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Unformatted text preview: Chapter TwoSociologists Doing ResearchOUTLINESociological ImaginationSources of KnowledgeCausation and the Logic of ScienceQuantitative Research MethodsQualitative Research MethodsDoing Research: Emile DurkheimThe Study of SuicideA Model for Doing ResearchEthics in Social ResearchSociology in the News: Research in AdvertisingA Final NoteCHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHL EARNING OBJECTIVESSOURCES OF KNOWLEDGEAfter careful study of this chapter, you will be able to: Identify major nonscientific sources of knowledge and explain why science is a superior sourceof knowledge. Apply the concept of causation and the controlled experiment to the logic of science. Differentiate the major quantitative researchmethods used by sociologists. Describe the major qualitative research methodsused by sociologists. Explain the steps in the model sociologists use toguide their research. Describe the place of ethics in research. State the place of concern for reliability, validity,and replication in social research.How do we know what we know? Four major nonscientific sources of knowledge are intuition, common sense,authority, and tradition.SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATIONWhat is the relationship between church attendanceand juvenile delinquency? The finding of a statisticallink between church attendance and delinquency(delinquency increases as church attendance decreases)meets the test of common sense. One can easily speculate on why this would be the case. An observed relationship between these two events, however, shouldnot lead us to conclude that one causes the other. Infact, delinquency increases as church attendancedecreases because of a third factorage. Age is relatedto both delinquency and church attendance. Olderadolescents both go to church less often and are morelikely to be delinquents. The apparent relationshipbetween church attendance and delinquency, then, isactually produced by a third factoragethat affectsboth of the original two factors.Such mistaken ideas as a causal relationshipbetween lower church attendance and juvenile delinquency can survive in large part because people sooften rely on sources of knowledge not grounded in theuse of reason and the search for reality. One of themajor benefits of sociological research lies in its challenge of commonly held false beliefs and its attempt toreplace such beliefs with more accurate knowledge.Before turning to the logic of scientific research and themethods of sociological research, it will be helpful toexamine some major nonscientific sources of knowledge. This will provide a context for the appreciation ofthe utility of a scientific approach.Nonscientific Sources of KnowledgeIntuition is quick and ready insight that is not based onrational thought. To intuit is to have the feeling ofimmediately understanding something because ofinsight from an unknown inner source. For example,the decision against buying a particular house becauseit feels wrong is a decision based on intuition.Common sense refers to opinions that are widelyheld because they seem so obviously correct. Theproblem with commonsense ideas is that they areoften wrong. Some claim common sense tells us, forexample, that property values almost always declinewhen African Americans move into a white, middleclass neighborhood. Research demonstrating thatproperty values do not necessarily decline whenAfrican Americans move in is hard for many people toaccept because it goes against common sense. Asphilosopher Alasdair MacIntyre writes, because common sense is never more than an inherited amalgamof past clarities and past confusions, the defenders ofcommon sense are unlikely to enlighten us(MacIntyre, 1997: 117).An authority is someone who is supposed to havespecial knowledge that we do not have. A king believedto be ruling by divine right is an example of an authority. Reliance on authority is often appropriate. It ismore reasonable to accept a doctors diagnosis of an illness than to rely on information from a neighborwhose friend had the same symptoms (although even asingle doctors diagnosis should not be accepted uncritically). In other instances, however, authority canobscure the truth. Astrologers who advise people toguide their lives by the stars are an example of a misleading authority.The fourth major nonscientific source of knowledgeis tradition. It is traditional to believe that only childrenare all self-centered and socially inept. Despite evidenceto the contrary, Americans generally still wish to havetwo or more children in order to avoid these allegedpersonality traits (Sifford, 1989). Barriers to equalopportunity for women persist in industrial societiesdespite evidence that traditional negative ideas aboutthe capabilities of women are fallacious.3132SOCIOLOGYWhat is the major problem with nonscientific sourcesof knowledge? The major problem with nonscientific sources of knowledge is that they often providemisleading or false information. In fact, nonscientificsources can lead to completely opposite conclusions.One persons intuition tells her to buy oil stocks,whereas another persons intuition tells him to avoidall energy stocks. One persons commonsense conclusion may be that the Equal Rights Amendment willdestroy most sexual differences, although it seemsperfectly obvious to someone else that this will not bethe case.Because these sources of knowledge are oftenaccepted at face value, most people seldom challengethe information obtained through them. Consequently,reality can be distorted for a long time. Science is a morereliable method for obtaining knowledge because it isbased on the principles of objectivity and verifiability.Science as a Source of KnowledgeWhat is objectivity? According to the principle ofobjectivity, scientists are expected to prevent theirpersonal biases from influencing their results and theirinterpretation of those results. A male, antifeministbiologist investigating the intelligence levels of malesand females, for example, is supposed to guard againstany unwarranted tendency to conclude that males aremore intelligent than females. Researchers must interpret their data solely on the basis of merit; the outcomethey personally prefer is supposed to be irrelevant. Thisis what Max Weber (1946b, originally published in1918) meant by value-free research. (Refer to Chapter 1,The Sociological Perspective.)Can scientists really be objective? Inevitably, scientists personal views do affect their work. In exceptionalcases, this is deliberate. A promising young HarvardMedical School physician, John R. Darsee, admittedfaking data in an experiment on heart attack prevention (Harvard Delays in Reporting Fraud, 1982). ANational Institute of Mental Health investigatory panelruled that Stephen Breuning, an assistant professor ofchild psychiatry, deliberately and repeatedly engaged indeceptive research practices (Brand, 1987).Sometimes scientists unintentionally let their personal biases influence their work. For example, pioneering sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, has been accused ofbeing both a homosexual and a masochist, characteristics said to unduly influence his research. In his recentbook, James Jones (1997) makes this charge and presentsevidence that Kinsey, who revolutionized popularthinking about sex in America in the 1950s, was a manwith an ideological agenda whose research methodsundermine his claim to objectivity. Jones refers to scientific critics who point out that Kinsey generalized aboutWhen forming opinions about the risk of AIDS, many Americansrely on nonscientific sources. The protestors in this picture are concerned about the harm done to children in an environment void ofscientifically based knowledge.the American population on the basis of data gatheredlargely from volunteers, including disproportionatenumbers of male prostitutes, gays, and prison inmates.Scientists cannot possibly be completely objective.But if subjectivity in research cannot be eliminated, itcan be reduced.How can subjectivity be reduced? If researchers areaware of their biases, they can consciously take theminto account. They can be more careful in designingresearch instruments, selecting samples, choosing statistical techniques, and interpreting results. Accordingto Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal (1969), personalrecognition of biases is insufficient; public exposure ofthem is essential. Personal values, Myrdal contends,should be explicitly stated so that those who read aresearch report can be aware of the authors biases.What is verifiability? Verifiability means that anystudy can be duplicated by other scientists. This is possible because scientists report in detail how they conducted their research. Verifiability is important becauseit exposes a piece of research to scientists critical examination, retesting, and revision by colleagues. Ifresearchers repeating a study produce results at oddswith the original study, the original findings will bequestioned. Erroneous theories, findings, and conclusions cannot survive in the long run in this type of system (Begley, 1997).FEEDBACKCHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCH1. Intuition is quick and ready insight based on rational thought. T or F?2. The major problem with nonscientific sources of knowledge is that such sources often provide erroneous information. T or F?3. Define objectivity and verifiability as used in science.4. According to Gunnar Myrdal, it is enough that scientists themselves recognize their biases. T or F?Answers: 1. F 2. T 3. Objectivity exists when an effort is made to prevent personal biases from distorting research.Verifiability means that any given piece of scientific research done by one scientist can be duplicated by other scientists. 4. FC AUSATION AND THE LOGIC OF SCIENCEThe Nature of CausationIn science it is assumed that an event occurs for a reason. According to the concept of causation, eventsoccur in predictable, nonrandom ways, and one eventleads to another. Why does this book remain stationaryrather than slowly rising off your desk, past your eyes,to rest against the ceiling? Why does a ball thrown intothe air return to the ground? Why do the planets stay inorbit around the sun? According to Aristotle, heavierobjects fall faster than lighter ones. In the late 1500s,Galileo contended that all objects fall with the sameacceleration (change of speed) unless slowed down byair resistance or some other force. It was not until thelate 1600s that Isaac Newton developed the theory ofgravity. We now know that objects fall because theearth has a gravitational attraction for objects near it.The planets remain in orbit around the sun because ofthe gravitational force that the sun creates.In sociology, religious affiliation, political preference, educational achievement, child-rearing practices,and divorce rates can be predicted, in large part, on thebasis of social class membership. Because science isbased on causation, one of its main goals is to discovercause-and-effect relationships. Scientists attempt to discover the factorsthere is usually more than onethatcause events to happen.Why multiple causation? Leo Rosten, noted authorand political scientist, once wrote, If an explanationrelies on a single cause, it is surely wrong. Events in thephysical or social world are generally too complex to beexplained by any single factor. For this reason, scientists are guided by the principle of multiple causation, which states that an event occurs as a result ofseveral factors operating in combination. What, forexample, causes crime? Cesare Lombroso, a nineteenthcentury Italian