Chapter 2: Sociological Research

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2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research
Using the scientific method, a researcher conducts a study in five phases: asking a question, researching existing sources, formulating a hypothesis, conducting a study, and drawing conclusions. The scientific method is useful in that it provides a clear method of organizing a study. Some sociologists conduct research through an interpretive framework rather than employing the scientific method. Scientific sociological studies often observe relationships between variables. Researchers study how one variable changes another. Prior to conducting a study, researchers are careful to apply operational definitions to their terms and to establish dependent and independent variables.

2.2 Research Methods
Sociological research is a fairly complex process. As you can see, a lot goes into even a simple research design. There are many steps and much to consider when collecting data on human behavior, as well as in interpreting and analyzing data in order to form conclusive results. Sociologists use scientific methods for a good reason. The scientific method provides a system of organization that helps researchers plan and conduct the study while ensuring that data and results are reliable, valid, and objective. The many methods available to researchers—including experiments, surveys, field studies, and secondary data
analysis—all come with advantages and disadvantages. The strength of a study can depend on the choice and implementation of the appropriate method of gathering research. Depending on the topic, a study might use a single method or a combination of methods. It is important to plan a research design before undertaking a study. The information gathered may in itself be surprising, and the study design should provide a solid framework in which to analyze predicted and unpredicted data.

2.3 Ethical Concerns
Sociologists and sociology students must take ethical responsibility for any study they conduct. They must first and foremost guarantee the safety of their participants. Whenever possible, they must ensure that participants have been fully informed before consenting to be part of a study. The ASA maintains ethical guidelines that sociologists must take into account as they conduct research. The guidelines address conducting studies, properly using existing sources, accepting funding, and publishing results. Sociologists must try to maintain value neutrality. They must gather and analyze data objectively and set aside their
personal preferences, beliefs, and opinions. They must report findings accurately, even if they contradict personal convictions.

case study
in-depth analysis of a single event, situation, or individual

code of ethics
a set of guidelines that the American Sociological Association has established to foster ethical research and professionally responsible scholarship in sociology

content analysis
applying a systematic approach to record and value information gleaned from secondary data as it relates to the study at hand

when a change in one variable coincides with a change in another variable, but does not necessarily indicate causation

dependent variables
a variable changed by other variables

empirical evidence
evidence that comes from direct experience, scientifically gathered data, or experimentation

observing a complete social setting and all that it entails

the testing of a hypothesis under controlled conditions

field research
gathering data from a natural environment without doing a lab experiment or a survey

Hawkthorne effect
when study subjects behave in a certain manner due to their awareness of being observed by a researcher

a testable educated guess about predicted outcomes between two or more variables

independent variables
variables that cause changes in dependent variables

interpretive framework
a sociological research approach that seeks an in-depth understanding of a topic or subject through observation or interaction; this approach is not based on hypothesis testing

a one-on-one conversation between the researcher and the subject

literature review
a scholarly research step that entails identifying and studying all existing studies on a topic to create a basis for new research

a technique in which the results of virtually all previous studies on a specific subject are evaluated together

nonreactive research
using secondary data does not include direct contact with subjects and will not alter or influence people’s behaviors

operational definitions
specific explanations of abstract concepts that a researcher plans to study

participant observations
when a researcher immerses herself in a group or social setting in order to make observations from an “insider” perspective

a defined group serving as the subject of a study

primary data
data that are collected directly from firsthand experience

qualitative data
comprise information that is subjective and often based on what is seen in a natural setting

quantitative data
represent research collected in the numerical form that can be counted

random sample
a study’s participants being randomly selected to serve as a representation of a larger population

a measure of a study’s consistency that considers how likely results are to be replicated if a study is reproduced

small, manageable number of subjects that represent the population

scientific method
an established scholarly research method that involves asking a question, researching existing sources, forming a hypothesis, designing and conducting a study, and drawing conclusions

secondary data analysis
using data collected by others but applying new interpretations

collect data from subjects who respond to a series of questions about behaviors and opinions, often in the form of a questionnaire

the degree to which a sociological measure accurately reflects the topic of study

value neutrality
a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment during the course of a study and in publishing results

A measurement is considered ______ if it actually measures what it is intended to measure, according to the topic of the
a. reliable
b. sociological
c. valid
d. quantitative

Sociological studies test relationships in which change in one ______ causes the change in another.
a. test subject
b. behavior
c. variable
d. operational definition

In a study, a group of ten-year-old boys are fed doughnuts every morning for a week and then weighed to see how much
weight they gained. Which factor is the dependent variable?
a. The doughnuts
b. The boys
c. The duration of a week
d. The weight gained

Which statement provides the best operational definition of “childhood obesity”?
a. Children who eat unhealthy foods and spend too much time watching television and playing video games
b. A distressing trend that can lead to health issues including type 2 diabetes and heart disease
c. Body weight at least 20 percent higher than a healthy weight for a child of that height
d. The tendency of children today to weigh more than children of earlier generations

Which materials are considered secondary data?
a. Photos and letters given to you by another person
b. Books and articles written by other authors about their studies
c. Information that you have gathered and now have included in your results
d. Responses from participants whom you both surveyed and interviewed

What method did researchers John Mihelich and John Papineau use to study Parrotheads?
a. Survey
b. Experiment
c. Web Ethnography
d. Case study

Why is choosing a random sample an effective way to select participants?
a. Participants do not know they are part of a study
b. The researcher has no control over who is in the study
c. It is larger than an ordinary sample
d. Everyone has the same chance of being part of the study

What research method did John S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd mainly use in their Middletown study?
a. Secondary data
b. Survey
c. Participant observation
d. Experiment

Which research approach is best suited to the scientific method?
a. Questionnaire
b. Case study
c. Ethnography
d. Experiment

The main difference between ethnography and other types of participant observation is:
a. ethnography isn’t based on hypothesis testing
b. ethnography subjects are unaware they’re being studied
c. ethnographic studies always involve minority ethnic groups
d. ethnography focuses on how subjects view themselves in relationship to the community

Which best describes the results of a case study?
a. It produces more reliable results than other methods because of its depth
b. Its results are not generally applicable
c. It relies solely on secondary data analysis
d. All of the above

Using secondary data is considered an unobtrusive or ________ research method.
a. nonreactive
b. nonparticipatory
c. nonrestrictive
d. nonconfrontive

Which statement illustrates value neutrality?
a. Obesity in children is obviously a result of parental neglect and, therefore, schools should take a greater role to prevent it
b. In 2003, states like Arkansas adopted laws requiring elementary schools to remove soft drink vending machines from schools
c. Merely restricting children’s access to junk food at school is not enough to prevent obesity
d. Physical activity and healthy eating are a fundamental part of a child’s education

Which person or organization defined the concept of value neutrality?
a. Institutional Review Board (IRB)
b. Peter Rossi
c. American Sociological Association (ASA)
d. Max Weber

To study the effects of fast food on lifestyle, health, and culture, from which group would a researcher ethically be
unable to accept funding?
a. A fast-food restaurant
b. A nonprofit health organization
c. A private hospital
d. A governmental agency like Health and Social Services

case study

code of ethics

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