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Quantitative research, Social Theory and Methodology Lecture One.

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Presentation on theme: "Quantitative research, Social Theory and Methodology Lecture One."— Presentation transcript:

1 Quantitative research, Social Theory and Methodology Lecture One.

2 Introduction Why Do Social Research? To understand society and social processes. To create better social theories. To inform social action. To improve social conditions.

3 How is social theory different from folk psychology? It is based on social research. It refers to and other types of social theorising. It has a particular set of procedures and an ethical code.

4 Social scientific theorising should be based on social research that is: 1.systematic, i.e. follows precise methods that are logically consistent, transparent and open to scrutiny 2.non-discriminatory and non-exploitative to its subjects, i.e. neither directly or indirectly should discriminate against its subjects, physically or mentally harm them, nor exploit them for own profit to criticism, i.e. research should be made public through publications and be open to scrutiny both for its procedures and its findings, and 4.independent, i.e. be free from direct of indirect censorship

5 Social theory, theorising & critical social science We all do social theory. We act on the basis of this theorising. This is how we make sense of the world. Our worldviews and identities are socially constructed through acts of social theorising The critical question that emerges here is how is this theorising done.

6 Knowledge is situated. Historical and cultural specificity of knowledge. Knowledge and truth are subject to revision. We should maintain a critical stance towards taken for granted assumptions. Knowledge and social action go together. How we think about something shapes how we act towards it.

7 The epistemological dimension of quantitative social research Epistemological questions- questions relating to knowledge. What do we count as knowledge? How do we know the world? What methods of scientific procedure will lead to the acquisition of sociological knowledge?

8 Models of theory construction and social research Inductive approach Hypothetico - deductive approach: Quantitative social research utilises quantitative methods that adopt a hypothetico-deductive approach to constructing social theories.

9 Quantitative social research and other types of social research quantitative research is influenced by the empiricist 'paradigm'. Based on empirical observations and their critical interpretation. qualitative research is influenced by the 'paradigm' of social constructionism and interpretation Social theories constructed by means of quantitative techniques concerned with causal factors behind social phenomena, i.e. they are mostly theories of cause and effects of social phenomena.

10 Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative research approaches CharacteristicQuantitative research Qualitative research Logic of theory construction DeductiveInductive Direction of theory construction Begins from theory Begins from reality Verification Takes place after theory construction is completed Data generation, analysis & theory verification take place concurrently Concepts Defined before research Flexible concepts - begins with orienting, sensitizing concepts Generalizations Inductive generalizations (use of inferential statistics) or hypothetico- deductive (use of hypothesis testing) Analytic, exemplar generalizations - i.e. sample units can act as typical representatives of a class or group of phenomena

11 The epistemological inadequacy of induction. Humes (1711-76) problem It is logically impossible to prove that something (a phenomenon, a social event etc.) will continue to happen in the future because it has occurred many times in the past. moving from the particular observation(s) to the general pattern - as a means to establish causation - came to be seen as a serious problem in constructing scientific theories. Karl Popper (1902-1994)

12 Karl Popper and Falsification. An "open", probabilistic view of science Popper theories cannot be verified absolutely and forever; however, they can be falsified - i.e. they can be proven to be wrong - given a certain degree of certainty (or probability). By testing theories we can improve them but we can never "prove" them right. criticism and "openness" is at the heart of scientific endeavour. Theories that cannot be tested, re-tested and (based on their falsification) be changed should be dismissed.

13 Theoretical concepts and (social) relationships in quantitative research Theory > Concept > Indicator

14 Concept A concept is " a mental image we use as summary device for bringing together observations and experiences that seem to have nothing in common [...] they do not exist in the real world, so they can't be measured directly" (Babbie, 1989, p.126)

15 " Conceptualization is the process of specifying the vague mental imagery of our concepts [by] sorting out the kinds of observations and measurements that will be appropriate for our research" (Babbie, 1989, p.126 ) Measuring a concept requires "translating" the concept into something measurable, an indicator or a set of indicators.

16 Operationalizing concepts. An indicator is a method of measuring a concept. The process of making a concept measurable, the process in which the researcher chooses the particular indicator or sets of indicators to measure the concept is called operationalisation. It is "the development of specific research procedures (operations) that will result in empirical observations representing those concepts in the real world" Babbie (1989), p.129

17 Operationalising Concepts. operationalising concepts involves a set of choices regarding the following: 1.units of analysis 2.points of focus 3.treatment of the dimension of time 4.nature of measurement

18 What units of Analysis? Individuals: (e.g. residents, workers, voters, parents, students). Key term - population Groups (e.g. gangs, families). Their characteristics may be derived from the characteristics of their individual members - age, ethnicity, education of the head. Organizations (e.g. corporations, churches, colleges, army divisions, academic departments). their characteristics may be derived form facts like number of employees, et annual profits, assets, contracts. Social Artefacts (automobiles, clothes, building, pottery, jokes, scientific discoveries.)

19 What points of Focus? Characteristics: e.g. sex, age height, marital status Orientations: e.g. attitudes, beliefs, personality traits etc. Actions: e.g. striking, dropping out of school, going to church

20 What Time Dimension? Cross-sectional: mostly descriptive and exploratory Longitudinal: permitting observations over an extended period of time (trend studies, cohort studies, panel studies: same set of people studied all the time) -

21 Choices for the Researcher. what range of variation to consider what levels of measurement to use whether to depend on a single indicator or many

22 Bibliography: Fielding J. and Gilbert N. (2000) Understanding Social Statistics, Sage publications Allen G. and Skinner G. (1991) Handbook for Research Students in the Social Sciences, London: Falmer Press Babbie E. (1989), The Practice of Social Research, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Firth Edition Sarantakos Sotirios (1993), Social Research, London: Macmillan Gilbert N. (ed.) (1993), Researching Social Life, London: Sage publications Black Thomas R. (1999), Doing quantitative research in the social sciences an integrated approach to research design, measurement and statistics

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