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Encyclopedia > Social research

Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists (primarily within sociology and social psychology), but also within other disciplines such as social policy, human geography, political science, social anthropology and education. Sociologists and other social scientists study diverse things: from census data on hundreds of thousands of human beings, through the in-depth analysis of the life of a single important person to monitoring what is happening on a street today - or what was happening a few hundred years ago. This article is about the concept. ... Terms like SOSE (Studies of Society & the Environment) not only refer to social sciences but also studies of the environment. ... Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... The scope of social psychological research. ... Social policy is the study of the welfare state, and the range of responses to social need. ... Population density by country, 2006 Human geography is a branch of geography that focuses on the study of patterns and processes that shape human interaction with the environment, with particular reference to the causes and consequences of the spatial distribution of human activity on the Earths surface. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political Science is the field concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behaviour. ... Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how currently living human beings behave in social groups. ... This article provides a list of noted sociologists and major contributors to sociology (even if they did not primarily work as sociologists): Contents: Top - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z... Image:1870 census Lindauer Weber 01. ...


Social scientists use many different methods in order to describe, explore and understand social life. Social methods can generally be subdivided into two broad categories. Quantitative methods are concerned with attempts to quantify social phenomena and collect and analyse numerical data, and focus on the links among a smaller number of attributes across many cases. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, emphasise personal experiences and interpretation over quantification, are more concerned with understanding the meaning of social phenomena and focus on links among a larger number of attributes across relatively few cases. While very different in many aspects, both qualitative and quantitative approaches involve a systematic interaction between theories and data. Social relation can refer to a multitude of social interactions, regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Quantitative research. ... Social phenomena include all behavior which influences or is influenced by organisms sufficiently alive to respond to one another. ... Look up attribute in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The qualitative method in sociology is a research method. ... Social theory refers to the use of abstract and often complex theoretical frameworks to explain and analyze social patterns and large-scale social structures. ... For other uses, see Data (disambiguation). ...


Common tools of quantitative researchers include surveys, questionnaires, and secondary analysis of statistical data that has been gathered for other purposes (for example, censuses or the results of social attitudes surveys). Commonly used qualitative methods include focus groups, participant observation, and other techniques. Statistical surveys are used to collect quantitative information about items in a population. ... A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. ... This article is about the field of statistics. ... A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. ... Participant observation is a major research strategy which aims to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, or deviant group) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment. ...

Contents

Ordinary human inquiry

Before the advent of sociology and application of the scientific method to social research, human inquiry was mostly based on personal experiences, and received wisdom in the form of tradition and authority. Such approaches often led to errors such as inaccurate observations, overgeneralisation, selective observations, subjectivity and lack of logic. Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. ... For other uses, see Tradition (disambiguation). ... This article is about authority as a concept. ... Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ...


Foundations of social research

Social research (and social science in general) is based on logic and empirical observations. Charles C. Ragin writes in his Constructing Social Research book that "Social research involved the interaction between ideas and evidence. Ideas help social researchers make sense of evidence, and researchers use evidence to extend, revise and test ideas". Social research thus attempts to create or validate theories through data collection and data analysis, and its goal is exploration, description and explanation. It should never lead or be mistaken with philosophy or belief. Social research aims to find social patterns of regularity in social life and usually deals with social groups (aggregates of individuals), not individuals themselves (although science of psychology is an exception here). Research can also be divided into pure research and applied research. Pure research has no application on real life, whereas applied research attempts to influence the real world. Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses. ... For other uses, see Observation (disambiguation). ... Charles C. Ragin is a Professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of Arizona. ... The word theory has a number of distinct meanings in different fields of knowledge, depending on their methodologies and the context of discussion. ... // Data collection is a term used to describe a process of preparing and collecting business data as part of a process improvement or similar project. ... Data analysis is the act of transforming data with the aim of extracting useful information and facilitating conclusions. ... Explorer redirects here. ... An explanation is a statement which points to causes, context, and consequences of some object, process, state of affairs, etc. ... For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Believe. ... Social relation can refer to a multitude of social interactions, regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. ... In sociology, a group is usually defined as a collection consisting of a number of people who share certain aspects, interact with one another, accept rights and obligations as members of the group and share a common identity. ... Psychological science redirects here. ... Research is an active, diligent and systematic process of inquiry in order to discover, interpret or revise facts, events, behaviours, or theories, or to make practical applications with the help of such facts, laws or theories. ... For the suburb of Melbourne, Australia, see Research, Victoria. ...