criminologist, believed that the predisposition to crime was inherited and that criminalscould be identified by certain primitive physical traits(large jaws, receding foreheads). Modern criminologistsreject Lombrosos (or anyones) one-factor explanationof crime. They now cite numerous factors that contribute to crime, including subcultures of violenceturned against society; rapid social change and economic development; excessive materialism; hopelesspoverty in slums; and overly lax, overly strict, or erraticchild-rearing practices.How does the concept of variable fit into a discussionof causation? A variable is a characteristic (age, education, social class) that occurs in different degrees.Some materials have a greater specific gravity than others; some people have higher incomes than others; theaverage level of education is higher in developed countries than in developing countries. Each of these is aquantitative variable, a variable numerically measured.Because differences can be measured numerically, individuals, groups, objects, or events can be pinpointed atsome specific point along a continuum. A qualitativevariable consists of categories rather than numericalunits; it measures differences in kind rather thannumerical degree. Sex, marital status, and group membership are three qualitative variables often used bysociologists: People are male or female; they are single,married, widowed, separated, or divorced; they aresorority members or they are not.Variables that cause something to occur are independent variables. Variables in which a change (oreffect) can be observed are dependent variables.Marital infidelity is an independent variable (although,of course, not the only one) that can cause the dependent variable of divorce. The independent variable ofpoverty is one of several independent variables that canproduce change in the dependent variable of hunger.Whether a variable is dependent or independent varieswith the context. The extent of hunger may be a dependent variable in a study of poverty; it may be an independent variable in a study of crime.If a causal relationship exists between an independent variable and a dependent variable, the variablesmust be correlated. A c orrelation exists when achange in one variable is associated with a change(either positively or negatively) in the other.Establishment of causation, however, is much morecomplicated than establishment of a correlationbetween two variables.3334SOCIOLOGYWhat are the criteria for establishing a causal relationship? Three standards are commonly used for establishing causality (Lazarsfeld, 1955; Hirschi and Selvin,1973). These standards can be illustrated using the mistaken assumption that lower church attendance causeshigher juvenile delinquency discussed at the beginningof this chapter (see Sociological Imagination).1. Two variables must be correlated. Some researchersfound that juvenile delinquency increases aschurch attendance declines (Stark, Kent, andDoyle, 1982). Does the existence of this negativecorrelation mean that lower church attendancecauses higher delinquency? To answer thisquestion, the second criterion of causalitymust be met.2. All possible contaminating factors must be controlled. Although all cause-and-effect relationships involve a correlation, the existence of acorrelation does not necessarily indicate a causalrelationship. Just because two events varytogether does not mean that one causes theother. Two totally unrelated variables may havea high correlation. In fact, the correlationbetween lower church attendance and delinquency is known as a spurious correlationan apparent relationship between two variablesthat is actually produced by a third variable thataffects both of the original two variables.The negative relationship between churchattendance and delinquency occurs because ageis related to both church attendance (older adolescents attend church less frequently) anddelinquency (older adolescents are more likely tobe delinquents). Thus, before we could be surethat a causal relationship exists between churchattendance and delinquency, we would need tocontrol for all variables relevant to the relationship. In this instance, controlling for agerevealed that the relationship between churchattendance and delinquency is not a causal one.A major problem in establishing causality liesin the control of all relevant variables. Normally,such control is impossible. Researchers are usually not aware of all possible factors that mightaffect the relationship between an independentvariable and a dependent variable, and even ifthey were, it is often not feasible to control forall of them. Discovering and controlling for contaminating factors is one of the greatest challenges in science.3. A change in the independent variable must occurbefore a change in the dependent variable can occur.Does lack of church attendance precede delinquency, or vice versa? Logically, either one couldprecede the other, or they could occur simultane-ously. Thus, if the original correlation betweenchurch attendance and delinquency was maintained after controlling for possible contaminating factors, causality between these two variablescould not be established, because it cannot besaid which is temporally prior to the other.Although the successful use of these criteria of causation is not always complete, the criteria are importantstandards for which scientists continue to strive.Moreover, research resultseven if they meet these criteria of causationrequire theory to make empiricaldata meaningful.The Controlled Experiment as a ModelA description of the controlled experiment provides anexcellent means to illustrate causation. Though usedinfrequently by sociologists, the controlled experimentprovides insight into the nature of all scientific researchbecause it is grounded in the concept of causation.A controlled experiment takes place in a laboratory and attempts to eliminate all possible contaminating influences on the variables being studied. The basicidea of the controlled experiment is to rule out theeffects of extraneous factors to see the effects (if any) ofan independent variable on a dependent variable.According to the logic of the controlled experiment, ifthe dependent variable changes when the experimental(independent) variable is introduced but does notchange when it is absent, the change must have beencaused by the independent variable.The basic ingredients of a controlled experiment area pretest, a posttest, an experimental (independent)variable, an experimental group, and a control group.Suppose a researcher wants to study experimentally theeffects of providing information on drug use to juniorhigh school students. After selecting a class of eighthgraders, the researcher could first measure the teenagersattitudes toward drug use (pretest). Then, at a later timea film demonstrating the harmful effects of drug usemight be shown to the class (experimental variable).After the movie, the students could again be questionedabout their attitudes toward drug use (posttest). Anychanges in their attitudes toward drug use that tookplace between the pretest and the posttest could beattributed to the experimental variable. Such a conclusion might be wrong, however, because the changecould have been due to factors other than the experimental variablea student in the school might havedied from an overdose of drugs, a nationally knownrock singer might have publicly endorsed drug use, or apusher might have begun selling drugs to the students.The conventional method for controlling the influence of contaminating variables is to select a controlgroup as well as an experimental group. In the precedingCHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHexample, half of the eighth-grade class could have beenassigned to the e xperimental group the groupexposed to the experimental variableand half to thecontrol groupthe group not exposed to the experimental variable. Assuming that the members of eachgroup had similar characteristics and that their experiences between the pretest and the posttest had been thesame, any difference in attitudes toward drug usebetween the two groups could safely be attributed to thestudents exposure or lack of exposure to the film.How can experimental and control groups be madecomparable? The standard ways of making experimental and control groups comparable in all respectsexcept for exposure to the experimental variable arethrough matching or randomization. In matching, participants in an experiment are matched in pairs accordingto all factors thought to affect the relationship beinginvestigated and members of each pair are thenassigned to one group or the other. In randomization,which is preferable to matching, subjects are assignedto the experimental and control groups on a random orchance basis. Assignment to one group or the other canbe determined by flipping a coin or by having subjectsdraw numbers from a container. Whether matching orrandomization is used, the goal is the same: to formexperimental and control groups that are alike withrespect to all relevant characteristics except the experimental variable. If this requirement has been met, anysignificant change in the experimental group asB A S I C S TAT I S T I C A L M E A S U R E SThe trend in sociology today is toward more complicatedand sophisticated statistical measures. However, the statistics you will encounter in this textbook and in the sourcesyou are likely to read later, such as The Wall Street Journal,Time, Newsweek, and The Economist, are easily comprehended. Among the most basic statistical measures areaverages (modes, means, medians) and correlations.An averagea measure of central tendencyprovides asingle number representing the way numerical values aredistributed. Consider the following hypothetical salaryfigures for the nine highest-paid Major League baseballplayers by position:$3,300,000 (Catcher)$3,600,000 (Second Base)$3,600,000 (Third Base)$4,200,000 (Center Field)$4,300,000 (Shortstop)$4,500,000 (First Base)$4,900,000 (Starting Pitcher)$5,300,000 (Left Field)$6,100,000 (Right Field)There are three averages that can be used to make thesenumerical values more manageable and meaningful. Eachof these three measures of central tendency gives a differentpicture. When any one measure of central tendency is misleading, researchers usually present two or more.The modein this case $3,600,000is the numericalvalue that occurs most frequently. If a researcher were torely on the mode alone in a report of these Major Leaguesalaries, readers would be misled, because no mention ismade of the wide range of salaries ($3,300,000 to$6,100,000). The mode is appropriate only when the objective is to indicate the most popular value.In common usage, something that is average lies somewhere in the middle of a range. The mean is the measureof central tendency closest to the everyday meaning ofthe term average. The mean of the salary figures above$4,422,222is calculated by adding all of the figurestogether and dividing by the number of figures($39,800,000 9). The mean, unlike the mode, takes all ofthe figures into account, but it is distorted by the extremefigure of $6,100,000. Although one player earns $6,100,000,most players make considerably lessthe highest-paidplayer earns nearly twice as much as the lowest-paid playerin this elite category. The mean distorts when there areextreme values at either the high or low end of a scale; it ismore accurate when extremes are not widely separated.The median is the number that divides a series of valuesin half; half of the values lie above it, half below. In thisexample, the median is $4,300,000half of the salaries areabove $4,300,000, half are below. Should there be an evennumber of values in