updated 4.3 - Sociological Analysis

Sociological Analysis
Sociology 212w
Professor Nicole Hala
Spring 2011
Assignment # 3: Preparing a Research Proposal - Part II
Please type (and double-space) your research design, which should not be longer than five pages.
Step 1: Describe research problem and why it's important
A. What is the "social problem" or issue you will investigate in your research?
B. Provide any reliable recent statistics demonstrating the nature of the problem (and provide
C. Specify your research question, or questions
D. Fit the research question with a type of social research
[See Ch. 1, pp. 12-17 and Summary Review: Purposes of Research, p. 17]
a. Exploratory (What?)
a. Descriptive (Who? When? How?)
b. Explanatory (Why? Also: How?)
c. Evaluation (Does it work?)
E. Consider whether your research orientation is "basic" or "applied" [See Ch. 1, pp. 18-19]
Step 2: Relate to existing research. Sharpen and improve your literature review!
A. How does existing research answer or approach your research question?
B. What findings (or methods or other information) from past studies are relevant to your proposed
C. First, decide what you want to explain. What is your explanandum or your "dependent
variable"? Do you have subsidiary hypotheses?
Step 3: Propose hypothesis
[See Ch. 5, Summary Review: Steps in Quantitative and Qualitative Conceptualization, p. 122]
A. What concepts are you using? Refine your ideas by providing clear, explicit definitions [Ch. 5,
pp. 116-121]
B. Starting with the most abstract level of ideas, specify the relationship between two concepts to
form a "conceptual hypothesis" (where the variables are stated as abstract concepts)
a. Consider the "unit of analysis" (the unit on which you measure variables and gather data)
b. Consider the nature of the relationship among the concepts/variables, sorting out the
explanatory/causal ones (aka, independent variables) and the relevant outcomes/effects
(aka, dependent variable(s))
c. State any subsidiary hypotheses
Step 4: Operationalization/measurement
A. Operationalization links your conceptual definition to a specific set of measurement procedures.
Explain how you will measure your concepts; if you are using a traditional variable-oriented
research design, explain why the variables you have chosen are good measures and the level at
which variables be measured (nominal, ordinal, interval, or ratio) [Ch. 5, pp. 116-121]
B. Justify your choices; mention alternative possibilities which you have considered and discarded
C. Consider reliability and validity [Ch. 5, pp. 122-125]
Step 5: Consider and control for alternative explanations
A. What are alternative explanations for dependent variable or the outcome you want to explain?
How will you avoid "spuriousness" (an illusionary relationship that is due to an unacknowledged
other variable -- different from the independent variable(s) or causal factor(s) in your hypothesis
-- that is actually causing your outcome)? [Ch. 2, pp. 55-56.]
B. Are there any variables which need to be controlled in your design? As you identify them,
explain why they need to be included in your design as control variables.
C. How you control for alternative explanations depends on your data (i.e., whether it's qualitative
or quantitative) and on your specific research design:
a. For surveys, see Ch. 6, Making it Practical: Survey Research and Control Variables, p.
b. For experimental designs, see Ch. 7, pp. 183-185 on "control groups."
c. For historical-comparative research and studies that use existing statistical sources, see
Ch. 11, Example Study Box 5: Prisons and Unemployment Across Nations, p. 314.
d. Ethnographic field research, which is guided by the principle of "naturalism" (Ch. 10, p.
267) rejects the whole notion of "experimental control," relying on observations of
"natural," not manipulated, settings for data. Self-awareness (p. 268), adopting the
"attitude of strangeness" and other strategies (pp. 270-279) are used to bolster validity.
Step 6: Describe research design
A. Data collection techniques may be quantitative or qualitative (although there is overlap between
the two)
a. Quantitative: experiment, survey, content analysis, existing statistical analysis (also
secondary data analysis)
b. Qualitative data collection techniques: ethnographic field research, historicalcomparative research (also participant observation, informal "depth" interviews, and
focus groups)
B. Explain just what your design is going to be and say why the design is a good choice for dealing
with your chosen problem.
C. Consider the trade-offs involved in selecting one research technique over another.
Step 7: Specify your research site or the population you are studying, and whether (and how) you
will draw a sample
A. What is your unit of analysis (individuals, countries, events, or something else)? [Ch. 2, p. 54]
B. What is the level of analysis of your study (micro or macro)? [Ch. 2, pp. 54-55]
C. If you are proposing to study a sample of your population, explain how and why you will select
your sample [Ch. 4, pp. 88-103]
a. Will it be a probability/random sample or are you forced to use a nonprobability sample
due to the nature of your research goals?
b. What kind of sampling technique will you use? Why?
Step 8: Re-read it and think about it
A. Is your proposal persuasive? Can you identify weak spots in the proposal? Are there any areas
where reviewers are likely to request more information, or want to know more about your
reasons for designing the research in this way?
B. If you can identify such weaknesses, please address them and if they can’t be fixed, show that
you are aware of the problem by acknowledging them.
Step 9: Edit and rewrite and polish your essay to make it clear and effective
Assignments are due on May 5th. Please submit them electronically through Blackboard
SafeAssignment (Go to the Assignments page, "Assignment #3 submission").