Chapter Two
Sociological Investigation
John J. Macionis 10th Edition
Created by Lori Ann Fowler
The Basics of Sociological Investigation
 Sociological
investigation starts with
two simple
(1) Use the sociological
(2) Be curious and ask
 Science – a logical
system that bases
knowledge on direct,
systematic observation.
 Scientific sociology –
the study of society
based on systematic
observation of social
Science: Basic Elements and Limitations
 A concept – a mental
construct that
represents some part of
the world in a simplified
 A variable – a concept
whose value changes
from case to case.
 Measurement – a
procedure for
determining the value of
a variable in a specific
 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
 The procedure must
yield the same result if
 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
 The variable that
causes the change is
the independent
 The variable that
changes is the
dependent variable.
 Correlation – a
relationship by which two
variables change
 A spurious correlation
is a false relationship
between two or more
variables caused by
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
A Second Framework: Interpretive
 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
 Researchers must strive to be technically
competent and fair-minded.
 Researchers must ensure the safety of their
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
The Methods of Sociological Research
Survey Research
 A survey – subjects
respond to a series of
questions in an
 The most widely used
of all research methods.
 They yield descriptive
 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 –
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
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
(4) What will you need to
carry out research?
(5) Are there ethical
(6) What method will you
(7) How will you record the
(8) What do the data tell
(9) What are your
(10) How can you share
what you’ve learned?

John J. Macionis 9th Edition Sociology Chapter One The