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Review of Basic Concepts. Components of Research Theories arrange a set of concepts to define and explain some phenomenon Theory approach to studying.

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Presentation on theme: "Review of Basic Concepts. Components of Research Theories arrange a set of concepts to define and explain some phenomenon Theory approach to studying."— Presentation transcript:

1 Review of Basic Concepts

2 Components of Research Theories arrange a set of concepts to define and explain some phenomenon Theory approach to studying a research topic / specific research techniques of empirical data Method Quantitative Qualitative Hybrid Kind of knowledge being produced / Epistemology is concerned with that does and does not count as acceptable knowledge. Epistemology

3 Theory (1) Social Scientific theory and research are linked through the direction of reasoning of theories. Generally, induction and deduction are distinct processes but can be used simultaneous in a project. Another form of theory construction is falsification – pointing out where previous theories failed. (2) Level of the research – Macro level – deals with large, aggregate entities of society or even whole societies. So theorist are focusing their attention on society at large or at least on large portions of it. Eg: international relations among countries, interrelations among major institutions in society, such as government, religion, and family. – Micro level – deals with issues of social life at the level of individuals and small groups. Eg: dating behaviour. Focus on social interactions – how people relate to each other on an individual level. – Meso level – relatively rare – links macro and micro levels or to operate on an intermediate level Eg: theories of communities, social movements.

4 Epistemology There are 3 ½ main epistemological perspectives: Positivism – Interested in causes and predicting likelihood of incidences, seeks to explain, creates social ‘facts’. Anti-positivism – also known as interpretivism (hermeneutics)- a tradition in social science related to interactionism and the verstehen sociology of Max Weber and Georg Simmel Phenomenology – Interested in social meanings, seeks to interpret, uses direct involvement, creates data on social interactions. Critical – Interested in understanding social phenomena in their social context, seeks out structural relationships, data is historical, structural and ideological. (mixed form for positivism and interpretivism)

5 Positivism the three goals of positivism - description, control, and prediction Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that in the social as well as natural sciences, data derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge. Obtaining and verifying data that can be received from the senses is known as empirical evidence.philosophy of sciencesocialnatural sciencessensory experience This view holds that society operates according to laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected. Though the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of Western thought, the concept was developed in the modern sense in the early 19th century by the philosopher and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte. Comte argued that society operates according to its own laws, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other laws of nature. Auguste Comte Positivism states that the only authentic knowledge is that which allows positive verification

6 Comte (1) Comte offered an account of social evolution, proposing that society undergoes three phases in its quest for the truth according to a general 'law of three stages'. The idea bears some similarity to Marx's view that human society would progress toward a communist peak. Comte's stages were (1) the theological, (2) the metaphysical, and (3) the positive.

7 Comte (2) The theological phase deals with humankind's accepting the doctrines of the church (or place of worship) rather than relying on its rational powers to explore basic questions about existence. It dealt with the restrictions put in place by the religious organization at the time and the total acceptance of any "fact" adduced for society to believe.

8 Comte (3) Comte describes the metaphysical phase of humanity as the time since the Enlightenment, a time steeped in logical rationalism, to the time right after the French Revolution. This second phase states that the universal rights of humanity are most important. The central idea is that humanity is invested with certain rights that must be respected. In this phase, democracies and dictators rose and fell in attempts to maintain the innate rights of humanity.

9 Comte (4) The final stage of the trilogy of Comte's universal law is the scientific, or positive, stage. The central idea of this phase is that individual rights are more important than the rule of any one person. Comte stated that the idea of humanity's ability to govern itself makes this stage innately different from the rest. There is no higher power governing the masses and the intrigue of any one person can achieve anything based on that individual's free will and authority.

10 Comte (5) The irony of this series of phases is that though Comte attempted to prove that human development has to go through these three stages, it seems that the positivist stage is far from becoming a realization. Anthony Giddens argues that since humanity constantly uses science to discover and research new things, humanity never progresses beyond the second metaphysical phase. In this view, Comte's positivism appears circular

11 Durkheim's positivism (1) While Durkheim rejected much of the details of Comte's philosophy, he retained and refined its method, maintaining that the social sciences are a logical continuation of the natural ones into the realm of human activity, and insisting that they may retain the same objectivity, rationalism, and approach to causality.