a series, the median would be the meanof the two middle figures. The advantage of the median isthat it is not distorted by extremes.Measures of central tendency describe a single set of values, whereas a correlation coefficient indicates the strength ofthe relationship between two variables. A correlation coefficient of zero indicates that two variables are absolutely unrelated, as in the death rate in South Africa and the number ofvictories in a Los Angeles Dodgerss season. A perfect positivecorrelationas in the case of the rate of descent of a parachutist and the earths gravitational pullhas a value of1.0. A perfect negative correlation, expressed numerically as1.0, exists when the occurrence of one variable alwaysleads to the absence of another. A perfect negative correlation exists between sunlight and darkness. Because correlations in sociological research are seldom perfect, judgmentsmust be made about the strength of relationships.Correlation coefficients of plus or minus 0.4 and up are considered respectable in most sociological research, althoughsociologists have much more confidence in correlation coefficients above 0.6.35FEEDBACKSOCIOLOGY1. Match the following concepts and statements:____ a. causation(1) something that occurs in varying degrees____ b. multiple causation(2) the variable in which a change or effect is observed____ c. variable(3) a change in one variable associated with a change in another variable____ d. quantitative variable(4) the idea that an event occurs as a result of several factors operating in____ e. qualitative variablecombination____ f. independent variable(5) a factor that causes something to happen____ g. dependent variable(6) the idea that the occurrence of one event leads to the occurrence of____ h. correlationanother event____ i. spurious correlation(7) a factor consisting of categories(8) when a relationship between two variables is actually the result of a thirdvariable(9) a variable consisting of numerical units2. A __________ attempts to eliminate all possible contaminating influences on the variables being studied.3. The group in an experiment that is not exposed to the experimental variable is the __________ group.4. Experimental and control groups are made comparable in all respects except for exposure to the experimental variable through __________ or __________.Answers: 1. a.(6) b.(4) c.(1) d.(9) e.(7) f.(5) g.(2) h.(3) i.(8) 2. controlled experiment 3. control 4. matching or randomization36compared to the control group can be attributed withconsiderable confidence to the experimental variable.That is, a causal link will have been established betweenthe independent and dependent variables.QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODSBecause sociologists find it difficult to create controlledsituations, they tend to rely more on other researchmethods, classified either as quantitative or qualitative.About 90 percent of the research published in majorsociological journals is based on surveys, so thisapproach is discussed first among major sociologicalresearch methods.Survey ResearchA s urvey, in which people are asked to answer aseries of questions, is the most widely used researchmethod among sociologists because it is ideal for studying large numbers of people. In survey research, caremust be taken in the selection of respondents and informulating the questions to be asked (Weisberg andKrosnick, 1996).A population consists of all those people with thecharacteristics a researcher wants to study. A population could be all college sophomores in the UnitedStates, all former drug addicts now living inConnecticut, or all current inmates of the Ohio StatePenitentiary. Most populations are too large and inaccessible to permit the collection of information on allmembers. For this reason, for example, the U.S. Bureauof the Census has asked Congress for approval tochange its method from an attempted survey of theentire American population to some limited use of scientific sampling (McAllister, 1997). A s ample, ofcourse, is a limited number of cases drawn from thelarger population. A sample must be selected carefully ifit is to have the same basic characteristics as the population. If a sample is not representative of the population from which it is drawn, the survey findings cannotbe used to make generalizations about the entire population (Winship and Mare, 1992).How can a representative sample be drawn? Arandom samplea sample selected on the basis ofchance so that each member of a population has anequal opportunity of being selectedis the standardway of selecting a representative sample. A randomsample can be selected by assigning each member ofthe population a number and then drawing numbersfrom a container after they have been thoroughlyscrambled. An easier and more practical method, particularly with large samples, involves the use of a tableof random numbers in which numbers appear withoutpattern. After each member of the population has beenassigned a number, the researcher begins with anynumber in the table and goes down the list untilenough subjects have been selected.If greater precision is desired, a stratified randomsample can be drawn. This is accomplished by dividingthe population into strata (categories such as sex, race,age, or any other relevant variable) and then selecting arandom sample from each category. The proportion ofpersons in a given category, or stratum, should equaltheir proportion in the population at large.CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHCLOSED-ENDED AND OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONSClosed-ended QuestionsPlease tell me whether you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with each of the following statements:a. Most school teachers really dont knowwhat they are talking about.b. To get ahead in life, you have to get a goodeducation.c. My parents encouraged me to get a good education.d. By the time children are sixteen years old, theyshould be ready to leave school.e. Too much emphasis is put on education these days.f. My parents thought that going to school was awaste of time.StronglyAgree1Agree2Disagree3StronglyDisagree412341122334411223344Open-ended QuestionIn your own words, please describe your views on the education of your children.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________How is information gathered in surveys? In surveys,information is obtained either through a questionnaireor an interview. A questionnaire is a written set of questions that survey participants fill out by themselves; inan interview, a trained interviewer asks questions andrecords answers. Questionnaires or interviews may becomposed of either closed-ended or open-ended questions. (See Closed-Ended and Open-Ended Questions.)Closed-ended questions are those for which a limited,predetermined set of answers is possible. Because participants must choose from rigidly predetermined answers,closed-ended questions sometimes fail to elicit the participants real attitudes and opinions. On the positiveside, closed-ended questions make answers easier toquantify and compare. Open-ended questions ask foranswers in the respondents own words. Answers toopen-ended questions, however, are not easy to quantify. And interviewers make the comparison of answerseven more difficult when they change the meaning ofquestions by rephrasing them.What are the advantages and disadvantages of surveyresearch? Surveysespecially those based on structured questionshave the advantage of precision andcomparability of responses. They permit the use of statistical techniques, a feature they have in common withexperiments. Statistical techniques can be used becauseof still other advantages in survey research. Surveys per-mit the collection of large samples, which in turn permitmore detailed analysis; surveys include a large numberof variables; variables in surveys can be quantified.These employees of the U.S. Census Bureau are entering data fromone of this government agencys many surveys. The results of thesesurveys, considered to be representative of the United States population, are widely utilized for decision making by private individuals,business organizations, and political leaders.3738SOCIOLOGYto give answers that they think the interviewer wants tohear or that they think are socially acceptable. Fifth,surveys cannot probe deeply into the context of thesocial behavior being studied; they draw specific bits ofinformation from respondents, but they cannot capturethe total social situation. Finally, survey researchersmust be on guard for the Hawthorne effectwhenunintentional behavior on the part of researchers influences the results they obtain from those they are studying (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1964, originallypublished in 1939). As researchers and survey participants interact, participants detect cues regarding whatthe researchers are trying to find. The participants,depending on the circumstances, may subsequentlyattempt to please the researcher or frustrate theresearchers goals.Precollected DataThe use of information already collected by someoneelse for another purpose is a well-respected methodamong sociologists, known as secondary analysis. Infact, the first sociologist to use statistics in a sociological studyEmile Durkheimrelied on precollecteddata. (See Doing Research.)The survey is the most widely used research method for collectingdata in sociology. Surveys are usually conducted in person,although use of the telephone is becoming much more common.One of the advantages of the survey is that it permits the gatheringof information on a large number of people.The survey research method has several disadvantages, however. First, surveys tend to be expensivebecause of the large samples that are usually involved.Second, because survey questions are predetermined,interviewers cannot always include important unanticipated information, although they are encouraged towrite such information in the margin or on the back ofthe interview form. Third, the response rateparticularly in mailed questionnairesis often low. Arespectable return rate is about 50 percent, althoughresearchers make an effort to obtain a return rate of 80percent or higher. Even in interviews, some people arenot available and some refuse to answer the questions.Because nonresponses can make the sample unrepresentative, surveys may be biased. Fourth, the phrasingof survey questions may also introduce bias. For example, negatively phrased questions are more likely toreceive a no answer than neutrally phrased questions. Itis better to ask, Are you in favor of abortion? thanYou arent in favor of abortion, are you? Respondentsalso interpret the same question differently. If askedabout the extent of their drug use, some respondentsmay include alcohol in their answers, others may not.As in experiments, there is a tendency for respondentsWhat are the major types of precollected data? Thesources for precollected data are as varied as governmentdata, company records, voting records, prison records,and reports of research done by other social scientists.One of the most important sources of precollecteddata for sociologists is the census bureau. Countries collect various types of information from their populations. The U.S. Bureau of the Census collects a wealth ofinformation on the total population every ten yearsand conducts countless specific surveys each year.Because of this, detailed information exists on suchtopics as income, education, race, sex, age, marital status, occupation, and death and birth rates. Other government agencies collect additional information. TheU.S. Department of Labor regularly collects informationon the nations income and unemployment