Chapter Two Sociological Investigation John J. Macionis 10th Edition Sociology Created by Lori Ann Fowler The Basics of Sociological Investigation Sociological investigation starts with two simple requirements: (1) Use the sociological perspective. (2) Be curious and ask questions. Science – a logical system that bases knowledge on direct, systematic observation. Scientific sociology – the study of society based on systematic observation of social behavior. Science: Basic Elements and Limitations A concept – a mental construct that represents some part of the world in a simplified form. A variable – a concept whose value changes from case to case. Measurement – a procedure for determining the value of a variable in a specific case. Almost any variable can be measured in more than one way. Useful Measurements For a measurement to be useful, it must be reliable and valid. Reliability – consistency in measurement. The procedure must yield the same result if repeated. Validity – precision in measuring exactly what one intends to measure. Valid measurement means hitting the bull’seye of the target. Relationships Among Variables The scientific ideal is cause and effect – change in one variable causes change in another. The variable that causes the change is the independent variable. The variable that changes is the dependent variable. Correlation – a relationship by which two variables change together. A spurious correlation is a false relationship between two or more variables caused by another. Figure 2-1 Correlation and Cause: An Example The Ideal of Objectivity Science demands that researchers strive for objectivity – a state of personal neutrality in conducting research. Researchers carefully hold to scientific procedures while reining in their own attitudes and beliefs. It is an ideal rather than a reality. Limitations of Scientific Sociology (1) Human behavior is too complex for sociologists to predict precisely. (2) The mere presence of a researcher may affect the behavior being studied. (3) Social patterns change. (4) Being value-free when conducting research is difficult. A Second Framework: Interpretive Sociology Max Weber argued that the proper focus of sociology is interpretation. Interpretive sociology – the study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their social world. It is better suited to research in a natural setting. A Third Framework: Critical Sociology Karl Marx rejected the idea that society exists as a natural system with a fixed order. Critical sociology – the study of society that focuses on the need for social change. The point is not merely to study the world as it is, but to change it. Table 2-1 Three Methodological Approaches in Sociology Gender and Research There are five ways in which gender can shape research: (1) Androcentricity (2) Over generalizing (3) Gender blindness (4) Double standards (5) Interference There is nothing wrong with focusing research on one sex or the other. All sociologists should be mindful of the importance of gender in research. Research Ethics Research can harm as well as help subjects. There are formal guidelines for conducting research. Researchers must strive to be technically competent and fair-minded. Researchers must ensure the safety of their subjects. The Methods of Sociological Research The Experiment The Experiment – investigates cause and effect under highly controlled conditions. The experiment is used to test a hypothesis – an unverified statement of a relationship between variables. Hawthorne Effect – subjects may change their behavior simply because they are getting special attention. The Methods of Sociological Research Survey Research A survey – subjects respond to a series of questions in an interview. The most widely used of all research methods. They yield descriptive findings. A survey targets a population – the people who are the focus of the research. Researchers collect data from a sample – a part of a population that represents the whole. The Methods of Sociological Research Participant Observation Investigation takes place in the field, where people carry on in their everyday lives. Participant observation – investigators systematically observe people while joining their routine activities. Sociologists prefer to call their accounts of people case studies. At the outset of a field study, most researchers do not have a specific hypothesis in mind. The Methods of Sociological Research Secondary Analysis Not all research requires investigators to collect their own data. Secondary analysis – a researcher uses data collected by others. The most widely used statistics in social science are gathered by government agencies. Table 2-3 Four Research Methods: A Summary Ten Steps in Sociological Investigation (1) What is your topic? (2) What have others already learned? (3) What, exactly, are your questions? (4) What will you need to carry out research? (5) Are there ethical concerns? (6) What method will you use? (7) How will you record the data? (8) What do the data tell you? (9) What are your conclusions? (10) How can you share what you’ve learned?