There are no laws in social science that parallel the laws in the natural science. A law in social science is a universal generalization about a class of facts. A fact is an observed phenomenon, and observation means it has been seen, heard or otherwise experienced by researcher. A theory is a systematic explanation for the observations that relate to a particular aspect of social life. Concepts are the basic building blocks of theory and are abstract elements representing classes of phenomena. Axioms or postulates are basic assertions assumed to be true. Propositions are conclusions drawn about the relationships among concepts, based on analysis of axioms. Hypotheses are specified expectations about empirical reality which are derived from propositions. Social research involves testing these hypotheses to see if they are true. This page is under modification. ... The social sciences are groups of academic disciplines that study the human aspects of the world. ... The Michelson–Morley experiment was used to disprove that light propagated through a luminiferous aether. ... In set theory and its applications throughout mathematics, a class is a collection of sets (or sometimes other mathematical objects) that can be unambiguously defined by a property that all its members share. ... For the trade organisation, see Federation Against Copyright Theft. ... For other uses, see Phenomena (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Observation (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Concept (disambiguation). ... This article is about a logical statement. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... This article is about the word proposition as it is used in logic, philosophy, and linguistics. ... Look up Hypothesis in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses. ... For other uses, see Reality (disambiguation). ... One may be faced with the problem of making a definite decision with respect to an uncertain hypothesis which is known only through its observable consequences. ...


Social research involves creating a theory, operationalization (measurement of variables) and observation (actual collection of data to test hypothesized relationship). Operationalization is the process of converting concepts into specific observable behaviors that a researcher can measure. ... Measurement is the estimation of the magnitude of some attribute of an object, such as its length or weight, relative to a unit of measurement. ... In computer science and mathematics, a variable (pronounced ) (sometimes called an object or identifier in computer science) is a symbolic representation used to denote a quantity or expression. ... For other uses, see Observation (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Data (disambiguation). ...


Social theories are written in the language of variables, in other words, theories describe logical relationships between variables. Variables are logical sets of attributes, with people being the 'carriers' of those variables (for example, gender can be a variable with two attributes: male and female). Variables are also divided into independent variables (data) that influences the dependent variables (which scientists are trying to explain). For example, in a study of how different dosages of a drug are related to the severity of symptoms of a disease, a measure of the severity of the symptoms of the disease is a dependent variable and the administration of the drug in specified doses is the independent variable. Researchers will compare the different values of the dependent variable (severity of the symptoms) and attempt to draw conclusions. In computer science and mathematics, a variable (pronounced ) (sometimes called an object or identifier in computer science) is a symbolic representation used to denote a quantity or expression. ... Look up attribute in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Gender in common usage refers to the sexual distinction between male and female. ... This article is about the Male sex. ... For other uses, see Female (disambiguation). ... In an experimental design, the independent variable (argument of a function, also called a predictor variable) is the variable that is manipulated or selected by the experimenter to determine its relationship to an observed phenomenon (the dependent variable). ... In experimental design, a dependent variable (also known as response variable, responding variable or regressand) is a factor whose values in different treatment conditions are compared. ...


Types of explanations

Explanations in social theories can be idiographic or nomothetic. An idiographic approach to an explanation is one where the scientists seek to exhaust the idiosyncratic causes of a particular condition or event, i.e. by trying to provide all possible explanations of a particular case. Nomothetic explanations tend to be more general with scientists trying to identify a few causal factors that impact a wide class of conditions or events. For example, when dealing with the problem of how people choose a job, idiographic explanation would be to list all possible reasons why a given person (or group) chooses a given job, while nomothetic explanation would try to find factors that determine why job applicants in general choose a given job. In the study of psychology, idiographic describes the study of the individual, whereas nomothetic is more the study of a cohort of individuals. ... Nomothetic literally means proposition of the law (Greek derivation) and is used in both philosophy (see also Nomothetic and idiographic) and in psychology with differing meanings. ... This page is a candidate to be moved to Wiktionary. ...


Types of inquiry

Social research can be deductive or inductive. The inductive inquiry (also known as grounded research) is a model in which general principles (theories) are developed from specific observations. In deductive inquiry specific expectations of hypothesis are developed on the basis of general principles (i.e. social scientists start from an existing theory, and then search for proof). For example, in inductive research, if a scientist finds that some specific religious minorities tend to favor a specific political view, he may then extrapolate this to the hypothesis that all religious minorities tend to have the same political view. In deductive research, a scientist would start from a hypothesis that religious affiliation influenced political views and then begin observations to prove or disprove this hypothesis. Deductive reasoning is the process of reaching a conclusion that is guaranteed to follow, if the evidence provided is true and the reasoning used to reach the conclusion is correct. ... Aristotle appears first to establish the mental behaviour of induction as a category of reasoning. ...


