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CJ 300 Chapter 3 General Issues in Research Design

by: Rachel Sutherland

CJ 300 Chapter 3 General Issues in Research Design 300

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Rachel Sutherland
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About this Document

These notes cover days Sept. 12 and 14 and pages 50-75
Dr. Cwick
Class Notes




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Rachel Sutherland on Saturday September 17, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to 300 at Grand Valley State University taught by Dr. Cwick in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 13 views. For similar materials see Methods in CJ at Grand Valley State University.


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Date Created: 09/17/16
Chapter 3 General Issues in Research Design I. Foundations of Social Science 1. What is a theory? a. A systematic explanation for the observed facts and laws that relate to a particular aspect of life b. A theory is not what should be, it has to do with what is c. The two pillars of science are logic and observation 2. Grounded theory a. Theory based on empirical observations b. Field research is the direct observation in progress and is frequently used to develop theories 3. Hypothesis a. An expectation about the nature of things derived from a theory 4. Regularities and Exceptions a. Social science inquiry aims to find patterns of regularity in social life i. This assumes that life is regular, not chaotic or random ii. The existence of exceptions does not invalidate the existence of regularities iii. Social regularities represent probabilistic patterns b. A general pattern does not have to be reflected in 100% of the cases to be a pattern c. Social science deals with aggregates, not individuals d. Aggregates are the combined actions and situations of many individuals i. It’s what scientists rely on to predict the behavior of a large group e. Social scientific theories deal with aggregate behavior i. Social science is more interested in variables rather than people 5. Variables and Attributes a. Social scientists study variables, people are the carriers of these variables i. The attributes are characteristics or qualities that describe some object, such as a person  Ex: Married, unemployed and intoxicated all describe someone’s attributes ii. Variables are logical groupings of attributes iii. Variable – attribute  Ex: Male and female are attributes (choices), and gender is the variable (category) 6. Variables and Relationships a. Theories involve the notation of causation i. A person’s attributes on one variable are expected to cause or encourage a particular attribute or another variable b. We talk about this in terms of a relationship between and independent and dependent variable i. The independent causes or encourages the dependent variable ii. The dependent variable depends on the independent variable II. Differing Avenues for Inquiry 1. Types of Reasoning a. Inductive reasoning i. Induction moves from the specific to the general ii. Moves from a set of specific observations to the discovery of a pattern iii. Moves from whether (observed occurrence) to why b. Deductive reasoning i. Moves from the general to the specific ii. Moves from a pattern that may be logically or theoretically expected to observations that test whether the expected pattern actually occurs in the real world iii. Moves from why to whether 2. Quantitative and Qualitative Data a. Quantitative data i. Numerical ii. Makes observations more explicit iii. Makes it easier to aggregate and summarize data iv. Makes data useful for statistical analysis b. Qualitative Data i. Nonnumerical ii. Provides greater detail and richness of meaning iii. Answers questions that numerical data can’t capture (ie: why? How?) 3. Idiographic and Nomothetic Explanations a. Idio means “unique, separate, peculiar or distinct” i. Therefore, idiographic explanations are limited to a specific case or unique circumstances ii. They are an attempt to explain one case fully b. Nomothetic explanations seek to explain a class of situations or events i. Also seeks to explain efficiently, using only one or just a few explanatory factors III. Causation in the Social Sciences 1. Scientific Realism a. Scientific realism budges idiographic and nomothetic approaches i. Can apply more general casual relationships and test them in specific contexts ii. Can ask specific research questions and the results or outcomes are ideally broader in their possible application 2. Criteria for Causality a. Idiographic (all potential causes for one phenomenon) b. To understand the cause of a specific occurrence, we ask: i. Is it credible/believable? ii. Are there alternative explanations? c. Nomothetic (aggregate relationships) d. To understand how two variables or attributes are generally related, 3 criteria must be established: i. Causal order, correct temporal order ii. Variables occur together iii. The relationship is not found to result from the effects of some third variable iv. Any relationship that satisfies all these criteria is causal 3. Validity and Causality a. Validity i. What does it mean to say that something is valid? ii. “The approximate truth of an inference,” or the extent to which evidence supports the statement iii. Is something true or correct? b. Threats to Validity i. Why might we be wrong in stating something is valid or true?  Covered in more detail in Chapter 5 4. Units of Analysis a. What are they? i. The what or who that is being studied b. Four broad unites of analysis we use: pg. 67 i. Individuals  Active offenders, gang members, prisoners ii. Groups  Gangs, police districts iii. Social artifacts  Crime reports, media coverage iv. Organizations  Prisons, political organizations Ex: 65% of drug cases are diverted to drug court (social artifact) Homicide rate in Canada declined more steeply than US in the 1990s (groups) The robbery rate in District 2 is lower than District 6 or 3 (groups) Offenders who went through treatment were more likely to succeed after release from prison (individuals) 5. Units of Analysis: A Caution a. Ecological fallacy i. Making an assertion about an individual based on a study that was done on a group observation b. Individualistic fallacy i. Taking an individual experience or event and making broad assertions about it (similar to stereotyping)  Ex: There was a carjacking on Fulton St., so you assume that cars in that area are at risk to be carjacked 6. Considering Time a. Cross-sectional studies i. It’s a one-time study – there are no follow ups on participants  Ex: US Census  The study is aimed at describing the US population at a given time ii. Problems with this?  No follow ups  Confidential/anonymous  One “snapshot” is not a very valid way to compare the relationship between variables b. Longitudinal studies i. Multiple points of observation ii. 3 types of longitudinal studies:  Trend studies – change in general population, interview different people each time  Cohort studies – specific populations over time (ie. age), survey baby boomers in adulthood  Panel studies – same set of people on two or more occasions, issue of attrition (process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something) c. Longitudinal Substitutes i. Logical inferences  Sometimes logic can ensure temporal ordering  Ex: gender, or other characteristics usually precede some event  Gender and drug use (drug use is not likely to affect gender) d. Retrospective Studies i. Recalling the past ii. Prospective vs. Retrospective  Prospective involves asking research questions with follow up and observation of subjects over time  Retrospective involves asking about past experiences and behavior iii. Problems with retrospective?  People may inaccurately report behavior due to lack of memory (incident was more or less violent than individual remembers)


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