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Chapter 2: Sociological Inquiry

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Notes: scientific methodthe process a sociologist uses to develop and test theories,

merican Sociological Association (ASA), a national organization for sociologists dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession serving the public good

peer reviewa process by which research is evaluated by a group of experts in the specific subject area

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

Independent variablea factor that causes a change in another variable, and the dependent variablea factor that is changed by another variable, are identified.

aliditythe extent that the study measures what it claims to measure

operational definitiona clear, concise, and observable measure of the variable

reliability, the extent to which a study yields the same result in repeated studies.

quantitative research designdata collection that focuses on exploring correlations by using systematic, numerical, and other objective measures to generalize across groups of people (

qualitative research designdata collection using interviews, fieldwork, observation, photos, text, and other subjective measures (

representative samplea subset of the population whose characteristics accurately reflect those of the larger population from which it is drawn.

Institutional Review Board (IRB), a committee that reviews research proposals to protect the rights and welfare of human participants in research

informed consenta signed statement by participants indicating full knowledge of the risks involved, and acknowledgment of the procedures to withdraw from the study at any time willingly, 

 Anonymityconcealing the identities of participants within the research project, and confidentialityguarding who has the right of access to the data provided by the participants

Quantitative Methods  Advantages Disadvantages
Secondary Analysis Existing data is plentiful and study can be conducted quickly Available data may not fit research questions
Surveys Cost-effective and convenient Inflexible design and potential low response rate
Experiments More control over design and stronger validity and reliability Inability to generalize data
Longitudinal Studies Provides broad and detailed data

Expensive and requires a multi-year commitment


secondary analysisthe use of data previously collected for other purposes

surveya series of questions used to extract specific information from respondents

experimentthe use of two or more groups in which one group is exposed to a factor being examined

experimental groupthe study subjects exposed to the independent variable, and the control groupthe study subjects who are not exposed to the independent variable and are used as a reference group

longitudinal designthe repeated observation of the same subjects over a duration of time


 in-depth interviewa one-on-one open-ended method that probes for deeper meaning and understanding of the responses of the interviewee


participation observationalso called participant observation, a method in which the researcher takes part in the social phenomenon being studied. 


ethnographya 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 groupa small group interview or guided discussion using a moderator to gain insight into the participants’ opinions on specific topics


groupthinkthe tendency of group members to yield to the desire for consensus rather than expressing individual or alternative ideas


content analysisa systematic method of assigning codes to text, video, music, and other media to analyze and infer patterns

Qualitative Methods  Advantages Disadvantages
In-depth Interviews Ability to explore different angles and levels Focuses on individuals and transcribing field notes can be time-consuming
Participant Observation Unrestricting access to observe social behavior Difficult to document details and can potentially be unethical
Focus Groups Ease of implementation and quick results Groupthink can occur and moderators can skew the results
Content Analysis

Does not involve human subjects and cost-effective


Researchers must “read between the lines”

Sustainabilitythe idea that current and future generations should have equal or greater access to social, economic, and environmental resources

General Social Survey (GSS)a national survey on contemporary American society to monitor and explain trends and constants in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes

snowball sampling, a process in which people in the group being studied introduce the researcher to other people to study

time diary methoda research method in which subjects track their actions at various points in time over several days

Hawthorne effectthe tendency of people to change their behavior when they know they are being watched

ethicsprinciples of conduct about how you are supposed to behave in a given situation

code of ethicsa set of guidelines of appropriate behavior established by an organization for its members to follow

value neutrality, also known as objectivitythe effort to eliminate bias from the research

sample of conveniencea research sample based on the ease of accessibility of the research subjects

Functionalist Theory: The school and criminal justice systems are examples of large-scale social structures that a sociologist might research from a functionalist perspective to see how they contribute to maintaining society’s stability.

Conflict Theory: Social inequality in socioeconomic status or race and ethnicity may play a role in boys’ differing crime rates. A sociologist who uses the conflict perspective would research this topic from the standpoint of competition and change.

Symbolic Interaction: Family and friends are often very involved in our everyday social lives and, as such, are an example of micro-level analysis. Therefore, symbolic interaction would consider the boys’ face-to-face interactions.

case studyan in-depth analysis of a particular person, place, or event over a significant period

verstehen (vûrst e hen), an empathetic approach to understanding human behavior

Verstehen means that you take the time to understand the individuals’ experiences from their point of view

Marxist/socialist feminism 

The Problem

Marxist/socialist feminism believes that the root of the problem is patriarchy and capitalism’s role in society.

The Solution

Marxist/socialist feminism solutions focus on politics and economics. They contend that a solution must change the relationship between the public or production side of society and the private or reproduction side. This would include restructuring the division of labor and eliminating the separation between paid and unpaid work.

The Strategy

Marxist/socialist feminism strategies include strengthening the connection between home and workplace, establishing more autonomous women’s organizations, increasing women’s representation in politics, and working towards future political goals in what is known as prefigurative politics.

Radical Feminism 

The Problem

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.

The Solution

Radical feminism contends that the solution includes challenging the power structure in society, addressing the intersectionality of oppression, and liberating women from their reproductive roles.

The Strategy

The strategies proposed by radical feminism include separating the sexes, redefining private space and working relationships, challenging the oppressors, reclaiming women’s voices, and using technology to free women from the reproductive process.

Liberal Feminism 

The Problem
Liberal feminism contends that sex discrimination and sex-biased laws are a product of prejudice and stereotyping by society.

The Solution

Liberal feminism sees the reform of sex-biased laws as one aspect of the solution. Others include challenging sexism, improving rights, and expanding opportunities in society.

The Strategy

The range of strategies proposed by liberal feminism includes reducing gender roles, increasing education, removing discriminatory legislation, implementing laws that address sexism, and increasing resources to areas impacted by biological differences, such as childcare.