Sociological Research

Science refers to the application of systematic methods of observation to obtain knowledge and the knowledge obtained by those methods.

Science possesses the following four elements:

  1. Objective procedures
  2. Precise measurement
  3. Full disclosure and replication
  4. Empirically falsifiable propositions

Non-scientific Ways of Knowing

The Research Process

Components of Scientific Theory

Sociological Research Methods

  1. Experimental Method
    • The experiment is unique in its control over variables; it is useful for determining cause and effect.
    • Independent variables: those variables that are thought to produce a change in some variable.
    • Dependent variables: those variables that are influenced by independent variables. Example: smoking (as a dependent variable) is presumed to be influenced by income and education (independent variables).
    • Experimental group: the group of subjects exposed to the independent variable
    • Control group: the group of subjects not exposed to the independent variable
    • Steps in the experimental method:
      1. Randomly assign participants to the experimental and control groups
      2. Measure the dependent variable for the experimental and control groups
      3. Apply the independent variable to the experimental group only
      4. Measure the dependent variable for the experimental and control groups
    • Classic experiments in sociology and social psychology include:
      1. Stanley Milgram's "shocking" findings about obedience
      2. Solomon Asch's study of conformity
      3. Phillip Zimbardo's prison study
      4. Elton Mayo's discovery of the Hawthorne Effect
  2. Survey Method
    • In a survey, data is collected by having people answer a series of questions
    • It is important to properly sample the population (the target group to be studied) in order to ensure that the research can be generalized to the population of interest.
    • There are two main ways to conduct survey research:
      1. Questionnaires - respondents answer questions on their own (e.g., mail surveys)
      2. Interviews- respondents are directly questioned by researchers (e.g., telephone surveys, in-person interviews)
    • Notable examples of the survey method include:
      1. Scully and Marolla - Convicted Rapists' Vocabulary of Motives
      2. Convicted Rapists Describe the Rewards of Rape
  3. Field Research/Participant Observation
    • In participant observation, the researcher participates in a research setting while observing what is happening in that setting
    • The researcher may choose whether or not to disclose his or her identity and motives to the subjects
    • Prominent examples of field research include:
      1. Elliot Liebow - Tally's Corner
      2. Donald Stull & Michael Broadway - Slaughterhouse Blues
      3. Laud Humphreys - Tearoom Trade
  4. Content Analysis, Secondary Analysis, and Unobtrusive Measures
    • Content analysis involves the examination of written sources that provide data (e.g., books, newspapers, magazines) as well as photographs, movies, television programs, and other archival material.
    • Secondary analysis involves the analysis of data already collected by other researchers.
    • Unobtrusive measures include various ways of observing people who do not know they are being studied.

Measures of central tendency

Nonscientific and Ethical Considerations