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Austin Brown

MLO II - Methods

As a member of the Sociology concentration in CSUMBs Social and Behavioral

Sciences department, I have been required to complete multiple research based courses. A

Sociology student must complete both quantitative and qualitative research method courses. This

is to ensure that students in this concentration have a well-rounded understanding of most

research methods before entering the workforce.

In the qualitative research methods course, SBS 362: Qualitative Research Methods, I

was introduced to the definition of qualitative research, the many methods used to gather such

research, and a couple of ways to interpret the results of the research. In the beginning we

discussed how qualitative research differs from quantitative. Qualitative research is all about the

content of responses, where the researcher is interested in the quality and depth of responses and

less interested in how many responses they receive. They desire to learn more about how, why,

and when then they do the what and who. A qualitative researcher spends an immense amount of

time speaking to each individual interviewee, observing groups of people, and researching

historical and archived documents.

These interviews, observations, and archival data are some of the key sources used by

qualitative researchers. In an interview, the researcher will sit down with the interviewee and ask

them a series of prepared questions. They will then precisely record their answers for further

study at a later date. Interviews can have a variety of structure, ranging from incredibly

structured, meaning they do not go off of the prepared questions, to unstructured, where the

researcher veers way off script or doesnt have one at all. Observations can occur both with the

knowledge of the observed or without. However, a researcher must be careful not to breach any
ethical codes when deciding how to conduct their research. And lastly, archival data is used when

a researcher is looking into how the issue was perceived or studied in the past.

In SBS 362, we were given a final project where we pitched a Capstone Proposal like

idea. We had to apply qualitative research to our idea and explain how we may use this division

of research to develop an understanding of our research questions and potentially answer them. I

chose to look into how social media use affects CSUMB students abilities to study and how it

affects the quality of their studying. With this topic in mind I was able to write about how I

would use interviews to talk to CSUMB students about their study habits. I also said that I was

interested in observing students in the library as they tried to study and record how often they

checked their phone or changed to a distracting tab on their laptop or tablet.

With the interviews I described that I would need to interview a variety of students. I

proposed doing this by standing outside of major buildings on campus at varied times to ensure

the most diverse and accurate distribution of interviewees. I would then put the interviews I

recorded into a coding software, NVivo, in order to study the results and gather them in

associated groups.

Observing people in the library was the most difficult method I chose to use because it

requires I receive the participants informed consent before sitting for hours and watching them

study. The need for informed consent means that I would have to fully layout my research project

before the potential participant and then, after the confirm they understand everything, get their

permission to watch them. This would take a little bit of extra work and time to accomplish, but

the results of actually watching people act could be extremely useful to my research questions.

An important piece of this research is the NVivo software I would use to analyze and

further understand the data. NVivo allows the user to upload written documents, typed
documents, audio clips, video clips, pictures, etc. Once uploaded it features many tools that the

user can use to take notes on, or code, their research. Once it is coded the program can group the

notes into similar categories or themes that the user can then reference later. This helps the user

sort through all of their data and simplifies the citing process.

In conjunction with this qualitative experience, I have also taken SBS 366: Research

Methods for SBS: Quantitative Emphasis. This class is designed to teach all of the research

methods where quantity of responses is more important than the depth of the responses. The

main research method explored in the class is surveying. A survey, in most cases, asks a set of

questions with multiple choice answer options. The researcher is then able to run statistical tests

on the aggregated data received from their survey. It is important that the researcher is able to get

a high number of responses, a fair response rate, and a random sample in order to prove the

results valid.

As a final requirement for the course, students were put into groups and required to run a

survey on a chosen demographic to produce answers to a problem of their choice. My group

decided to survey individuals involved in the public high school system. These included students,

parents of students, teachers, and other school staff. The goal was to identify reasons why

students drop out of high school or do not aspire to go to college. After completing the survey

and receiving more submissions than expected, we were able conduct statistical analysis on the

results. We used Chi square tests to test the relationship between variables in the survey and

reasons given for dropping out of high school or not going to college.

By completing this project, we were able to begin an assessment of the social needs of

high schoolers in Central California and the Bay Area. The survey and the results we produced

helped us further understand the causes for dropping out of high school and not moving on to
college. Through analysis of these results we found that there are clear obstacles presented to

high school students and we could define those obstacles, yet we were unable to produce data

that showed a connection between race or gender to these obstacles. That being said, the

information we gathered about what the obstacles are could be used to help decide local policy

and programs with which the high schools choose to engage and support.

To conclude, both qualitative and quantitative research methods are vital to a Sociology

concentration in the SBS major at CSUMB. It is important that we understand the differences

between the two types of methods and their strengths and weaknesses. In two classes I have

taken, I produced work that demonstrates the potential influence of both types and their diverse

applications.