen Advantages of Survey Research: Easily quantifiable Can study large numbers of people Allows for comparison to be made Provides generalizable statistics Highlights Patterns Disadvantages Superficial Analysis Respondents may not really tell you what they believe Qualitative Methods -Data collected is not used for quantitative purposes but used to give insight to individual experiences -highlights processes Means of gathering qualitative e data: Ethnography Ethnography: First hand study of people using participant observation or interviewing Participant Observation: A method of research used in sociology and anthropology in which the researcher takes part in the activities of the group or community being studied. -The presence of the researcher should always be considered in ethnographic research Characteristics of the researcher may also play a role into how respondents react to them and answer questions. Advantages of Ethnographic Research Provides detailed information on how individuals, groups, and communities understand their behavior Gives insight into processes Disadvantages of Ethnographic Research Can only study small groups Cannot generalize your findings outside that group May lose perspective as a researcher Difficulty in getting access to a group of participants Research Methods: Experiments Experiments: Research method in which variables can be analyzed in a controlled and systematic way Typically people are randomly assigned to 2 groups-experimental and control group Experimental group: receives some special attention or treatment based on the researcher’s theory that the control group does not receive Subject usually do not know to which group they have been assigned for the purpose of the experiment. Advantages of Experimental Research: Control of experimental conditions- an unusual characteristic of sociological research- what we typically study does not lend itself to experimental research Disadvantages Control of experimental conditions (May not reflect real life situations) Difficult to generalize Problems With Sociological Research -Causal arguments: difficult to make causal assessments -Human subject & ethical dilemmas: does research pose risks to subjects that are greater than the risks they face in their daily life? Can we study human social life in a scientific way? Reading Notes (Ritzer P.57-64) Researching the Social World Sociology as a Science Each generation has pushed humankind further into an unknown future; enjoying longer life expectancies, improved standards of living, inexpensive manufactured goods, readily available food, quick and effortless communication and the ability to travel, even around the world. There’s been an ecological price Climate change: marked by long term fluctuations in Earth’s intricate and interwoven weather patterns. Gradual climate change is natural. However, research suggests that recent changes are directly attributable to human activities. Physical science helps explain climate change, but to understand the motivations, beliefs and actions that affect our response to it, we need sociologists & their research methods. Research methods must be ethical, reliable and valid for the results they yield to be widely accepted. Sociology is a science of the social world & research is central to this science. Sociologists theorize, speculate and even rely on their imaginations for answers to questions about society- however they do so on the basis of data or information derived form research. Empiricism: gathering information and evidence using their sense Sociologists also adopt the scientific method or a similarly systematic approach. The Scientific Method Scientific Method: structured way of finding answers to questions about the world. Following steps constitute the basic scientific method: 1. Sociologist uncovers questions in need of answers. Questions inspired by key issues, personal experiences, or topics of concern specifically in sociology. 2. Sociologists review the relevant literature on the questions of interest to them. This is because others have likely done similar or related research in the past that could inform them. 3. Researchers often develop hypotheses, or educated guesses, about how social phenomena can be expected to relate to one another. This hypothesis should never be formed before reviewing relevant literature 4. Researchers must choose research methods that will help them to answer their research questions. Certain methods are better suited to certain kinds of questions. 5. Researchers use their chosen methods to collect data that can confirm- or fail to confirm- their hypotheses. 6. Researchers analyze the data collected, assessing their meaning in light of the hypothesis that guided the research. Research process may begin again if a researcher discovers additional questions when analyzing the existing data. The Development of Scientific Knowledge Scientific knowledge develops gradually and cumulatively as one set of empirical findings builds on another. -Some studies fail to confirm earlier findings and lead to dead ends. Others confirm previous findings & confidence in these findings grows as they’re confirmed by additional research- eventually some of them get treated as scientific facts. -However some facts, over time, can be found to be erroneous. Example: Early scientists believed that women’s smaller brain size in comparison to men’s was evidence of mental inferiority. Later research demonstrated that brain size does not determine intelligence, so those earlier ideas are no longer accepted. Thomas Kuhn: A philosopher of science who proposed a different model of scientific development that focuses on the role of scientific breakthroughs. -What defines a science is the existence of a paradigm -Paradigm: a general model of the world that is accepted by most practitioners in the field -With an agreed upon paradigm, scientists don’t need to squabble over their general orientation & most basic premises. -Research expands on paradigms and it’s fleshed out in a series of tiny steps -Some research does not support the dominant paradigm & serious questions arise -If these questions aren’t answered & new ones arise, the paradigm collapse