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Sociology as a Science.

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Presentation on theme: "Sociology as a Science."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociology as a Science

2 Interpretivism POSITIVISM Watch– don’t judge.
* Sociology should be totally value-free. * Sociology should study observable stuff: social facts, that can be recorded as quantitative data so correlations can be identified between variables. * Sociology should be value relevant, but cannot be value-free. * Sociologists will use their subjective feelings to identify a research topic & the concepts they feel are relevant. * But sociologists can be objective in how they carry out their research, once they’ve identified concepts. Watch– don’t judge.

3 Ways of collecting Data
Quantitative data – based on numbers and statistics – goes with Positivist Qualitative data – based on rich descriptions of events – goes with Interpretivist Primary data – collected direct from participants by the researcher Secondary Data – are data which already exist in form of statistics, diaries, personal documents etc.

4 Quantitative Data Analysis
Quantitative data consists of numbers, so we look for patterns and trends indicated by statistics e.g percentages, averages etc. In our research we are looking for the % of boys Vs girls choosing particular subjects. We need to know how many students in TOTAL chose that subject and then work out how many were boys and how many were girls to get a % for each. We then work out the difference between the two. E.g in students chose Physics, 13 were boys and 9 were girls = 60% boys and 40% girls.

5 Presenting descriptive statistics
Table form e.g like the sheet with the subject choices data from last year. Graph form may include Bar charts Histogram Scattergraph for correlations These make the data easier to analyse for patterns.

6 Subject/course Male Female Total
List of subjects Tally Tally Total Total Total

7 Analysing Qualitative Data
Qualitative Data consists of rich data in the form of words i.e personal answers to open questions. This requires a degree of interpretation of written text. We need to look for emerging patterns or themes e.g many students might say that their parents influenced their choices of further education subjects. The key themes are identified and then included in our analysis.

8 Create a poster Use the handout to create a poster including the following:- Aims Method Findings – in graph form Conclusions Any illustrations for decoration

9 * Something is scientific when it uses EMPIRICISM (knowledge gained from actually experiencing and / or observing something) AND * OBJECTIVITY where the research does not involve opinions, or bias or prejudice.

10 Objectivity & Subjectivity.

11 The Aim of Sociological Research
1. Introduction to Social Research The Aim of Sociological Research To move from subjective to more objective knowledge of something: Subjective knowledge Objective knowledge An individual’s everyday understanding that comes from their values, experiences and beliefs. Knowledge that is independent of opinion, prejudice and bias. © 2007

12 CORE DEBATE: Can or should Sociology be value free? Should all bias be removed from Sociological research? What if you were going to do some feminist research on women wearing Burkas?

13 Activity Write down a list of values you think may affect the research process.

14 Values in the research process:
Operationalising key concepts. Choosing which topic to research. Choosing a research method. Getting funding. Interpreting findings. Selecting appropriate questions. Recording responses. Selecting which findings to include in the report. Deciding what report will be used for. Deciding where report will be published.

15 All these values and considerations make it very hard for Sociologists to remain objective.
They’re conservative. Civitas are funding my research. My research will have to agree with them. So, I’ll have to focus on how absent dads create deviant sons.

16 What did you look at me like that for, you silly sausage.
Interpretivists argue Sociology can’t be value-free because Sociologists are human beings studying other human beings. What did you look at me like that for, you silly sausage. They understand the social world through exploring the meanings and motivations of others, using their own experience & verstehen.

17 Different researchers interpret every scenario differently.
Briefly, churn out a sentence about what this fella’s doing here. Would you go on holiday with him?

18 This is HOWARD BECKER. He says it’s impossible to study anything without using your personal and political beliefs to understand and judge it.

19 Some Sociological theories are clearly allied to a particular political leaning.
For instance, Marxism is a conflict theory which sees capitalism as problematic for human happiness and fairness. Marxism is therefore left wing. Feminism also, is a conflict theory which sees patriarchy as problematic for women’s happiness and fairness. Feminism also, is therefore left wing.

20 POSITIVISM – The Scientific approach – comparative and experimental methods

21 1. Our knowledge about the social world starts with the collection of facts –
For example, the crime rate, the divorce rate and the number of men that are victims of domestic violence.

22 2. The facts are classified & identified objectively – without using opinion, and statistical relationships established. Eg. Children from low income households are more likely to become criminal.

23 3. Once classification has been done, we can look for (study) correlations – where two or more things happen at the same time between different social facts. For example, a correlation between women being in care and becoming deviant.

24 4. If positive correlation is found, a cause and effect relationship can be established.
For example, educational failure causes greater likelihood of criminality.

25 5. Once we’ve sorted out positive correlations and cause and effect relationships, we can develop theories that explain the relationship between different facts. Eg. Having insufficient integration into society explains why some commit suicide.

