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The Uses of Social

Research
Chapter 1
Introduction
Research question
A question about one or more topics or
concepts that can be answered through
research
Is almost everyone in the country married with
children or are they living alone?


Introduction
Research question example
Is almost everyone in the country married with
children or are they living alone?
Start by looking at Census data
Introduction
Introduction
Revised research question
Are more young people planning to marry
without having children, to marry and have
children, or to live alone?


Introduction
STOP AND THINK
Can you think of a better way of finding how
young people plan to live in the future than with
the Census data about the year 2006?


Introduction
Unit of analysis
The unit about which information is collected
Introduction
STOP AND THINK
Identify the units of analysis for each of the
following studies
Southgate and Roscignos (2009) study that
found that involvement in music is associated
academic performance for both young children
and adolescents
Cooney and Burts (2008) finding that in
American counties where a particular crime
occurs frequently the average punishment for that
crime will be less severe than in counties where it
occurs rarely
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing

Research is a way of knowing
How do we know things?
We collect data in a number of ways
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
Knowledge from authorities
Socially defined sources of knowledge
Mom, Census Bureau, social institutions (religion,
schools, news media)
When we rely on physicians, clergy members, and
elected officials for information, we are putting our faith
in their knowledge in those positions of authority.
Problems
Inappropriate
Misleading
Incorrect

Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
Knowledge from personal inquiry
Inquiry that employs the senses evidence for arriving
at knowledge
Example
If the flu has been going around and your friends and
family have been ill and you begin to feel sick,
observing them to see what they are doing to get
better and what is working is an example of personal
inquiry
Problems
Overgeneralize
Perceive Selectively
Premature Closure

Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
The Scientific Method
A way of conducting empirical research
following rules that specify objectivity, logic,
and communication among a community of
knowledge seekers, and the connection
between research and theory
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
The Scientific Method
Positivist view of science
A view that human knowledge must be based on
what can be perceived

Objectivity
The ability to see the world as it really is
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
The Scientific Method
Post-positivist view of science
A view that knowledge is not based on irrefutable
observable grounds, that it is always somewhat
speculative, but that science can provide
relatively solid grounds for these speculations

Intersubjectivity
Agreements about reality that result from
comparing the observations of more than one
observer
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
The Scientific Method
Strengths
The promotion of skepticism and intersubjectivity
The extensive use of communication
Teaching ideas factually
The use of logic
Theoretical explanation

Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
STOP AND THINK
Suppose I submit a research report to a
journal and the journals editor writes back that
the journal wont publish my findings because
expert reviewers dont find them persuasive.
Which of the strengths of the scientific method
is the editor relying on to make his or her
judgment?
Research versus Other Ways of Knowing
The Scientific Method
Theory
An explanation about how and why something is
as it is.
The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Uses of social research
Basic research
Research designed to add to our fundamental
understanding and knowledge about the social
world

The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Uses of social research
Applied research
Research intended to be useful in the immediate
future and to suggest action or increase
effectiveness in some area

The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Uses of social research
Social theory
Explanations about how and why people act in
certain ways
The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Purposes of social research
Exploratory research
Ground-breaking research on a relatively
unstudied topic or in a new area
Tends to be inductive
The researcher starts with observations about the
subject and tries to develop tentative generalizations
about it
The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Purposes of social research
Qualitative data analysis
Analysis that tends to involve the interpretation of
actions or the representations of meanings in
words
The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Purposes of social research
Descriptive research
Descriptive study
Research designed to describe groups, activities,
situations, or events
The Uses and Purposes of Social Research
Purposes of social research
Quantitative data analysis
Analysis based on the statistical summary of data
The Uses and Purposes of Social
Research
Purposes of social research
Explanatory research
Research designed to explain why subjects vary in
one way or another
Tends to be deductive
Often uses preexisting theories to decide what kinds of
data should be collected
Example
Lets say that there is a well-known theory that we can call
The General Attraction Theory and that it suggests that
people who are physically attractive get more of societys
rewards than less attractive people. If we have a
hypothesis that people who are physically attractive are
more likely to be hired for certain jobs than their less
attractive peers and wanted to test this theory in a specific
industry we would be conducting explanatory research



The Uses and Purposes of Social
Research
Purposes of social research
Evaluation research
Research designed to assess the impacts of
programs, policies, or legal changes


The Uses and Purposes of Social
Research
STOP AND THINK
Suppose youve been asked to learn
something about the new kinds of
communities that have arisen out of peoples
use of tweets and twitter.
Of the four kinds of research outlined above
(exploratory, descriptive, explanatory,
evaluation), what kind of study have you been
asked to do?

Summary
Professional and practical benefits
Creation of usable theories about our social
world
Social research methods can help us explore,
describe, and explain aspects of the social
world, as well as evaluate whether particular
programs or policies actually work.

Why are you in this class?
Learn to be an informed consumer of
research
A statistic by itself is only one piece of
information
You have to be accountable for your work
You have ethical responsibilities
Quiz Question 1
If we are presenting a detailed picture of a
population, in terms of gender, age, income,
residence, we have most likely conducted
a. evaluation research.
b. exploratory research.
c. explanation research.
d. descriptive research.
Quiz Question 2
In many ways, the scientific method
a. compensates for the shortcomings of other
approaches to knowledge.
b. relies exclusively on the word of
authorities and personal inquiry.
c. emphasizes the value of communities of
scientists and critical skepticism.
d. both A and C
e. all of the above
Quiz Question 3
Which of the following statements is factually
testable?
a. All extra-terrestrials have large skulls.
b. Individuals with more education earn more
than less educated individuals.
c. The death penalty is less moral than first-
degree murder.
d. War should be outlawed.
e. None of the above