and replaced by a new paradigm Kuhn argues that in such revolutions is when science takes great leaps forward. New paradigms are always developing- this “single paradigm” approach fits well with the history of the physical sciences, but sociology can perhaps be better seen as “multiple-paradigm sciences.” -No single paradigm is powerful enough to unify the discipline- so research occurs within each sociological paradigm. Because there’s never been a single dominant paradigm in sociology, the field has never experienced any dramatic paradigm revolutions. -More difficult to accumulate knowledge accepted by practically everyone in the field. -Lack of a dominant paradigm means there are many more controversies in sociology than there are in some other fields. Checkpoint: Empirical findings-> later studies confirm findings->most practitioners agree on a general paradigm-> questions about paradigm proliferate-> new paradigm develops… Sociological Research The method chosen should be driven by the nature of the research question. Observation, interviews, surveys, experiments, and other research methods are all useful and important to sociologists, each with their own strengths and limitations Qualitative and Quantitative Research Qualitative research: consists of studies done in natural settings that produce in-depth, descriptive information about the social world Observation: watching, listening and taking detailed notes, and open-ended interviews are just two qualitative methods. Used to capture descriptive information about a wide range of social phenomena. Quantitative Research: involves the analysis of numerical data usually derived from surveys and experiments. Can help to describe and to better understand important observable social realities. Statistics: Mathematical method used to analyze numerical data. Statistics can aid researchers in 2 ways: 1. When researchers want to see trends over time or compare differences between groups, they use descriptive statistics. These stats describe a body of data based on a particular phenomenon in the real world 2. To test hypotheses, researchers use inferential statistics. These stats allow researchers to use data form a relatively small group to speculate with some level of certainty about a larger group. Reading Notes (Ritzer P. 64-70) Observational Research Observation: consists of systematically watching, listening to, and recording what takes place win a natural social setting over some, usually extended, period of time. Two main types of observation: Participant and nonparticipant observation Key dimensions to observation in sociology Degree to which those being observed are aware that they are being observed-varies from everyone being fully informed about research to participants being observed from afar or through hidden cameras. Sociologists’ motivation should be a desire to understand the complex facets of a setting or environment. Degree to which the presence of the observer affects the actions of those being observed. When aware they’re being observed, people present themselves in the way they think the observer expects or will accept. Degree to which the process is structured. Highly structured: might use preset categories, codes, or checklist to guide observations. Some studies intended to seek widest possible range of data-so researchers take note of as much as possible. Participant and Nonparticipant Observation Participant Observation: researcher actually plays a role, even a minor one, in the group or setting being observed. Nonparticipant Observation: sociologist plays little or no role in what is being observed. There are no firm dividing lines between participant and nonparticipant observation, and at times the two blend imperceptibly into one another. Ethnography Ethnography: creation of a detailed account of what a group of people do and the way they live, usually entailing much more intensive and lengthy periods of observation than traditional sociological observation. Such research methods can reveal much about the experiences of traditionally understudied and marginalized groups of women. Ethnographics typically small in scale, micro, and local. Researchers observe people, talk to them, hang out with them, sometimes live with them, and conduct formal and informal interviews with them over an extended period of time. Global Ethnography: type of ethnography that is grounded in various parts of the world and seeks to understand globalization as it exists in people’s social lives. Three interconnected phenomena are central to global ethnographies undertaken by Michael Burawoy and others: 1. Do people experience globalization as an external force? If so, is it a force to be combated or accepted? 2. In what ways, if at all, do people participate in creating and furthering global connections? 3. Do people work for or against process that are global in scope? Example of a global ethnography: study of homeless people in San Fransisco who are able to survive by recycling some things they find on the street. Many are unemployed due to jobs being outsourced to other countries. Other links to globalization: some objects they recycle may have been produced outside US, & once they are recycled they may find their way back out of the United States. Interviews Observers sometimes interview those they study, but they do so informally, and on the spur of the moment. Others rely mainly on interviews in which they seek information from participants by asking a series of questions that have been spelled out, at least to some degree, before the research is conducted. -Usually conducted face to face, all though they can be done by phone and are increasingly done via internet. Large scale national surveys are increasingly including interviews. Use of interviews has a long history in sociology. Types of Interviews Questions make be preselected & prestructured so that respondents must choose form sets of preselected answers such as agree & disagree. Or it could be spontaneous & open-ended. The latter is used by those doing observational research. Prestructured Interviews are attractive when researcher wants to avoid unanticipated reactions or responses. In these