12 Durkheim's positivism (2) Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide (1897), a case study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, distinguished sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy. By carefully examining suicide statistics in different police districts, he attempted to demonstrate that Catholic communities have a lower suicide rate than Protestants, something he attributed to social (as opposed to individual or psychological) causes. He developed the notion of objective sui generis "social facts" to delineate a unique empirical object for the science of sociology to study. Through such studies, he posited, sociology would be able to determine whether a given society is 'healthy' or 'pathological', and seek social reform to negate organic breakdown or "social anomie". Durkheim described sociology as the "science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning".

13 Stephen Hawking Stephen Hawking is a recent high profile advocate of positivism, at least in the physical sciences. In The Universe in a Nutshell (p. 31) he writes: Stephen HawkingThe Universe in a Nutshell Any sound scientific theory, whether of time or of any other concept, should in my opinion be based on the most workable philosophy of science: the positivist approach put forward by Karl Popper and others. According to this way of thinking, a scientific theory is a mathematical model that describes and codifies the observations we make. A good theory will describe a large range of phenomena on the basis of a few simple postulates and will make definite predictions that can be tested… If one takes the positivist position, as I do, one cannot say what time actually is. All one can do is describe what has been found to be a very good mathematical model for time and say what predictions it makes. Karl Popper

14 Popper (1) Popper coined the term "critical rationalism" to describe his philosophy. Concerning the method of science, the term indicates his rejection of classical empiricism, and the classical observationalist-inductivist account of science that had grown out of it. Popper argued strongly against the latter, holding that scientific theories are abstract in nature, and can be tested only indirectly, by reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historio-cultural settings.

15 Popper (2) Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single counterexample is logically decisive: it shows the theory, from which the implication is derived, to be false. The term "falsifiable" does not mean something is made false, but rather that, if it is false, it can be shown by observation or experiment. Popper's account of the logical asymmetry between verification and falsifiability lies at the heart of his philosophy of science. It also inspired him to take falsifiability as his criterion of demarcation between what is, and is not, genuinely scientific: a theory should be considered scientific if, and only if, it is falsifiable. This led him to attack the claims of both psychoanalysis and contemporary Marxism to scientific status, on the basis that their theories are not falsifiable.

16 Epistemology There are 3 ½ main epistemological perspectives: Positivism – Interested in causes and predicting likelihood of incidences, seeks to explain, creates social ‘facts’. Anti-positivism – also known as interpretivism (hermeneutics)- a tradition in social science related to interactionism and the verstehen sociology of Max Weber and Georg Simmel Phenomenology – Interested in social meanings, seeks to interpret, uses direct involvement, creates data on social interactions. Critical – Interested in understanding social phenomena in their social context, seeks out structural relationships, data is historical, structural and ideological. (mixed form for positivism and interpretivism)

17 Interpretivism (1) Verstehen is now seen as a concept and a method central to a rejection of positivistic social science (although Weber appeared to think that the two could be united). Verstehen refers to understanding the meaning of action from the actor's point of view. It is entering into the shoes of the other, and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations. It also implies that unlike objects in the natural world human actors are not simply the product of the pulls and pushes of external forces. Individuals are seen to create the world by organizing their own understanding of it and giving it meaning. To do research on actors without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is to treat them like objects.

18 Interpretivism (2) Social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of social research. Antipositivists hold that researchers should focus on understanding the interpretations that social actions have for the people being studied.empiricismscientific methodsocial research Prefer qualitative methods (comment!)

19 Phenomenology (1) In the science of statistics, the collection of quantifiable data from people involves a phenomenological step. Namely, in order to obtain that data, survey questions must be designed to collect measurable responses that are categorized in a logically sound and practical way, such that the form in which the questions are asked does not bias the results. If this is not done, data distortions due to question-wording effects (response error) occur, and the data obtained may have no validity at all, because observations that do not have the same meaning (it would be like "adding up apples and pears") are counted up.statisticsbias"adding up apples and pears"