26 6. Once we have a theory – test it further
6. Once we have a theory – test it further. If nothing happens to disprove the theory, we have discovered a universal law of human behaviour.

27 7. Once a law is identified in human behaviour, we can incorporate it into social policy – we can organise people through laws & legislation that will engineer the best results for society.


29 Interpretivism – the not-so scientific approach

30 Interpretivism is THE alternative, THE total opposite of Positivism.
* People like Weber say Sociology should study society from the perspective of other people to understand how and why things happen. * Using Weber’s perspective of verstehen requires subjective understanding which draws on people’s opinions. * Science is strongly objective and does not allow opinion to influence research. * For this reason, Interpretivists argue Sociology cannot ever be a science.

31 Organise these words into the two groups
INTERPRETIVIST POSITIVIST Quantitative Objective Labelling Theory Experiences and meanings Qualitative Functionalism Subjective Official Crime Statistics

32 Starter How would you go about researching the use of knives as a weapon in UK society? What problems would you have to overcome? Look at the practical considerations on pg50.

33 Key concerns in research
Key concerns in research. When we evaluate how well a piece of research has been carried out we consider the following things. Generalisation Representativeness Operationalisation Validity Ethics Reliability GROVER

34 Generalisation Can the results of the study be applied to wider society? E.g if you studied knife crime in Torquay could you apply the findings to the whole of UK? Likewise if you only studied use of kitchen knives as a weapon you could not gain generalisable results.

35 Representativeness Does the sample of people you studied accurately represent the population. E.g If you are studying anti-social behaviour of young people but only studied boys, your sample would not represent ‘young people’

36 Operationalisation Has the study correctly defined what they are studying. E.g If you wanted to study happiness but defined this as having Sky television it would not be a very accurate study!

37 Operationalising concepts
How would you go about measuring the following concepts? Family income Sexual orientation Ethnicity Social class Happiness Which concepts are objective and which are subjective?

38 Validity This is related to the accuracy and truthfulness of your findings. E.g If you went to lower school and asked everyone whether or not they smoked you would probably find that 100% said no! BUT…..

39 Ethics British Sociological Association have guidelines which must be followed. Informed Consent Privacy/confidentiality of participants Protection from harm caused by potential deception, embarrassment etc Right to withdraw from the study

40 You want to study children’s playground behaviour.
You get a video camera and film the children secretly from the branches of tree outside the playground. You show the film to colleagues to analyse your results.

41 You want to find out attitudes towards underage drinking in your area
You ask some year 10 and 11 students to complete a questionnaire. You ask them for their names and addresses so that you can contact them again if there are any problems with their responses.

42 You want to find out about empathy for snails
You get consent from a number of students to take part in a study about snails. When they arrive you tell them that they have to step in a box of snails and crush them all so that you can monitor facial expressions. When they are finished you say thank you and ask them to leave.

43 Reliability This is about the way the data is collected.
If it is a consistent measure such as a questionnaire with yes/no answers then another sociologists could repeat the study and get similar results. If is say an interview/conversation then another sociologists might get different results and the study might be unreliable.

44 A little Test In pairs test each other on the meanings of the terms in GROVER.

45 True/False Game

46 Non-Probability or Non-random
Lego Demonstration - Copy this table out in your notes with a brief description of each type refer to page 51 Sample: a segment of the target population being studied. Probability or Random [reflects the population] Non-Probability or Non-random [does not reflect the population] Random Quota Systematic Snowball Stratified Purposive © 2007

47 Access Access to participants is a big deal in sociological research. Sometimes it can be difficult. Consider some of the difficulties you might find if you had to access these particpants Children under 3, Young Offenders, Mentally ill. Often there will be a person who will facilitate access, for example to school pupils, this person is referred to as a gatekeeper

48 Examples 40,000 homes in the UK are selected by a computer to take part in the British Crime Survey. 15 boys and 15 girls are to be selected from 3 different 6th form colleges. Researchers receive an alphabetical list of all people with alzheimer’s in a hospital to take part in research they must select 20 participants with no computer

49 Examples Researchers want to study the experiences single mums living in inner city areas. They need 20 women to take part. Researchers wish to study incidents of suicide amongst children under 16. They need 4 or 5 families to take part. A university needs 5 Asian, 5 Black and 5 white people under 21 to take part in research.

50 Examples of research topics
Experiences of education of black males Links between gender and academic achievement Experiences of youth offenders Childhood suicide and wealth of family Geographical area and use of drugs Experience of youth unemployment

51 Carry out these first stages of the scientific method.
Choice of topic Propose a research question/hypothesis Operationalise the concept you are studying Decide on your target population Select a sampling method Decide how you are going to access the sample – will there be a gatekeeper?