interviews, the interviewer attempts to Behave in the same way in each interview Ask the same questions using the same exact words and in the same sequence; Ask closed-ended questions that the participant must answer by choosing from a set of preselected responses; Offer the same explanations when they are requested by respondents; and Not show any kind of reaction to the answers, no matter what they might be Yield info that can be coded numerically and then analyzed statistically. Problems associated with prestructured interviews: -Interviewers find it difficult to live up to guidelines Unable to avoid reacting to answers May use different intonation from one interview to another May change wording, and even the order, of the questions asked. -Respondents may not respond accurately or truthfully. -Closed-ended questions limit the responses, possibly cutting off useful unanticipated information that might be provided in a more free-flowing interview -This problem can be solved by use of unstructured interview. Unstructured Interviews Interviewer begins with a general idea of topics to be covered & the direction to be taken in the interview. Answers offer a good understanding of the respondents and what the issues under study mean to them. Problems with this: may yield so much diverse information that it is hard to offer a coherent summary and interpretation of the results. The Interview Process 1. Interviewer must gain access to the setting being studied. Some groups are more difficult to access. 2. Interviewer must often seek to locate a key informant. Key Informant: a person who has intimate knowledge of the group being studied and is willing to talk openly to the researcher about the group. Helps gain access to the larger group. 3. Interviewer must seek to understand the language and culture of the people being interviewed. This is important so that the researcher does not misunderstand or impose incorrect meanings on the words of respondents. 4. Researcher must gain trust of the respondents and develop a rapport with them. In many cases trust & rapport need to be earned over and over. And trust can easily be lost. Reading Notes (Ritzer P. 70-76) Survey Research Survey research: involves collection of information from a population, or more usually a representative portion of a population, through the use of interviews, and most important, questionnaires. Questionnaires are self-administered, written sets of questions. Types of Surveys Descriptive survey: designed to gather accurate information about members of a certain group, people in a geographic area, or people in a particular organization. Might gather data on the level of sexual activity among college students, for example. Explanatory Survey: Seeks to uncover potential causes of the data that descriptive surveys only describe. Sampling Almost never possible to survey an entire population. Sample: a representative portion of the overall population. Best way to avoid bias when making a sample is to make a random sample. Random sample: a sample in which every member of the group has an equal chance of being included. One way of attaining a random sample is a list. Stratified sample: a larger group is divided into a series of subgroups and then random samples are taken within each of these groups. Convenience samples: Avoid systematic sampling and simply include those who are conveniently available to participate in a research project. These are rarely representative of an entire population. Experiments An experiment involves the manipulation of one or more characteristics in order to examine the effect of that manipulation. Independent variable: the condition that was manipulated by the researcher. Dependent variable: the characteristic or measurement that resulted from the manipulation. Laboratory experiments: take place in controlled settings, like a classroom. Setting offers researcher great control over selection of participants as well as the independent variables. Natural Experiments: experiments in which researchers take advantage of a naturally occurring event to study its effect on one or more dependent variables. Offer experimenters little or no control over independent variables. Field Experiments: In some natural situations, researchers are able to exert at least some control over who participates and what happens during experiments. Secondary Data Analysis Secondary data analysis: process in which the data collected by others is reanalyzed. Can involve a wide variety of different types of data, from consensus and other surveys to historical records and old transcripts of interviews and focus groups. Often involves statistical analysis of government surveys and census data. It is not unusual for one body of data to lead to hundreds of secondary analyses. Those who reanalyze data may be concerned about issues that differ from those that motivated the original research. Secondary Analysis is far easier and far less expensive to carry out than collecting one’s own data Distinct Problems of Secondary Data Analysis: Secondary researchers cannot refine their methods on the basis of preliminary research Since others have chosen the methods of data collection, the data may not be ideal for the secondary researcher’s needs. Problem with using government data sets is political: certain types of sensitive data may not have been collected. Reading Notes (Ritzer P. 76-84) Historical-Comparative Methods Goal of Historical-comparative research: to contrast how different historical events and conditions in various societies have led to different societal outcomes. Two separable methods are being combined. Historical component: involves the study of history of societies as well as the major components of society such as the state, religious system, and economy. Addition of comparative element makes this method more distinctively sociological. Historians collect more original historical data and go into greater detail than sociologists do. Sociologists are more interested in generalizing. Ideal type: a “one-sided accentuation” of social reality. Not meant to be an accurate depiction of reality. It’s a measuring rod of sorts. Content Analysis Content Analysis: relies on