levelsacross a variety of jobs. The U.S. Department ofCommerce issues monthly reports on various aspects ofthe economys health.What are the advantages and disadvantages of precollected data? Precollected data provide sociologistswith inexpensive, quality information. Existing sourcesof information also permit the study of a topic over along period of time. With census data, for example, wecan trace changes in the relative income levels of blacksand whites since the war on poverty began in the1960s. Also, because the data have been collected byothers, the researcher cannot influence answers toquestions he or she is using.CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHS C R U T I N I Z I N G P O P U L A R R E P O RT S O F S O C I A L S C I E N C E R E S E A R C HWe are being bombarded daily with such a mass of newinformation that it is difficult to process it adequately.Consequently, becoming a critical, selective, and informedconsumer of information is increasingly important.Discussed below are several means for better evaluatingreports on social science research that you may encounterin the media.Maintain a Skeptical Attitude Be skeptical, because themedia have a tendency to sensationalize and distort. Forexample, the media may report that a university researcherspent $500,000 to find out that love keeps families togetherwhen, in fact, this was only one small aspect of the largerresearch project. Moreover, chances are the media haveoversimplified even this part of the researchers conclusions.Consider the Source of Information For example, findout whether a study on the relationship between cancerand smoking has been sponsored by the tobacco industry orby the American Cancer Society. Representatives of tobaccocompanies deny the existence of any research linking throatand mouth cancer with dipping snuff. A medical researchercontended that putting a pinch between your cheek andgum has, in the long run, led to cancer in humans. Whomdo you believe? At the very least you want to know thebackground of the source of information before making ajudgment about scientific conclusions. This caution is especially relevant to the Internet, which is now a new majorsource of information. Because this information variesDetermine Whether a Control Group Has Been UsedKnowing whether a control group has been used in theresearch may be important. For instance, increases in selfesteem and physical energy may be reported in a study ofparticipants in a meditation program. Was this because ofthe respect and attention they were given during the training period or because of the meditation techniques themselves? Or a study may report that the productivity of agroup of workers in an office increased dramatically becausethe workers were allowed to participate in work-relateddecisions. Was the productivity increase due to the employees being involved in something new and exciting orbecause of the participation in decision making itself?Without one or more control groups, you cannot be certainof what caused the changes in the meditation participantsor in the office workers.Do Not Mistake Correlation for Causation A correlation between two variables does not necessarily mean thatone caused the other. For example, at one time the percentage of Americans who smoked was increasing at the sametime life expectancy was increasing. Did this mean thatsmoking caused people to live longer? Actually, a third factorimproved health careaccounts for the increased lifeexpectancy. Do not assume that two events are relatedcausally just because they occur together.QUALITATIVE RESEARCH METHODSSurveys and analysis of precollected data have beenadopted by sociology in an attempt to emulate thequantification of the physical sciences. Another1. Match the following terms and statements:____ a. population(1) selected on the basis of chance so that each member of a population has____ b. representative samplean equal opportunity of being selected____ c. random sample(2) all those people with the characteristics the researcher wants to study____ d. samplewithin the context of a particular research question____ e. survey(3) a limited number of cases drawn from the larger population(4) a sample that has basically the same relevant characteristics as thepopulation(5) the research method in which people are asked to answer a series ofquestions2. Use of company records would be an example of using __________ data.Answers: 1. a. (2) b. (4) c. (1) d. (3) e. (5) 2. precollectedFEEDBACKThe use of precollected data also has disadvantages.The existing information may not exactly suit theresearchers needs, because it was collected for differentpurposes. Also, those people who collected the datamay have been biased. Finally, sometimes precollecteddata are too old to be currently valid.widely in its accuracy and reliability, sources must be evaluated with particular care.3940SOCIOLOGYDOING RESEARCHEmile DurkheimThe Study of SuicideEmile Durkheim, the first personto be formally recognized as asociologist and the most scientificof the pioneers, conducted a studythat stands as a research model forsociologists today. His investigation of suicide was, in fact, thefirst sociological study to use statistics. In Suicide (1964, originallypublished in 1897), Durkheimdocumented his contention thatsome aspects of human behavioreven something as allegedlyindividualistic as suicidecan beexplained without reference toindividuals.Like all of Durkheims work,Suicide must be viewed within thecontext of his concern for socialintegration (Collins, 1994).Durkheim wanted to see whethersuicide rates within a social entity(for example, a group, organiza-tion, or society) are related to thedegree to which individuals aresocially involved (integrated andregulated). Durkheim describedthree types of suicide: egoistic,altruistic, and anomic. Egoistic suicide is promoted when individualsdo not have sufficient social ties.Because single (never married)adults, for example, are not heavily involved with family life, theyare more likely to commit suicidethan are married adults. Altruisticsuicide, on the other hand, ismore likely to occur when socialintegration is too strong. The ritual suicide of Hindu widows ontheir husbands funeral pyres isone example. Military personnel,trained to lay down their lives fortheir country, provide anotherillustration.Durkeims third type of suicideanomic suicideincreaseswhen the social regulation of individuals is disrupted. For example,suicide rates increase during economic depressions. People suddenly without jobs or hope offinding them are more prone tokill themselves. Suicide may alsoincrease during periods of prosperity. People may loosen their socialresearch approach assumes that some aspects of socialreality can be reached only by using qualitative, or nonquantitative, research methods. Qualitative researchmethods include f ield research and the s ubjectiveapproach (Schwandt, 1997).Field ResearchField research is used for studying aspects of sociallife that cannot be measured quantitatively and that arebest understood within a natural setting. The world ofprostitution, the inner workings of a Mafia family, andevents during a riot are examples of field research.The most often used approach to field research is thecase study a thorough investigation of a smallgroup, an incident, or a community. Case studies areaccomplished primarily through intensive observation,information obtained from informants, and informalinterviews. Newspaper files, formal interviews, officialties by taking new jobs, moving tonew communities, or findingnew mates.Using data from the government population reports of severalcountries (much of it from theFrench government statisticaloffice), Durkheim found strongsupport for his line of reasoning.Suicide rates were higher amongsingle than married people,among military personnel thancivilians, among divorced thanmarried people, and among people involved in nationwide economic crises.Durkheims primary interest,however, was not in the empirical(observable) indicators he used,such as suicide rates among military personnel, married people,and so forth. Rather, Durkheimused the following indicators tosupport several of his contentions:(1) social behavior can beexplained by social rather thanpsychological factors; (2) suicide isaffected by the degree of integration and regulation within socialentities; and (3) because societycan be studied scientifically, sociology is worthy of recognition inthe academic world (Ritzer, 1996).records, and surveys can be used to supplement thesetechniques.This method assumes that the findings in one casecan be generalized to other situations of the same type.The conclusions of a study on prostitution in Chicago,for example, should apply to other large cities as well. Itis the researchers responsibility to indicate factors thatmight make one situation different from similar situations in other places. Researchers conducting case studies often use the technique of participant observation.What is participant observation? In participantobservation, a researcher becomes a member of thegroup being studied. A researcher may join a groupwith or without informing its members that he or she isa sociologist. A compelling account of the use of covertparticipant observation appears in Black Like Me, a bookwritten by John Howard Griffin (1961), a white journalist who dyed his skin to study the life of blacks inCHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHThe self-inflicted burning on the part of the Reverend Quang Duc, a VietnameseBuddhist monk, is a prime example of altruistic suicide.Durkheim was successful on allthree counts. If Auguste Comtetold us that sociology could be ascience, Durkheim showed us howit could be a science.Critical feedback1. Do you believe that Durkheimsstudy of suicide supported hisidea that much social behaviorcannot be explained psychologically? State why orwhy not.2. Durkheim used precollecteddata in researching suicide.Referring to the other majormethods discussed in this chapter, indicate one or more otherways this problem could bestudied.the South. Although he had visited the South as a whiteman, the behavior of southern whites looked quite different to him through the eyes of a black man.Sociologists sometimes identify themselves asresearchers who want to observe firsthand a groupsway of life. Elliot Liebows study of two dozen lowerclass black men who hung ar ound a corner inWashington, D.C., illustrates the open approach to participant observation. Even though he was a white outsider, Liebow was allowed to participate in the dailyactivities of the men: The people I was observing knewthat I was observing them, yet they allowed me to participate in their activities and take part in their lives toa degree that continues to surprise me (Liebow,1967:253).What are the advantages and disadvantages of fieldstudies? Field studies can produce a depth andbreadth of understanding unattainable with experi-3. The functionalist, conflict, andsymbolic interactionist perspectives were discussed in Chapter1. In which of these theoreticaltraditions does Durkheim seemto belong? Support your choiceby relating his study to theassumptions of one of theperspectives.ments and surveys. They cannot be matched in theirability to reveal the meanings of a social situation fromthe angle of the people involved. Adaptability isanother advantage. Once a survey has begun, it is notpractical to make significant changes when newinsights or oversights are discovered. But because it isunstructured, a field study can easily be altered. Fieldstudies are especially valuable for situations in whichquantitative research either is impossible or would yieldbiased results, as in a study of