52 Quantitative methods include:-
Social Surveys Questionnaires Structured Interviews Statistical data Content analysis Experiments

53 Social surveys and Longitudinal Studies
Social surveys are large scale quantitative studies with data collected wither through questionnaires or interviews with closed questions. Longitudinal studies are very good for measuring changes over time. However they have problems with participants dropping out and are very expensive. A famous study is the 7UP programme which followed children from age 7 to adulthood.

54 Pilot Studies Pilot studies are often used to check the methods being used. A small scale study can check the validity of questionnaires for examples before they are used on a wider scale. Pilots are usually only used in quantitative research since using a pilot in qualitative would be uneccessary.

55 Questionnaires Complete the self-report questionnaire
What are the problems with this type of questionnaire? Make a bullet point list of advantages and disadvantages and some examples of research using pg 52.

56 Plenary Page 83 OCR Book – Activity 5.3
Identify problems with this questionnaire.

57 Starter – identify whether these are criticisms of quantitative and qualitative data
Variables cannot always be isolated and cause and effect cannot be established Lacks scientific rigour Findings cannot be generalised so are of little use Researchers can never be value-free or completely objective Statistical analysis can lead to misinterpretation of the data Open to subjective interpretations of researchers Of little use to large-scale organisations like government. Numbers cannot provide explanations

58 Structured Interviews
How would you go about obtaining quantitative data from an interview? What kind of questions would you ask? Sue Sharpe used structured interviews in her research. What was it about? Evaluate her research using GROVER.

59 Interviews Identify the difference between structured and semi-structured interviews pg84-85 Which would you prefer to use and why ? List the advantages and disadvantages of structured interviews in your notes. Create a short role play of a semi-structured interview with a youth offender .

60 Secondary sources Official statistics are a major source of secondary data. O.S. Are collected by the state such as a Census. Unofficial statistics are collected by agencies such as pressure groups, or trade unions Examples of surveys include BSAS, BCS, Census

61 Evaluation Positivists believe providing O.S. Are accurate, they are a valid and reliable source of data Interactionists are very critical. For example, they argue Crime stats’ are socially constructed and probably tell us more about police priorities, rather then about the patterns of crime. Marxists argues that the state serves the ruling class. Therefore, anything published by the state is likely to give a distorted impression that serves capitalism.

62 The use of statistical data and content analysis
Give a definition of these two types of research Give examples of where they might have been used List advantages and disadvantages of both types

63 Experiments
Experiments are rarely used in sociology because it is difficult to control variables in a social setting. You can learn more about the use of experiments on the above link. Complete the exercises.

64 Experiments Laboratory experiments are conducted in a controlled environment where the relationship between two variables can be tested. E.g Bandura’s bobo doll experiment. They are highly scientific and reliable but also very artificial so may lack validity Field experiments are partly controlled but conducted in a natural setting e.g classroom, seeing if sitting at the back hinders learning.

65 Example of experiments
Rosenthal and Jacobsen Pygmalion in the classroom. Jane Elliot brown eyes blue eyes. Bandura bobo doll Stanley Milgram – study on obedience Zimbardo – Standford Prison study.

66 Qualitative Methods include:-
Observation Ethnography Interviews Focus Groups Analysis of personal document

67 Participant Observation (PO)
Participant Observation is an alternative to asking questions; it involves getting involved, and experiencing first hand how the group live/ behave. Covert or Overt PO PO can be divided into 3 stages; getting in, staying in (without your cover being blown) and then, getting out. P.O is usually small-scale, and is hard to generalise has its unlikely to observe the same findings. Paul Willis found getting out an issue when he studied 12 working class males from a midlands school (‘Learning to labour) (overt PO) In Laud Humphreys study of ‘tearoom trade’, he breached serious ethical guidelines when watching homosexual sexual activity, and recording car registration of the people involved

68 Read pg 92-93 and answer the following:-
What is the difference between participant and non-participant observation? What is the Hawthorne effect? What is the difference between structured and un-structured observation? List advantages and disadvantages of participant observation.

69 The remaining qualitative methods you are going to explore in groups
Group 1 Ethnography Group 2 Unstructured/semi structured Interviews Group 3 Focus groups Group 4 Personal documents Produce a poster including description, examples and advantages and disadvantages of your method. Present to the class at the end of the lesson.

70 Case Study Case studies are research focused on individuals or small groups e.g one class in a school. They are high in validity but lack representativeness – Why is this?

71 The use of Mixed Methods.
We have identified that there are various problems with both quantitative and qualitative methods So why not use both? The use of mixed methods can be referred to as methodological plurism or triangulation but these have different meanings – see pg 99 Identify advantages and disadvantages of using mixed methods and add to your notes. Complete activity 7.1 on page 100.

72 You will now be completing your research proposals started in previous group work
See task sheet.

73 Presentation of reports for peer review.
This is normal practice in the scientific world for peers to review other scientist’s work both before and after research is carried out. Peers – you must try and pick holes in the proposals in terms of GROVER.

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