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Unformatted text preview: Philosophical and Conceptual Issues
CJ 300 Dr. Kierkus January 2011 Different Approaches To Research Scientists assume that science is the best way to acquire knowledge. People are different from anything else in the natural world. Not everyone agrees. Do people require a unique method of study? People have free will. People can define their own reality. People react to being studied. Positivist vs. Interpretive Approach Positivists believe that people can be studied just like anything else (using science and quantitative methods). Interpretive social scientists believe that people are different (thus qualitative methods are superior). The best way to distinguish the two approaches is to see how they would answer the following questions: Positivist vs. Interpretive Why do we do research? What is the nature of society? Positivist: To discover natural laws. Interpretive: To determine what is meaningful to people. Natural laws don't exist in the social world: reality is relative. Positivist: Society is more than the sum of its parts. It's like an organism. Interpretive: People create society. There is no society beyond people. Positivist: Humans are rational and self interested. Interpretive: Humans are more than just self interested. People create their own motivations (e.g. Dr. Kevorkian). What is the nature of human beings? Positivist vs. Interpretive What is the role of common sense? What is theory? Positivist: common sense is inferior to science. Interpretive: common sense drives behavior. If someone believes something to be true, it becomes true to them (e.g. mailing "white powder" to someone). Positivist: set of axioms, definitions and laws. Mathematics provides the ideal: "equation for human behavior". Interpretive: describes how people assign meanings to their lives. Different rules for different individuals, groups and situations. Positivist vs. Interpretive When is an explanation true? What is the role of values in research? Positivist: when it has been empirically verified. Others must be able to replicate it. Interpretive: when the people being studied believe it to be true. It's OK if you can't replicate everything. Positivist: Values are "evil". Use them only to choose your topic. Interpretive: Can't eliminate values from research: let others know what your values are. Types of Research Exploratory: Goal is to form more specific research questions. Often qualitative. Serendipity plays a large role. Descriptive: Paint a picture. For example: "How do mediums help the police solve crimes?" Classification schemes or typologies. Explanation: Answers "why" questions. Might discover that there are several different kinds of mediums. Quantitative researchers will propose and test a theory (deductive reasoning). Qualitative researchers dispute this hierarchy. People with a combination of a high I.Q. and high E.Q. are more likely to be successful mediums (as defined by the proportion of cases they solve) than people who lack these characteristics. Advocate a more inductive process: exploration, description and explanation can happen at the same time. Theories Statements about how something works: "educated guesses". Folk theories: we use them every day. Formal theories: designed to be empirically tested. For instance: dark alleys are dangerous, if you walk down one you may fall victim to a crime. Untested, usually based on "common sense". Often start with folk theories and the observation of "stubborn facts". Offer absolute certainty. Not open to testing or question. Ideologies: also sets of beliefs about how the world works. Ideologies can be oppressive and discriminatory (e.g. Apartheid). Many religious beliefs are ideological. "Homosexuality should be illegal because it's immoral": if this is part of your religious belief, it's not open to testing. Different from "Homosexuality leads to disease and therefore should be illegal.": possible to test (and either confirm or falsify) the first proposition. Theories Formal theories are composed of: Concepts: ideas expressed as symbols or words (in a research context we must be very explicit e.g. "sexual harassment"). Scientific jargon: specialized language designed to achieve clarity. When we start talking about measuring concepts we'll use the word "variable". As one increases the number of uniformed officers, the crime rate will decline. Simple theories can consist of just one hypothesis. Sometimes does the opposite! Relationships: how the concepts are related to one another. Hypotheses: buildings blocks of theories. Contain at least two concepts and a statement of relationship. Theories There are two ways in which researchers create theories. Deductive reasoning: usually used in quantitative / positivist research. Inductive reasoning: usually used in qualitative / interpretive research. Start with an abstract theory. Derive testable hypotheses. Gather data to test the hypotheses. Based on findings you may refine your theory. Start with a general research question. Gather all of the data relevant to that question. Develop your theory based on the data. Also called generating "grounded theory". Theories Theories can operate on many levels: Micro level theories: deal with individuals or small groups. Macro level theories: deal with large groups, institutions or societies. People who carry firearms are less likely to be victims of violent crime than those who do not. States with high rates of firearms ownership have lower violent crime rates. Just because States with high rates of gun ownership tend to have low violent crime rates does not necessarily mean giving guns to individuals will make them safer (or vice versa). It's important not to apply theories from one level to an issue at another level. Summary Positivists and interpretive social scientists both feel that their approaches are ideal for studying human behavior. Research is a process. Slightly different goals for doing research. Theory and research are closely linked. In the positivist world, a single study rarely moves from exploration to explanation. Theory drives research. Research leads back to the development / improvement of theory. ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/15/2011 for the course CJ 300 taught by Professor Kierkus during the Fall '10 term at Grand Valley State University.
- Fall '10