skid-row derelicts or organized crime. Because of these advantages, field studiesmay produce insights and explanations not likely to beunearthed through quantitative research.Disadvantages do exist, however. The findings fromone case may not be generalizable to similar situations.One mental hospital or community may be quiteunlike any other mental hospital or community. If thepossible bias of the sample is a major problem, so is thepotential bias of the researcher. In the absence of more4142SOCIOLOGYR E A D I N G TA B L E S A N D G R A P H STables and graphs are often confusing even though they areintended to present information concisely and unambiguously. Because of an inability to read tables and graphs,many people either misinterpret them or rely on anauthors summary of what the data mean. However, anotherpersons interpretation of a table or graph may be deliberately biased, accidentally misleading, or incomplete.Tables and graphs have a lot of information packed intothem, but if they have been properly organized, you caneasily understand them by following certain steps (Wallisand Roberts, 1962:195207). The steps outlined below arekeyed to Table 2.1 and Figure 2.1.1. Begin by reading the title of the table or graph carefully; it will tell you what information is being presented. Table 2.1 shows median annual incomes in theUnited States by sex, race, and education.2. Find out the source of the information. You will wantto know whether the source is reliable, whether its techniques for gathering and presenting data are sound. Thefigures originated from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, ahighly trusted source. If you know the source of data,you can investigate further on your own.3. Read any notes accompanying the table or graph. Notall tables and graphs have notes, but if they do, thenotes should be read for further information about thedata. The notes in Table 2.1 and in Figure 2.1 explainthat all the data refer to the total money income of fulltime and part-time workers, ages 25 and over, in a March1995 survey.4. Examine any footnotes. Footnotes in Table 2.1 andFigure 2.1 indicate that the data are categorized by thehighest grade actually completed. Although you mayhave assumed this correctly, years of schooling couldhave referred to the total number of years in school,regardless of the grade level attained.precise measuring devices, the researcher has to rely onpersonal judgment and interpretation. Because of personal blind spots or because of emotional attachmentto the people being studied, the researcher may notaccurately see what is actually happening. Moreover,the lack of objectivity and standardized research procedures makes it difficult for another researcher to duplicate or replicate a field study. Because of thesedisadvantages, many sociologists regard the results offield studies as insights to be investigated further withmore precise methods.5. Look at the headings across the top and down theleft-hand side of the table or graph. To observe anypattern in the data, it is usually necessary to keep bothtypes of headings in mind. Table 2.1 and Figure 2.1 showthe median annual income of black and white males andfemales for several levels of education.6. Find out what units are being used. Data can beexpressed in percentages, hundreds, thousands, millions,billions, means, and so forth. In Table 2.1 and Figure 2.1,the units are dollars and years of schooling.7. Check for trends in the data. For tables, look down thecolumns (vertically) and across the rows (horizontally)for the highest figures, lowest figures, trends, irregularities, and sudden shifts. If you read Table 2.1 vertically,you would be able to see how income varies by race andsex within each level of education. If you read the tablehorizontally, you could see how income varies with educational attainment for white males, black males, whitefemales, and black females. A major advantage of graphsis that the sudden shifts, trends, irregularities, andextremes are easier to spot than they are in tables.8. Draw conclusions from your own observations. Table2.1 and Figure 2.1 show that although income tends torise with educational level for both blacks and whites, itincreases much less for black men and for women ofboth races than for white men. At each level of schooling, black men earn less than white men. In fact, whitemale high school dropouts have incomes only $485below black male high school graduates; white malehigh school graduates earn nearly $2,000 more thanblack males with some college but no degree. Whitewomen appear to improve their earning power throughcollege education to a greater extent than do blackwomen.The Subjective ApproachThe subjective approach to research has a long andhonorable place in sociology. Recall from Chapter 1Max Webers method of verstehen, in which the subjective intentions of people are to be discovered by anattempt to imagine ourselves in their place. Thesubjective approach, then, studies some aspect ofsocial structure through an attempt to ascertain theinterpretations of the participants themselves. A prominent example of the subjective approach is e th-CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHTABLE 2.1Median Annual Income by Sex, Race, and EducationDemographicGroupOverallMedianIncomeLess than 991112131516 or MoreWhite males$30,409$13,995$18,403$26,135$30,293$45,228Black males$21,531$11,791$16,323$18,888$24,161$35,122White females$17,784$ 9,338$ 9,883$15,133$17,385$28,492Black females$16,754$ 9,730$ 9,416$14,017$17,757$27,280Years of Schooling*Note: These figures include the total money income of full-time and part-time workers, ages 25 and over, as of March 1995.* In terms of highest grade completed.Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, unpublished data: Table 15. Educational AttainmentTotal Money Earnings in 1995 of Persons 25 Years Old and Over, by Age, Race, HispanicOrigin, Sex, and Work Experience in 1995.How does ethnomethodology work?Ethnomethodology is the study of processes peopledevelop and use in understanding the routine behaviors expected of themselves and others in everyday life.Ethnomethodologists assume that people share themeanings that underlie much of their everyday behavior. Through observing others and a process of trial anderror in social situations, people develop a sense ofappropriate ways of behaving. This understanding prevents them from making silly or serious social errorsand saves them from having to decide constantly howthey should behave in particular situations. Predictable,patterned behavior is a product of this process (Handel,1982; Sharrock and Anderson, 1986; Livingston, 1987;Atkinson, 1988; Hilbert, 1990; Pollner, 1991).deprived of their taken-for-granted social routines. Thefollowing passage describes a situation in which anFigure 2.1 Median Annual Income by Sex,Race, and Education$45$40$35$30Thousandsn omethodology, a relatively recent development inmicrosociology that attempts to uncover taken-forgranted social routines.$25$20$15$10$5$0How can ethnomethodologists discover what is goingon in the minds of individuals as they construct amental sense of social reality? Because they are notmind readers, ethnomethodologists have had to seekother solutions. Harold Garfinkel, a prominent advocate of ethnomethodology, believes that the best wayto understand how people construct social reality is todeprive them momentarily of their mental maps ofdaily routines. If people are deprived of their previousdefinitions of expected behaviors, they reconstruct acoherent picture of social reality. Ethnomethodologists can then learn by observing this process ofreconstruction.Garfinkel writes of situations that his students havecreated in order to observe what people do whenWhitemalesBlackmalesWhitefemalesBlackfemalesYears of schooling*Up to 891112131516+Note: These figures include the total money income of full-time andpart-time workers, ages 25 and over, as of March 1995.*In terms of highest grade completed.Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, unpublished data: Table 15. EducationalAttainmentTotal Money Earnings in 1995 of Persons 25 Years Old and Over,by Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, Sex, and Work Experience in 1995.Internet Link:To learn more about income in the UnitedStates, visit the U.S. Bureau of the Censusweb site at http://www.census.gov. On itshome page, select Subjects AZ, thenselect I, Income, and then yourchoice of topics.43SOCIOLOGY(E): What do you mean? Do you mean all old movies, orsome of them, or just the ones you have seen?(S): Whats the matter with you? You know what I mean.(E): I wish you would be more specific.(S): You know what I mean! Drop dead! (Garfinkel,1984:43).(S): I dont know, I guess physically, mainly.(E): You mean that your muscles ache or your bones?(S): I guess so. Dont be so technical.(After more watching)(S): All these old movies have the same kind of old iron bedstead in them.The researcher continues this type of conversationuntil the subject is disoriented and can no longerrespond within a previously developed frame of reference. The researcher can then observe the subject creating a new definition of what the expected or normalpattern of social interaction should be.FEEDBACKexperimenter (E) is attempting to deprive a subject (S)of his sense of expected routine by asking for moredetailed information than is normally required ineveryday situations. In the context of watching television, the experimenter first asks, How are you tired?Physically, mentally, or just bored?126.96.36.199.Field studies are best suited for situations in which __________ measurement cannot be used.A __________ is a thorough investigation of a small group, an incident, or a community.In __________, a researcher becomes a member of the group being studied.According to the __________ approach, some aspect of social structure is best studied through an attempt to ascertainthe interpretations of the participants themselves.5. __________ is the study of the processes people develop and use in understanding the routine behaviors expected ofthemselves and others in everyday life.Answers: 1. quantitative 2. case study 3. participant observation 4. subjective 5. Ethnomethodology44A MODEL FOR DOING RESEARCHIn an effort to obtain accurate knowledge, sociologists,like other scientists, use a model that involves theapplication of several distinct steps to any researchproblem. These steps, regularly referred to as the scientific method, include identifying a problem, reviewing the literature, formulating hypotheses, developinga research design, collecting data, analyzing data, andstating conclusions (Hoover and Donovan, 1995).Identify the ProblemResearch begins with determining the object of investigation. A research question may be chosen because itinterests the researcher. Or it may be pursued because itaddresses a current social problem, attempts to test amajor theory, or responds to a government agencywishing to support the research.Review the LiteratureOnce the object of study has been identified, it is thendefined within the context of relevant theories and previous research findings. For example, a sociologistinvestigating suicide will probably develop an approachby relating it to the classic study of suicide by EmileDurkheim (see Doing Research in this chapter) and toother sociologists who have done research on the topic.Formulate HypothesesFrom a careful examination of relevant theory and previous findings, a sociologist is able to state one or morehypothesestentative, testable statements of relationships among variables. These variables must be definedprecisely enough to be measurable. One hypothesismight be The longer couples are married, the