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Chapter 2: Sociological Inquiry

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Scientific method: The process a sociologist uses to develop and test theories, consists of eight steps.

Step 1: Define the question or problem

The first step is deciding what topic to research.

Step 2: Review the literature

The next step involves investigating what has already been written about your chosen topic.

Step 3: Develop Hypotheses

Develop a hypothesis – an educated guess about a relationship between two or more situations, events, or factors.

Independent variable: A factor that causes a change in another variable.

Dependent variable: A factor that is changed by another variable.

Validity: The extent that the study measures what it claims to measure.

Operational Definition: A clear, concise, and observable measure of the variable.

Reliability: The extent to which a study yields the same result in repeated studies.

Step 4: Choose a research design and methods

Quantitative research design: Data collection that focuses on exploring correlations by using systematic, numerical, and other objective measures to generalize across groups of people.

Qualitative research design: Data collection using interviews, fieldwork, observation, photos, text, and other subjective measures.

Representative sample: A subset of the population whose characteristics accurately reflect those of the larger population from which it is drawn.

Step 5: Collect the Data

Anonymity: Concealing the identities of participants within the research project.

Confidentiality: Guarding who has the right of access to the data provided by participants.

Step 6: Analyze the data

Once the data is collected, social detective work begins.

Step 7: Develop conclusions

This step you determine if your hypothesis is supported.

Step 8: Report results and pose new questions

Determine how to report the results.



The research methods provide the structure for the scientific method.

Secondary analysis: The use of data previously collected for other purposes.

Survey: A series of questions used to extract specific information from respondents.

Experiment: The use of two or more groups in which one group is exposed to a factor being examined.

Experimental group: The study subjects exposed to the independent variable.

Control group: The study subjects who are not exposed to the independent variable and are used as a reference group.

Longitudinal design: The repeated observation of the same subjects over a duration of time.

In-depth interview: A one-on-one open-ended method that probes for deeper meaning and understanding of the responses of the interviewee.

Participation observation: A method in which the researcher takes part in the social phenomenon being studied.

Ethnography: A descriptive account of social life and culture in a particular social system derived from the researcher being embedded over time within a group, organization, or community.

Focus group: A small group interview or guided discussion using a moderator to gain insight into the participants.

Groupthink: The tendency of group members to yield to the desire for consensus rather than expressing individual or alternative ideas.

Content analysis: A systematic method of assigning codes to text, video, music, and other media to analyze and infer patterns.

Sustainability: The idea that current and future generations should have equal or greater access to social, economic, and environmental resources, is a local, national, and international issue.

Snowball sampling: A process in which people in the group being studied introduce the researcher to other people to study.

Time diary method: A research method in which subjects track their actions at various points in time over several days.

Hawthorne effect: The tendency of people to change their behavior when they know they are being watched.

Ethics: Principles of conduct about how you are supposed to behave in a given situation.

Debriefing: A follow-up review of the research.

Value neutrality/Objectivity: The effort to eliminate bias from the research.

Sample of convenience: A research sample based on the ease of accessibility of the research subjects.

In the research process, its role is to illuminate this relationship, but more specifically, to help us understand the impact of social forces on individuals\\\’ lives.

Case study: An in-depth analysis of a particular person, place, or event over a significant period.

Liberal feminism: Contends that sex discrimination and sex-biased laws are a product of prejudice and stereotyping by society.

Radical feminism: Argues that the root of the problem is the intersection of various types of oppression in society and men\’s patriarchal control over women\’s reproduction and sexuality.

Marxist/Socialist feminism: Believes that the root of the problem is patriarchy and capitalism\’s role in society.