PDF Building Experiments: Testing Social Theory

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Social Research Methods - Knowledge Base - Deduction & Induction

Sociologists use the scientific method not only to collect but to interpret and analyze the data. They deliberately apply scientific logic and objectivity. They are interested in but not attached to the results. Their research work is independent of their own political or social beliefs. This does not mean researchers are not critical. Nor does it mean they do not have their own personalities, preferences, and opinions. But sociologists deliberately use the scientific method to maintain as much objectivity, focus, and consistency as possible in a particular study.

With its systematic approach, the scientific method has proven useful in shaping sociological studies. The scientific method provides a systematic, organized series of steps that help ensure objectivity and consistency in exploring a social problem. The first step of the scientific method is to ask a question, describe a problem, and identify the specific area of interest. The topic should be narrow enough to study within a geography and time frame. The question should also be broad enough to have universal merit. That said, happiness and hygiene are worthy topics to study.

Sociologists do not rule out any topic, but would strive to frame these questions in better research terms. That is why sociologists are careful to define their terms. He argued that the key demarcation between scientific and non-scientific propositions was not ultimately their truth, nor their empirical verification, but whether or not they were stated in such a way as to be falsifiable; that is, whether a possible empirical observation could prove them wrong.

If one claimed that evil spirits were the source of criminal behaviour, this would not be a scientific proposition because there is no possible way to definitively disprove it. Evil spirits cannot be observed. Once a proposition is formulated in a way that would permit it to be falsified, the variables to be observed need to be operationalized. The concept is translated into an observable variable , a measure that has different values. The operational definition identifies an observable condition of the concept. By operationalizing a variable of the concept, all researchers can collect data in a systematic or replicable manner.

The operational definition must be valid in the sense that it is an appropriate and meaningful measure of the concept being studied. It must also be reliable, meaning that results will be close to uniform when tested on more than one person. For example, good drivers might be defined in many ways: Those who use their turn signals; those who do not speed; or those who courteously allow others to merge.

Of course the sociologist has to be wary of the way the variables are operationalized.

The 25 Most Influential Psychological Experiments in History

The next step researchers undertake is to conduct background research through a literature review , which is a review of any existing similar or related studies. This step helps researchers gain a broad understanding of work previously conducted on the topic at hand and enables them to position their own research to build on prior knowledge. It allows them to sharpen the focus of their research question and avoid duplicating previous research. Researchers — including student researchers — are responsible for correctly citing existing sources they use in a study or sources that inform their work.

While it is fine to build on previously published material as long as it enhances a unique viewpoint , it must be referenced properly and never plagiarized. To study hygiene and its value in a particular society, a researcher might sort through existing research and unearth studies about childrearing, vanity, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, and cultural attitudes toward beauty.

It is important to sift through this information and determine what is relevant. A hypothesis is an assumption about how two or more variables are related; it makes a conjectural statement about the relationship between those variables. It is an educated guess because it is not random but based on theory, observations, patterns of experience, or the existing literature. The hypothesis formulates this guess in the form of a testable proposition.

However, how the hypothesis is handled differs between the positivist and interpretive approaches.

Importance of Theory

Positivist methodologies are often referred to as hypothetico-deductive methodologies. A hypothesis is derived from a theoretical proposition.

radiotvichilo.sdb.bo/includes/gypiziwit/4624.php On the basis of the hypothesis a prediction or generalization is logically deduced. In positivist sociology, the hypothesis predicts how one form of human behaviour influences another. How does being a black driver affect the number of times the police will pull you over? Successful prediction will determine the adequacy of the hypothesis and thereby test the theoretical proposition. Variables are examined to see if there is a correlation between them. When a change in one variable coincides with a change in another variable there is a correlation. This does not necessarily indicate that changes in one variable causes a change in another variable, however; just that they are associated.

A key distinction here is between independent and dependent variables.

In research, independent variables are the cause of the change. The dependent variable is the effect, or thing that is changed. For example, in a basic study, the researcher would establish one form of human behaviour as the independent variable and observe the influence it has on a dependent variable.

How does gender the independent variable affect rate of income the dependent variable?

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How is social class the dependent variable affected by level of education the independent variable? For it to become possible to speak about causation , three criteria must be satisfied:. It is important to note that while there has to be a correlation between variables for there to be a causal relationship, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

The relationship between variables can be the product of a third intervening variable that is independently related to both. For example, there might be a positive relationship between wearing bikinis and eating ice cream, but wearing bikinis does not cause eating ice cream. It is more likely that the heat of summertime causes both an increase in bikini wearing and an increase in the consumption of ice cream.

What Makes Bridges So Strong?

The distinction between causation and correlation can have significant consequences. For example, Aboriginal Canadians are overrepresented in prisons and arrest statistics. As we noted in Chapter 1, in Aboriginal people accounted for about 4 percent of the Canadian population, but they made up There is a positive correlation between being an Aboriginal person in Canada and being in jail. Is this because Aboriginal people are racially or biologically predisposed to crime? As the chart shows, an independent variable is the one that causes a dependent variable to change.

For example, a researcher might hypothesize that teaching children proper hygiene the independent variable will boost their sense of self-esteem the dependent variable. Of course, this hypothesis can also work the other way around. Identifying the independent and dependent variables is very important. As the hygiene example shows, simply identifying two topics, or variables, is not enough: Their prospective relationship must be part of the hypothesis. Sociologists analyze general patterns in response to a study, but they are equally interested in exceptions to patterns.

In a study of education, a researcher might predict that high school dropouts have a hard time finding a rewarding career. While it has become at least a cultural assumption that the higher the education, the higher the salary and degree of career happiness, there are certainly exceptions. People with little education have had stunning careers, and people with advanced degrees have had trouble finding work.

A sociologist prepares a hypothesis knowing that results will vary. While many sociologists rely on the positivist hypothetico-deductive method in their research, others operate from an interpretive approach. While still systematic, this approach typically does not follow the hypothesis-testing model that seeks to make generalizable predictions from quantitative variables. Instead, an interpretive framework seeks to understand social worlds from the point of view of participants, leading to in-depth knowledge. Interpretive research is generally more descriptive or narrative in its findings than positivist research.

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It can begin from a deductive approach by deriving a hypothesis from theory and then seeking to confirm it through methodologies like in-depth interviews. However, it is ideally suited to an inductive approach in which the hypothesis emerges only after a substantial period of direct observation or interaction with subjects. This type of approach is exploratory in that the researcher also learns as he or she proceeds, sometimes adjusting the research methods or processes midway to respond to new insights and findings as they evolve. In the initial stage, the researcher is simply trying to categorize and sort the data.

The researchers do not predetermine what the relevant categories of the social experience are but analyze carefully what their subjects actually say. For example, what are the working definitions of health and illness that hospital patients use to describe their situation? In the first stage, the researcher tries to label the common themes emerging from the data: different ways of describing health and illness. In the second stage, the researcher takes a more analytical approach by organizing the data into a few key themes: perhaps the key assumptions that lay people make about the physiological mechanisms of the body, or the metaphors they use to describe their relationship to illness e.

In the third stage, the researcher would return to the interview subjects with a new set of questions that would seek to either affirm, modify, or discard the analytical themes derived from the initial coding of the interviews.