less likelythey are to divorce. The independent variable (lengthof marriage) and the dependent variable (divorce) mustbe defined and measured. Scientists measure variablesthrough the use of operational definitionsdefinitions of abstract concepts in terms of simpler, observable procedures. Divorce could be defined operationallyas the legal termination of marriage. Measurement ofdivorce would be qualitativethe couple is eitherlegally married or not. Length of marriage would bemeasured quantitativelyfor example, the number ofyears a couple has been legally married. Other operational definitions may involve defining poverty for afamily of four at some dollar level ($16,183 in 1996) ordetermining social class level by a combination of occupational, educational, and income levels.Develop a Research DesignA research design defines the procedures for collectingand analyzing data. Will the study be a survey or a casestudy? If it is a survey, will data be collected from a crosssection of an entire population, such as the Harris andCHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHGallup polls, or will a sample be selected from only onecity? Will simple percentages or more sophisticated statistical methods be used? These and many other questions must be answered while the research design isbeing developed.Collect DataThere are three basic ways of gathering data in sociological research: asking people questions, observing behavior, and analyzing existing materials and records.Sociologists interested in studying the harmony in interracial marriages could question couples directly abouthow well they get along. They could locate an organization with a large number of interracially married couples and observe the couples behavior. Or they couldcompare the divorce rate among interracially marriedcouples to the divorce rate of the population as a whole.Analyze DataFEEDBACKOnce the data have been collected and classified, theycan be analyzed to determine whether the hypotheseswere supported. This is not as easy or automatic as itsounds, because results are not always obvious. Becausethe same data can be interpreted in several ways, judgments have to be made. Guarding against personalbiases is especially important in this phase of research.State ConclusionsAfter analyzing the data, a researcher is ready to statethe conclusions of the study. It is during this phasethat the hypotheses are formally accepted, rejected, ormodified. The conclusions of the study are related tothe theory or research findings on which the hypotheses are based, and directions for further research aresuggested. Depending on the findings, the originaltheory itself may have to be altered. Whether thestatement of conclusions appears in a scientific journal, a book, or a mimeographed report, it includes adescription of the methods used. By making theresearch procedures public, scientists make it possiblefor others either to duplicate the research, conduct aslightly different study, or go in a very differentdirection.Some sociologists believe that this model is too rigidto capture spontaneous, subjective, and changeablesocial behavior. They prefer to discover what existsrather than to bias their observations with preconceived hypotheses and an inflexible research design.Even sociologists who generally follow the steps outlined above usually do not do so mechanically. Theymay conduct exploratory studies prior to statinghypotheses and developing research designs. Or theymay alter their hypotheses and research designs as theirinvestigations proceed.1. Listed below are the steps in the research model. Beside these steps are some concrete examples related to the sociability of the only child. Indicate the appropriate example for each step number.____ Step 1: identify the problema. Read past theory and research on the sociability of only children.____ Step 2: review the literatureb. From previous research and existing theory, a researcher states that____ Step 3: formulate hypothesesonly children appear to be more intelligent than children with____ Step 4: develop a research designsiblings.____ Step 5: collect datac. A researcher collects data on only children from a high school in a____ Step 6: analyze datalarge city.____ Step 7: state conclusionsd. A researcher writes a report giving evidence that only children aremore intelligent than children with brothers or sisters.e. A researcher decides to study the intelligence level of only children.f. A researcher classifies and processes the data collected in order totest a hypothesis.g. A researcher decides on the data needed to test a hypothesis, themethods for data collection, and the techniques for data analysis.Answers: 1. Step 1: e. Step 2: a. Step 3: b. Step 4: g. Step 5: c. Step 6: f. Step 7: d.ETHICS IN SOCIAL RESEARCHThe Issue of EthicsSociological research is a distinctly human endeavor.Although there are canons for conducting research,such as objectivity and verifiability, scientists dontalways live up to them. As for people in other occupations, among scientists there is sometimes a discrepancybetween the rules of work and the actual performanceof work. Conducting scientific research requires ethicalvalues as surely as it requires theoretical and methodological skills (Kuznik, 1991; Hessler, 1992).4546SOCIOLOGYUnfortunately, there is a long list of examples thatcall into question the ethical standards of researchers.During the Nuremberg trials, twenty Nazi doctors wereconvicted of conducting sadistic experiments on concentration camp inmates. From 1932 to 1972, thePublic Health Service of the U.S. government deliberately did not treat approximately four hundredsyphilitic black sharecroppers and day laborers so thatbiomedical researchers could study the full evolution ofthe disease (Jones, 1993). Ethical questions have beenraised upon disclosure that researchers at GermanysUniversity of Heidelberg had, for twenty years, usedhuman corpses, including children, in high-speed automobile crash tests (Fedarko, 1993). Federal investigatorsin the United States have documented over ten years offraud in some of the most important breast cancerresearch ever done, including a study that sanctionedlumpectomy as a safe operation (Crewdson, 1994).Several social scientists have been criticized for conducting what many scientists view as unethical research.In each case, subjects were placed in stressful situationswithout being informed of the true nature of the experiments (Milgram, 1963, 1965, 1974; Zimbardo,Anderson, and Kabat, 1981). These and other studieshave created great interest in a code of ethics. There is,in fact, a formal code of ethics for professional sociologists (American Sociological Association, 1997).restaurant work (Brajuha and Hallowell, 1986). Becauseof suspected arson after a fire at the restaurant where hewas employed as a waiter, his field notes became theobject of interest of the police, the district attorney, thecourts, and some suspects. By refusing to reveal thecontents of his field notes, Brajuha protected the rightsof those individuals described in his notes. He did so inthe face of a subpoena, threats of imprisonment, andthe specter of personal harm to himself, his wife, andhis children. The case was finally dropped after two difficult years.Though infinitely rarer, much can be learned aboutethics in sociological research from examination of anegative case. A case study of homosexuals conductedby sociologist Laud Humphreys (1979) provides a background against which to examine further the codeof ethics.Humphreys studied homosexual activities in menspublic bathrooms (tearooms). By acting as a lookoutto warn the homosexuals of approaching police officers, he was able to observe their activities closely.After the men left the tearooms, Humphreys recordedtheir license plate numbers to obtain their addressesfor subsequent personal interviews. Humphreys waiteda year so that any memory the men had of him wouldhave faded, and then he falsely presented himself tothem as a survey researcher to obtain additionalinformation.A Code of Ethics in Sociological ResearchThe formal code of ethics for sociologists covers a variety of important areas beyond research, including relationships with students, employees, and employers(American Sociological Association, 1997). In broadterms, the code of ethics is generally concerned withmaximizing the benefits of sociology to society andminimizing the harm sociological work might create.Of importance in the present context are the researchrelated aspects of the code.In this regard, sociologists are committed to objectivity, adherence to the highest technical research standards, accurate public exposure of their findings andmethods, and protection of the rights, privacy,integrity, dignity, and autonomy of the subjects of theirresearch. Because most of these topics have alreadybeen covered in this chapter, the focus in the presentsection is on the rights, privacy, integrity, dignity, andautonomy of participants in sociological research.Sociologists routinely protect the rights of participants and avoid deceiving or harming them, so it isnormally only the violators of the code of ethics thatare publicized. Occasionally, adherence to the code isdocumented. Mario Brajuha, a graduate student at amajor American university, kept detailed field noteswhile engaging in a participant observation study ofDid Humphreys violate the code of ethics as a covertparticipant observer? Yes, Humphreys violated theprivacy of these people. Most did not want their sexualactivities known, and Humphreys did not give themthe opportunity to refuse to participate in the study.Humphreys also deceived the men by misrepresentinghimself in both the tearooms and their homes. Finally,by recording his observations, Humphreys placed thesepeople in jeopardy of public exposure, arrest, or loss ofemployment. (Actually, because of his precautions,none of the subjects was injured as a result of hisresearch. In fact, to protect their identities, Humphreyseven allowed himself to be arrested.)Good scientific research is difficult from both afinancial and a technical viewpoint. Ethical concernsmake it even harder. Still, it is the researchers responsibility to decide when a particular action crosses anethical linea decision not always easy to make,because moral lines are often blurred. Moreover, theresearcher must balance a concern for the rights andprotection of those being studied with the need to usecertain methods to obtain knowledge. Kai Erikson isone of the most sensitive and outspoken critics of disguised observation, but he has defended it on thegrounds that it is sometimes the only way to obtaininformation.CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHinform every person who figures in their thinking exactlywhat their research is about (Erikson, 1967:368).Balance is the key to the issue of ethics. Subjectswhether in experiments, surveys, or field studiesabove all should be protected from social, financial,psychological, or legal damage.1. Three situations involving ethics in social research are cited below (Babbie, 1995:475). Match each situation with theappropriate aspects of the social science code of ethics for research on human subjects.____ (1) concern for participants privacya. After a field study of deviant behavior during a riot, law____ (2) avoidance of deceptionenforcement officials demand that the researcher identify____ (3) obligation not to harm participantsthose people who were observed looting. Rather than riskarrest as an accomplice after the fact, the researcher complies.b. A research questionnaire is circulated among students as partof their university registration packet. Although students arenot told they must complete the questionnaire, the hope isthat they will believe they mustthus ensuring a highercompletion rate.c. Researchers obtain a list of right-wing radicals they wish tostudy. They contact the radicals with the explanation thateach has been selected at random from among the generalpopulation to take a sampling of public opinion.2. Match the concepts on the left side with the definitions on the right side.