20 Phenomenology (2) A prerequisite of a good survey is that all respondents are really able to give a definite and unambiguous answer to the questions, and that they understand what is asked of them in the same way. One could, for example, ask farmers, "How much risk do you run on your farm?" with a scale of response options ranging, for example, from "a lot of risk" to "no risk". But this yields quantitatively meaningless data that is not objective, since the interpretations of "how much risk" by farmers could focus, for example, on the number, size, frequency, severity, likelihood or consequence of risks, and each farmer will have his own idiosyncratic idea about that. All farmers may suffer, for example, from a lack of rainfall, but some will personally consider it a large risk, others a low risk, and some not a risk at all. RSA-Questionnaire design

21 Epistemology There are 3 ½ main epistemological perspectives: Positivism – Interested in causes and predicting likelihood of incidences, seeks to explain, creates social ‘facts’. Anti-positivism – also known as interpretivism (hermeneutics)- a tradition in social science related to interactionism and the verstehen sociology of Max Weber and Georg Simmel Phenomenology – Interested in social meanings, seeks to interpret, uses direct involvement, creates data on social interactions. Critical – Interested in understanding social phenomena in their social context, seeks out structural relationships, data is historical, structural and ideological. (mixed form for positivism and interpretivism)

22 Critical (1) Core concepts are: – (1) That critical social theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity (i.e. how it came to be configured at a specific point in time), and – (2) That critical theory should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology.

23 Critical (2) From the 1960s and 1970s onward, language, symbolism, text, and meaning came to be seen as the theoretical foundation for the humanities, through the influence of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ferdinand de Saussure, George Herbert Mead, Noam Chomsky, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and other thinkers in linguistic and analytic philosophy, structural linguistics, symbolic interactionism, hermeneutics, semiology, linguistically oriented psychoanalysis (Jacques Lacan, Alfred Lorenzer), and deconstruction. When, in the 1970s and 1980s, Jürgen Habermas redefined critical social theory as a theory of communication, i.e. communicative competence and communicative rationality on the one hand, distorted communication on the other, the two versions of critical theory began to overlap or intertwine to a much greater degree than before. 1.Sociological Criticism 2.Literal Criticism

24 Paper #1 due next week. Pick one epistemological perspective. Pick at least four notable theorists that defend this perspective In no more than single spaced-10ptTimes New Roman’ed 8 pages review(60-80%) and comment (remaining%) on that epistemological perspective. Your commentary should not cite any other main stream (competing) epistemological perspectives.

25 MORE… Emic and etic are terms used by anthropologists and by others in the social and behavioral sciences to refer to two kinds of data concerning human behavior. In particular, they are used in cultural anthropology to refer to kinds of fieldwork done and viewpoints obtained.socialbehavioraldatabehavior

26 Emic vs Etic An 'emic' account is a description of behavior or a belief in terms meaningful (consciously or unconsciously) to the actor; that is, an emic account comes from a person within the culture. Almost anything from within a culture can provide an emic account. An 'etic' account is a description of a behavior or belief by an observer, in terms that can be applied to other cultures; that is, an etic account attempts to be 'culturally neutral'.

27 What is the purpose of the research? What are your units of analysis? What are your points of focus? What is the time dimension? Designing a research project: – conceptualisation – operationalization. Reliability, replication and validity. What do you need to think about when Designing Research?

28 Different Purposes of Research (1) Exploratory – Goal is to generate many ideas. – Develop tentative theories and conjectures. – Become familiar with the basic facts, people and concerns involved. – Formulate questions and refine issues for future research. – Used when little is written on an issue. – It is the initial research. – Usually qualitative research.

29 Different Purposes of Research (2) Descriptive research – Presents a profile of a group or describes a process, mechanism or relationship or presents basic background information or a context. – Used very often in applied research. – E.g.: General Household survey – describes demographic characteristics, economic factors and social trends. – Can be used to monitor changes in family structure and household composition. – Can also be used to gain an insight into the changing social and economic circumstances of population groups. – Often survey research.

30 Different Purposes of Research (3) Analytical (or explanatory) – goes beyond simple description to model empirically the social phenomena under investigation. – It involves theory testing or elaboration of a theory.

31 Different Purposes of Research (4) Evaluation – characterised by the focus on collecting data to ascertain the effects of some form of planned change. – Used in applied research to evaluate a policy initiative or social programme to determine if it is working. – Can be small or large scale, e.g.: effectiveness of a crime prevention programme in a local housing estate.


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