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Scientific investigation in the social world:

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Allison Stewart

on 9 September 2017

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Transcript of Scientific investigation in the social world:

Orientation to research that focuses on the need for social change from the start of the process to its conclusion.
expertise (becoming a specialist in an area of knowing)
agreement among ordinary people
scientific research (systematic investigation, empirical research aiming to verify knowledge)
There are many different scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines:

Natural science examples:
biology, geology, physics, chemistry, etc.

Behavioral and social science examples:
economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, etc.

Examples of sub-fields of study in sociology (all academic disciplines have sub-fields or specific areas of focus): criminology, industrial sociology, human ecology, medical sociology, demography, social psychology, digital sociology, (and many, many others given the breadth of the subject matter involved!)
Defining science:
"a logical system that bases knowledge on direct, systematic observation." (Macionis, p. 33)

" the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment: the world of science and technology." (Oxford-American College Dictionary)

Knowledge may be based upon:
Developing research conclusions:
Relevant to establishing other forms of validity such as external, internal, and statistical conclusion validity

of variables: reliability
and validity

Positivist sociology:

Ways of knowing:
Methods in sociology
Scientific investigation of the social world:
foundation for science: empirical evidence is
information that we can verify with our senses. It is attained using careful observation and experimentation.
Interpretive sociology
Research within this orientation focuses upon discovering the meanings in human interaction and is grounded in a philosophy that emphasizes variation in perspectives. To an interpretive sociolgist, the same data can mean completely different things across observers. The methods employed are typically qualitative.
the study of society based on the systematic observation of social behavior, which is grounded in a positivist philosophy advocating studying humans using the same methods employed in natural scientific disciplines.

Research orientations:
Establishing relationships among variables:
independent variables
dependent variables
cause and effect

Concept: cognitive device, or mental construct, that represents an aspect, or part, of the world in simplified form.
An idea of something formed on the basis of a combination of its characteristics or particulars.
variable: any entity with a changing case to case value.

ex: age, gender, I.Q., major, occupation, etc.

Variables have attributes, which are all of the values the variable can take on. These attributes should be exhaustive as well as mutually exclusive when variables are defined and represented in social research.

measurement: within a specific case, the procedure for determining the value of a variable.
operationalization: a specification of what will be measured; what will be used to represent that variable.
There are different types of validity that researchers must address in conducting their research on a topic and in their plan for research - or research design.
"Construct validity" - is a type that pertains to measurement and variable specification.
Related questions:
Have the variables been operationalized appropriately within the research design?
Do the variables specified measure the dimensions of the concepts as intended?
Reliability: Does the measurement yield the same results when repeated?
spurious relationship
is an apparent relationship between two variables, such as x and y, which can be explained by another variable. To rule out
, researchers must use
This process involves adding controls to try and isolate the effects of variables on each other in an observed relationship.
Two variables x and y are said to be
. What determines this
two or more variables change in relation to each other,
independent variable occurs prior to the dependent variable AND,
no evidence of spuriousness or a spurious relationship.
Researchers examining correlations must take steps to ensure that spurious relationships are ruled out.
Independent variables
are the varied, controlled, or manipulated by the researcher and thus they are the presumed causal variables, which means they may affect change within dependent variables (of course, change does not always occur.)
Dependent variables
are observed for changes, which are measured and recorded.
As Macionis points out, the scientific ideal is cause and effect, which allows for accurate prediction. Of course, with human subjects, their behavioral patterns, cultural products, etc. causality can be difficult to establish.
Some overarching goals in all scientific research, which help to determine its structure/the methods and key aspects of the research design:
promote objectivity, minimize subjectivity (systematic approach to developing knowledge)
increase the scientific body of knowledge through: thorough documentation, submission for peer review and other forms of results publication for the purposes of private as well as public entities.
allows for replication and concept refinement
support or refute theories
generate new theories
refinement of validity and reliability
practical application (problem solving)
researchers must consider the relevance of their topics (connected to many of the goals that you see here.)
improved knowledge of the physical and social world, benefits humanity in terms of improvements in quality of life
increasing emphasis upon the disclosure of funding resources & any relevant conflict of interest based upon this or any of the researcher's affiliations.
Tastes good, but is it healthy? - or -
Healthy, but does it taste good? Scientists use some of the following methods and tools to help to answer questions such as these.
Though they may be employed within a variety of research designs, each of these orientations may be viewed as corresponding loosely to a theoretical system in sociology. These methods are also employed in other sciences and across sub-fields.
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