____ a. reliability(1) when a measurement technique yields consistent results on repeated applications____ b. validity(2) the duplication of the same study to ascertain its accuracy____ c. replication(3) when a measurement technique actually measures what it is designed to measureAnswers: 1. a. (3) b. (2) c. (1) 2. a. (1) b. (3) c. (2)FEEDBACKSome of the richest material in the social sciences has beengathered by sociologists who were true participants in thegroup under study but who did not announce to other members that they were employing this opportunity to collectresearch data. . . . It would be absurd, then, to insist as apoint of ethics that sociologists should always introducethemselves as investigators everywhere they go and shouldSOCIOLOGY IN THE NEWSResearch in AdvertisingThis CNN report illustrates the role research now plays in the retail industry. For example, studies of women and men reveal that their patterns of shopping behavior are quitedifferent. This information is used by business to encourage more purchasing by bothgenders. Such market research strikes some sociologists as deceptive and manipulative.1. Name research methods that would be suitable to explore this area of humanbehavior.________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________2. Do you see any ethical issues for a sociologist conducting market research onshopping behavior? Why or why not?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Suppose that you were sent to adepartment store to investigatethe attitudes of men andwomen about shopping. Whatquestions would you ask todetermine any differencesbetween the genders?4748SOCIOLOGYA F INAL NOTEReliability, Validity, and ReplicationResearchers can be guided by all the important researchconsiderations we have discussed in this chapter andstill not conduct a good study. They can be mindful ofobjectivity, sensitive to the criteria of causation, carefulin the selection of the most appropriate method (survey, precollected data, field study), and still fail to produce knowledge superior to that yielded by intuition,common sense, authority, or tradition.What else must a researcher do? To practice goodsocial science, sociologists must pay careful attentionto the quality of measurement (Babbie, 1995).Consequently, they must emphasize reliability andvalidity in the creation and evaluation of the measuring devices they use for the variables they wish toinvestigate.What is reliability? Reliability exists when a measurement technique yields consistent results on repeatedapplications. Reliability is tested by repeated administration of a measurement technique, such as a questionnaire, to the same subjects to ascertain whether the sameresults occur each time. Suppose a researcher, after deciding to study satisfaction with day care among parents,designed a questionnaire. If, on repeated applications,the level of satisfaction with day care on the part of thesample of parents remained consistent, then confidencein the reliability of the measurement device rises.Should, on the other hand, the level of satisfaction fromone administration of the questionnaire to the next varyover a period of time, then we would doubt that satisfaction with child care is actually being measured.The problem of reliability is involved in qualitativeresearch also. Suppose that our researcher is also interested in satisfaction with day care among the children.If different conclusions about the level of satisfactionamong the children, arrived at by asking them questions or observing their behavior, seemed different eachday to the researcher, then doubt is raised about thereliability of the measurement technique being used.Although a measurement technique may be reliablewhen used in a study, it still may not produce scientifically sound results. This is because a measurement technique must be not only reliable, but also valid.What is validity? Validity exists when a measurement technique actually measures what it is designedto measure. Thus, a technique intended to measureparental satisfaction with day care may yield consistentresults on repeated applications to a sample of parents,but not really be measuring satisfaction at all. The measurement device might be tapping parental need toview day care positively in order to mask guilt feelingsabout permitting someone else to be the care-providerduring working hours. Children at a day-care centermay appear satisfied to the visiting researcher becausethey are neglected during the day and welcome his orher attention or because the children have beencoached by the day-care provider to appear satisfied. Ameasurement technique, in short, may be consistentlymeasuring something very different from what it purports to measure.What is the relationship among reliability, validity, andreplication? In the first part of this chapter, attentionwas drawn to the importance of verifiability in science.Verifiability, we stated, is crucial to science as a superiorsource of knowledge due to its contribution to the selfcorrective nature of research. Verifiability depends onthe process of replicationthe duplication of thesame study to ascertain its accuracy. Replication isclosely linked to both reliability and validity in thatreliability and validity problems unknown to originalresearchers are likely to be revealed as subsequent socialscientists repeat their research. It is partially throughreplication that scientific knowledge accumulates andchanges over time.A major goal of scientific research is to generateknowledge that is more reliable than can be obtainedfrom such nonscientific sources as intuition, commonsense, authority, and tradition. Through efforts to beobjective and to make their research subject to replication by others, researchers attempt to portray reality asaccurately as possible. The methods of research presented in this chapter are the specific tools sociologistsuse to create knowledge of social life that is as accurateas possible at the time.However, empirical results obtained through the useof research methods are not the final goal of science. AsGerhard Lenski has stated, Science is more thanmethod: its ultimate aim is the development of a body ofverified general theory (Lenski, 1988: 163). For this reason, there is constant interaction between sociologicaltheory and research methods. Theory is used to develophypotheses capable of being supported or falsifiedthrough testing. These results, in turn, may supportexisting theory, alter it, or lead to its ultimate rejectionand the creation of a new theory. One of Lenskis majorpoints is that, divorced from research methods, sociological theory has more in common with seminaryinstruction in theology and biblical studies (1988:165)than it does with the natural sciences model that sociology is emulating. Theory is trustworthy and usefulonly to the extent that it has been tested and found tobe valid.CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCH1. People tend to get information from such nonscientificsources as intuition, common sense, authority, and tradition. Generally speaking, these sources are inadequate forobtaining accurate knowledge about social life. Theadvantage of scientific knowledge is its grounding on theprinciples of objectivity and verifiability.2. Complete objectivity is impossible because sociologists,like all scientists, have values, beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices that affect their work to some extent. Subjectivitycan be minimized, however, if researchers make themselves aware of their biases and make their biases publicwhen presenting their findings.3. The concept of causationthe idea that the occurrence ofone event leads to the occurrence of another eventiscentral to science. All events have causes, and scientistsattempt to discover the factors causing the events.4. Three criteria must be met before a cause-and-effect relationship can be said to exist. First, two variables must becorrelated. That is, change in the independent variable(the causal factor) must be associated with a change in thedependent variable (effect). Second, the correlation mustnot be spurious, that is, due to the effects of a third variable. Third, it must be shown that the independentvariable always occurs before the dependent variable.Scientists think in terms of multiple causation becauseevents are usually caused by several factors, not simply bya single factor.5. Although sociologists rarely use the controlled experiment, they must understand this research method becauseit is based on the idea of causation. Sociologists generallyemploy nonexperimental research methods in attemptingto establish causality. This is dictated by the difficulty of188.8.131.52.controlling relevant variables in the world outside thelaboratory.Two major quantitative research methods in sociology arethe survey and precollected data. Surveys can draw onlarge samples, are quantitative, include many variables,are relatively precise, and permit the comparison ofresponses, but this method must take care to collect representative samples. Use of precollected data permits sociologists to do high-quality research at reasonably low costand to trace changes in variables over an extended periodof time.Field studies are best used when some aspect of socialstructure cannot be measured quantitatively, when interaction should be observed in a natural setting, and whenin-depth analysis is needed. The case study is the popularapproach to field research. Some sociologists have adopteda subjective approach in which emphasis is on ascertaining the subjective interpretations of the participantsthemselves.A research model involves several distinct steps: identifying the problem, reviewing the literature, formulatinghypotheses, developing a research design, collecting data,analyzing data, and stating conclusions. These steps are amodel for scientific research, but it is not necessary thatthey always be strictly followed.Researchers have an ethical obligation to protect participants privacy and to avoid deceiving or harming participants. Preserving the rights of subjects is sometimesweighed against the value of the knowledge to be gained.Most of the time these compromises are harmless, butthey sometimes place the subjects in jeopardy.LEARNING OBJECTIVES REVIEWAfter careful study of this chapter, you will be able to:Identify major nonscientific sources of knowledge andexplain why science is a superior source of knowledge.Apply the concept of causation and the controlled experiment to the logic of science.Differentiate the major quantitative research methodsused by sociologists.Describe the major qualitative research methods used bysociologists.Explain the steps in the model sociologists use to guidetheir research.Describe the place of ethics in research.State the place of a concern for reliability, validity, andreplication in social research.REVIEW GUIDESUMMARY49REVIEW GUIDE50SOCIOLOGYCONCEPT REVIEWMatch the following concepts with the definitions listed below them:____________________a.b.c.d.e.participant observationcontrolled experimentverifiabilitysubjective approachexperimental group____________________f.g.h.i.j.independent variableobjectivitycorrelationpopulationsample1. The group in an experiment exposed to the experimentalvariable.2. A statistical measure in which a change in one variable isassociated with change in another variable.3. A research approach for studying aspects of social lifethat cannot be measured quantitatively and that are bestunderstood within a natural setting.4. A thorough, recorded investigation of a small group, incident, or community.5. All those people with the characteristics a researcherwants to study within the context of a particular researchquestion.6. The principle of science stating that scientists areexpected to prevent their personal biases from influencing their results and their interpretation of the results.