lec020310 - Sociology 101-24 Introduction to Sociology...

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Sociology 101-24 Introduction to Sociology Professor: Deborah Carr ( [email protected] ) Wednesday February 3, 2010 Social Research Methods (cont’d) C. Keys to Evaluating Research: How do we know whether research is good, and whether we should heed its findings? Everyday, medical researchers have their findings reported in the news (e.g., the pros and cons of bran, the perfect age to give birth, etc.), yet these findings are often quickly replaced and critiqued by new studies, on the grounds that the earlier studies were “flawed.” What do we mean when we talk about “flaws” in research? There are two main dimensions along which social research is assessed. 1. Internal Validity - the extent to which the findings of a study are free from contamination from extraneous variables. It is the task of the researcher to “control for” or “hold constant” these extraneous variables. EXAMPLE: Several years ago, the Governor of Georgia implemented a program where a CD of classical music was given to each newborn in the state. Why? Was this a wise use of tax payers’ money? The Governor had seen research that concluded that children who listened to classical music while growing up go on to have better school performance, higher IQs, and are more likely to attend college. The Governor assumes that the relationship is causal , rather than a correlational relationship that is due to one or more extraneous variables. Perhaps children who listen to classical music (and who go on to college) come from wealthier, educated families. There are a variety of strategies – often using survey data or controlled experiments – that researchers can use to try to take into account these extraneous factors. We will discuss these over the next two classes. 2. External validity is the extent to which it is possible to generalize the results of one study to other populations, settings, or times . Many sociological studies have relatively low external validity because they are conducted largely on undergraduates, or on non-representative subgroups. Do we believe that 18-21 years olds, from relatively privileged backgrounds, born at a unique point in history represent ALL people? No. The
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This note was uploaded on 11/20/2011 for the course SOCIOLOGY 920:101 taught by Professor Carr during the Spring '10 term at Rutgers.

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lec020310 - Sociology 101-24 Introduction to Sociology...

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