the systematic and objective analysis of the content of cultural artifacts inprint,visual,audio,anddigitalmedia,includingphotographs,movies, advertisements,speeches, and newspaper articles. Issues in Social Research Research by sociologists raises a number of issues of great importance. Issues such as: how data should be interpreted, the obligations that sociologists have to research participants & to society as a whole, and other issues are raised by sociologists themselves: whether or not sociology can truly be as objective as a science is presumed to be. Reliability and Validity Key issue with sociological data: One’s ability to trust the findings. Evaluate research methods to assess their trustworthiness Reliability: the degree to which a given question, or another kind of measure, produces the same results time after time. Validity: the degree to which a question, or another kind of measure, gets an accurate response. Research Ethics Ethics: concerned with issues of right and wrong, the choices that people make, and how they justify them. Three main areas of concern regarding Ethics: physical and psychological harm to participants, illegal acts by researchers, and deception and violation of participants’ trust. Physical and Psychological Harm Most sociological research is not likely to cause physical harm. However, physical harm may be an unintended consequence. Greater issue: possibility of psychological harm to those being studied. Even questionnaire or interview studies can cause psychological harm by asking people about sensitive issues such as sexual orientation, drug use, and experience with abortion. Risk is increased when a participant is hypersensitive to these issues because of a difficult or traumatic personal experience. Examples: Milgram experiment with the teacher, learner, and administered shocks. This caused psychological damage to the “teachers” because they realized that they were perfectly capable of harming and killing other human beings. This effected the way they viewed and felt about themselves. Illegal Acts Researchers must weigh sticky legal and ethical ramifications for participants. For example, if a researcher witnessed an illegal act in a nursery. Had to decided whether or not to report it. Juggle concerns about criminality of the act with a desire to protect their research participants & the trust they’ve extended. Publishing an account of the act might help the researchers’ careers, but cause the perpetrator to go to jail. It’s also possible that not informing the police or refusing to turn over field notes could lead to imprisonment of the researchers. The Violation of Trust Several ways to betray participants’ trust. Example: inadvertently divulging the identity of respondents even though they were promised anonymity. Possibility of exploitive relationships. Exploitation is of special concern when there is a real or perceived imbalance of power-often related to race, class or gender- between researcher and participant. It’s also a betrayal of trust for a researcher to develop inappropriate relationships with participants. Informed consent and institutional review boards Many codes have been devised to protect people from overzealous or malicious researchers; Hippocratic Oath taken by medical doctors offers guidelines for dealing with human participants. Nuremberg Code: developed in 1947 to protect biomedical research subjects after Nazi experiments on concentration camp inmates were revealed. These codes were broadened to a concern for all research involved human participants, but it is important to realize that they are only codes of conduct and not enforceable laws or regulations. 1974 National Research Act, requiring ethical oversight for research funded by the federal government. Since then, it’s been stated that all research in the United States receiving federal funding be approved by an institutional review board. Institutional Review Boards, generally protect 3 broad ethic principles: 1. Respect for persons 2. Beneficence (As little harm as possible to be done to participants.) 3. Justice (This so burdens and rewards are distributed in an equitable manner. IRBs require evidence of written informed consent of those being studied. This statement usually includes the following details: What the study entails & why it is being conducted How and why research participants have been recruited to participate What participation involves The risks and benefits associated with participation The degree to which participants’ privacy and confidentiality will be protected How the study safe guards vulnerable populations Who the participants can contact at the university if they have further questions Researchers also submit a research protocol providing an overview of the way in which the research will be conducted to the IRB. Objectivity or “Value-Free” Sociology One concern of sociology is that researchers be objective to avoid value-laden research. Such research jeopardizes the entire field and if published, erodes and could destroy the credibility of the field as a whole. Value-free sociology means preventing all personal values from affecting any phase of the research process. But this is not what Max Weber wanted in his work on values. Weber was concerned with teachers, especially professors, to be value-free in their lectures. This issue arose because many teachers were pushing a Marxist agenda in the class room. Weber opposed Marxism, but more generally opposed using the classroom to express any values. -Felt that young students were neither mature nor sophisticated enough to see through such arguments. Weber did not take the same position with reference to research. He saw at lest 2 roles for values in social research. First: the selection of a question to be researched. Weber believed it perfectly appropriate for researchers to be guided by personal values. Second: In the analysis of the results of a research study. Sociologists can, and should, use personal and social values to help them make sense of their findings. In Weber’s opinion, the only place in research to be value-free is in the collection of research data.
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