________________k. field researchl. case studym. surveyn. replication7. A variable that causes something to happen.8. The type of field research technique in which aresearcher becomes a member of the group being studied.9. A principle of science by which any given piece ofresearch can be duplicated (replicated) by other scientists.10. A research method in which people are asked to answer aseries of questions.11. The duplication of the same study to ascertain its accuracy.12. A limited number of cases drawn from a population.13. A laboratory experiment that attempts to eliminate allpossible contaminating influences on the variables beingstudied.14. A research method in which the aim is to understandsome aspect of social reality through the study of thesubjective interpretations of the participants themselves.CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS1. Suppose that on a break from college you return home and a noncollege friend insists that you are wasting your time becausethe experience gained from the university of hard knocks is all she needs to know the truth. What arguments would youuse to defend science as a better source of knowledge?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________2. In class, your sociology professor reports on his recent study showing that men are generally better managers in businessthan women. If you were concerned about a possible lack of objectivity on his part, what questions would you ask him inorder for you to place more confidence in his results?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________3. The controlled experiment is the research model for investigating causal relationships. What is there about the nature of causation and the design of experiments that supports this claim?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________4. Do you think that selecting a sample of three thousand individuals would produce an accurate picture of the U.S. population? Why or why not?__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________5. Pretend that you are a sociologist studying the relationship between the receipt of welfare payments and commitment toworking. Describe the research method you would use and show why it is the most appropriate to this topic.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCH1. The concept of intuition refers toa. quick and ready insight that is not based on rationalthought.b. opinions that are widely held because they seem soobviously correct.c. someone who is supposed to have special knowledgethat we do not have.d. the fourth major nonscientific source of knowledge.e. a variable that causes something to happen.2. According to your text, causation can be asserted whena. going from particular instances to general principles.b. there are only a limited number of cases taken fromsociety.c. events occur in a predictable, nonrandom way, andone event leads to another.d. people develop and use routine behaviors expected ofthemselves and others in everyday life.e. a change in one variable is often accompanied by achange in another variable.3. Several factors have been shown to influencecrime rates in poor neighborhoods. This illustrates theprinciple ofa. the poverty/crime hypothesis.b. multiple causation.c. verifiability.d. criminology.e. variance.4. A variable that causes something else to occur is a/ana. dependent variable.b. correlation variable.c. causation variable.d. independent variable.e. qualitative variable.5. The term correlation is defined asa. a change in one variable associated with a change inthe other.b. an apparent relationship between two variables that isactually produced by a third variable that affects bothof the original two variables.c. an event that occurs as a result of several factors operating in combination.d. something that occurs in different degrees amongindividuals, groups, objects, and events.e. a research method in which people are asked toanswer a series of questions.6. All of the following are criteria for establishing acausal relationship except:a. All possible contaminating factors must be controlled.b. A relationship representing a spurious relationshipmust exist.c. The independent variable must occur before thedependent variable.d. Two variables must be correlated.7. All of the following statements about controlledexperiments are true except:a. A description of the controlled experiment providesan excellent means to illustrate causation.b. A controlled experiment provides insight into thenature of all scientific research.c. Controlled experiments take place in a laboratory.d. The basic idea of the controlled experiment is to ruleout the effect of extraneous factors to see the effectsof an independent variable on a dependent variable.e. Controlled experiments do not need a control groupbecause of the controlled atmosphere the laboratoryprovides.8. The experimental group is exposed to the experimental variable; the group that is not exposed to theexperimental variable is a/ana. natural group.b. experiential group.c. control group.d. dependent group.e. independent group.9. The standard ways of making experimental and control groups comparable in all respects except for exposure to the experimental variable are througha. qualifying or quantifying.b. matching or randomizing.c. pretesting or posttesting.d. testing or retesting.e. verification or replication.10. What do we call a written set of questions that surveyparticipants are asked to fill out by themselves?a. surveyb. interviewc. questionnaired. survey researche. independent variable11. Use of data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census is anexample ofa. primary analysis.b. population sampling.c. the Hawthorne effect.d. secondary analysis.e. a case study.12. What type of research is used for studying aspects ofsocial life that cannot be measured quantitatively andthat are best understood in a natural setting?a. field researchb. survey researchc. participant observationd. analysis of precollected datae. content analysisREVIEW GUIDEM U LT I P L E C H O I C E Q U E S T I O N S51REVIEW GUIDE52SOCIOLOGY13. Ethnomethodologists assume thata. the subjective approach relies too much on intuition.b. the behavior of people is random.c. the underlying factor explaining human behavior isethnicity.d. questionnaires need to be tightly structured.e. people share the meanings underlying much of theireveryday behavior.14. What is defined as a tentative, testable statement of arelationship among variables?a. hypothesisb. operational definitionc. formal argumentd. correlatione. conclusion15. In Laud Humphreyss study of homosexual activitiesoccurring in mens public bathrooms (tearooms),what ethical standard did he violate?a. He studied homosexuals.b. He acted as a participant observer.c. He violated the privacy of the participants.d. He used the research to become famous.e. He did not violate any ethical standards.FEEDBACK REVIEWTrue-False1. The major problem with nonscientific sources of knowledge is that such sources often provide erroneous information. T or F?2. According to Gunnar Myrdal, it is enough that scientists themselves recognize their biases. T or F?Fill in the Blank3. The group in an experiment that is not exposed to the experimental variable is the __________ group.4. Field studies are best suited for situations in which __________ measurement cannot be used.5. In __________, a researcher becomes a member of the group being studied.6. A __________ attempts to eliminate all possible contaminating influences on the variables being studied.7. Use of company records would be an example of using __________ data.8. According to the __________ approach, some aspects of social structure are best studied through an attempt to ascertain theinterpretations of the participants themselves.Matching9. Listed below are the steps in the research model. Beside these steps are some concrete examples related to the sociability ofthe only child. Indicate the appropriate example for each step number.____ Step 1: identify the problema. Read past theory and research on the sociability of only children.____ Step 2: review the literatureb. From previous research and existing theory, a researcher states that only____ Step 3: formulate hypotheseschildren appear to be more intelligent than children with siblings.____ Step 4: develop a research designc. A researcher collects data on only children from a high school in a large city.____ Step 5: collect datad. A researcher writes a report giving evidence that only children are more intelli____ Step 6: analyze datagent than children with brothers or sisters.____ Step 7: state conclusionse. A researcher decides to study the intelligence level of only children.f. A researcher classifies and processes the data collected in order to test ahypothesis.g. A researcher decides on the data needed to test a hypothesis, the methods fordata collection, and the techniques for data analysis.10. Three situations involving ethics in social research are cited below. Match each situation with the appropriate aspect of thesocial science code of ethics for research on human subjects.____ (1) concern for participants privacya. After a field study of deviant behavior during a riot, law enforcement officials____ (2) avoidance of deceptiondemand that the researcher identify those people who were observed looting.____ (3) obligation not to harm participantsRather than risk arrest as an accomplice after the fact, the researcher complies.b. A research questionnaire is circulated among students as part of their university registration packet. Although students are not told they must complete thequestionnaire, the hope is that they will believe they must, thus ensuring ahigher completion rate.c. Researchers obtain a list of right-wing radicals they wish to study. They contactthe radicals with the explanation that each has been selected at randomfrom among the general population to take a sampling of public opinion.CHAPTER 2: SOCIOLOGISTS DOING RESEARCHTable 2.1 displays the median annual income in the United States by sex, race, and education. Demonstrate your understandingof the information in this table by answering the following questions:1. State briefly what this table tells us about the relationship among sex, race, and education in the United States.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________2. Identify the demographic group that enjoys the greatest economic benefits of education.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________3. Identify the demographic group that benefits the least economically from higher levels of education.__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ANSWER KEYConcept Reviewa. 8b. 13c. 9d. 14e. 1f. 7g. 6h. 2i. 5j. 12k. 3l. 4m. 10n. 11Multiple Choice1. a2. c3. b4. d5. a6. b7. e8. c9. b10. c11. d12. a13. e14. a15. cFeedback Review1. T2. F3. control4. quantitative5. participant observation6. controlled experiment7. precollected8. subjective9. Step 1: eStep 2: aStep 3: bStep 4: gStep 5: cStep 6: fStep 7: d10. 1. c2. b3. aREVIEW GUIDEGRAPHIC REVIEW53...
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- Fall '08