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The Logic of Social Science Research Sociology 3522 29 Jan. 2008 Dr Christopher Kollmeyer A lecture by.

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Presentation on theme: "The Logic of Social Science Research Sociology 3522 29 Jan. 2008 Dr Christopher Kollmeyer A lecture by."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Logic of Social Science Research Sociology 3522 29 Jan. 2008 Dr Christopher Kollmeyer A lecture by

2 Epistemology: How do we know when something is true? Natural Sciences Scientific Method Social Sciences 3 Research Orientations Positivism (often quantitative research) Interpretivism (often qualitative research) Realism

3 The Scientific Method Research Question Unexplained Phenomenon Theory Tentative Explanation Hypothesis Observable Prediction Experiment Falsification Support or Refute Theory

4 Other Characteristics of the Scientific Method: Falsification –Karl Popper (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery –Either reject or support hypothesis, but never prove it –Not falsifiable = philosophical question Verifiability (Replication) –Repeatable (hopefully with same results) peer reviewed Science is Dynamic –Scientific laws = Theory and facts match over numerous experiments –But laws can be overturned with new evidence knowledge changes

5 Key Epistemological Question for the Social Sciences: Can the social world be studied with the same methods used in the natural sciences? YES Positivism (Emile Durkheim) Typically Deductive Research NO Interpretivism or Verstehen (Max Weber) Typically Inductive Research YES Realism (Karl Mark, Sigmund Freud) No methodological preference

6 Social Science Tradition (1): Positivism Knowledge derived from observations (empiricism) –Theory alone is not scientific knowledge philosophy –Scientific knowledge: theories supported by data Research is deductive Theory Hypothesis Collect Data Findings Findings confirm or reject hypothesis Revise theory Social science should be value free –Social scientists personal opinions shouldnt matter

7 Building Blocks of Positivism: Theories, Hypotheses, and Variables Theory: Plausible explanation for a particular social phenomenon. –Theory explains the causal relationship between social variables. –The data determine the correlation between variables. –Spurious theories Founding Theories of Sociology –Karl Marx ( Capitalism and Society ) –Max Weber ( Religion and Capitalism) –Emile Durkheim ( DOL and Anomie)

8 Variables: An important object within a theory that can take on two or more different values or categories. Examples of Sociological Variables: –Economic systems: capitalism, socialism, mixed economies. –Social Class: upper class, middle class, working class, lower class. –Gender: male, female (perhaps transgendered) –Age: –Education:

9 Proxies: A variable that represents (albeit imperfectly) a more complicated sociological concept. Proxies enable researchers to measure abstract social phenomena. Examples: Concept Possible Proxy Community disorder ---- ASBOs issued per year Gender Equality -- Gender pay gap Political participation ---Voter participation rates National Prosperity --- Income per capita Measurement Validity

10 Hypothesis: A short and empirically testable statement, derived from theory, which predicts a certain outcome. Possible hypotheses for classical theories in sociology : –Marx: The more the economy is privately owned, the more economic inequality will grow in that society. –Weber: Protestant-dominated countries have stronger economies than Catholic-dominated countries. –Durkheim: The more advanced a societys division of labor, the more people in that society will suffer from anomie. Important note: All of these hypotheses can be tested; thus they are said to be falsifiable.

11 In-Class Exercise: 1) Write out a one sentence hypothesis that offers a plausible explanation for the following social problems: –poverty –gender inequality in the workplace –anti-social behavior among teenagers 2) Identify the variables in your hypotheses 3) H ow you would measure these variables?

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