Quantitative / qualitative debate

There is usually a trade off between the number of cases and the number of their variables that social research can study. Qualitative research usually involves few cases with many variables, while quantitative involves many phenomena with few variables. In computer science and mathematics, a variable (pronounced ) (sometimes called an object or identifier in computer science) is a symbolic representation used to denote a quantity or expression. ...


There is some debate over whether "quantitative research" and "qualitative research" methods can be complementary: some researchers argue that combining the two approaches is beneficial and helps build a more complete picture of the social world, while other researchers believe that the epistemologies that underpin each of the approaches are so divergent that they cannot be reconciled within a research project. Quantitative research is the systematic scientific investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. ... Qualitative research is one of the two major approaches to research methodology in social sciences. ... Theory of knowledge redirects here: for other uses, see theory of knowledge (disambiguation) According to Plato, knowledge is a subset of that which is both true and believed Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief. ...


While quantitative methods are based on a natural science, positivist model of testing theory, qualitative methods are based on interpretivism and are more focused around generating theories and accounts. Positivists treat the social world as something that is 'out there', external to the social scientist and waiting to be researched. Interpretivists, on the other hand believe that the social world is constructed by social agency and therefore any intervention by a researcher will affect social reality. Herein lies the supposed conflict between quantitative and qualitative approaches - quantitative approaches traditionally seek to minimise intervention in order to produce valid and reliable statistics, whereas qualitative approaches traditionally treat intervention as something that is necessary (often arguing that participation can lead to a better understanding of a social situation). The Michelson–Morley experiment was used to disprove that light propagated through a luminiferous aether. ... Positivism can have several meanings. ... Interpretivism in the social sciences refers to a method, or group of methods, that holds that the social sciences ought to be concerned, not simply with quantifying what actually happens in social phenomena, but in providing an interpretation of events and phenomena in terms of how the people involved understand... Social reality is distinct from biological or individual cognitive reality, and consists of the accepted social tenets of a community. ...


However, it is increasingly recognised that the significance of these differences should not be exaggerated and that quantitative and qualitative approaches can be complementary. They can be combined in a number of ways, for example:

  1. Qualitative methods can be used in order to develop quantitative research tools. For example, focus groups could be used to explore an issue with a small number of people and the data gathered using this method could then be used to develop a quantitative survey questionnaire that could be administered to a far greater number of people allowing results to be generalised.
  2. Qualitative methods can be used to explore and facilitate the interpretation of relationships between variables. For example researchers may inductively hypothesize that there would be a positive relationship between positive attitudes of sales staff and the amount of sales of a store. However, quantitative, deductive, structured observation of 576 convenience stores could reveal that this was not the case, and in order to understand why the relationship between the variables was negative the researchers may undertake qualitative case studies of four stores including participant observation. This might abductively confirm that the relationship was negative, but that it was not the positive attitude of sales staff that led to low sales, but rather that high sales led to busy staff who were less likely to be express positive emotions at work![1]

Quantitative methods are useful for describing social phenomena, especially on a larger scale. Qualitative methods allow social scientists to provide richer explanations (and descriptions) of social phenomena, frequently on a smaller scale. By using two or more approaches researchers may be able to 'triangulate' their findings and provide a more valid representation of the social world. A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. ... Aristotle appears first to establish the mental behaviour of induction as a category of reasoning. ... In mathematics and statistics, a or positive or direct relationship is a relationship between two variables in which they both increase or decrease in conjunction. ... Deductive reasoning is the kind of reasoning where the conclusion is necessitated or implied by previously known premises. ... Case studies involve a particular method of research. ... Abduction, or inference to the best explanation, is a method of reasoning in which one chooses the hypothesis that would, if true, best explain the relevant evidence. ...


A combination of different methods are often used within "comparative research", which involves the study of social processes across nation-states, or across different types of society. Comparative research is a research methodology in the social sciences that aims to make comparisons across different countries or cultures. ...


Paradigms

Social scientists usually follow one or more of the several specific sociological paradigms (points of view): Sociological paradigm (also sociological perespectives or frameworks) are specific points of view used by social scientists in social research. ...

Of these, the conflict paradigm of Karl Marx, symbolic interactionism of Max Weber and structural functionalism of Emile Durkheim are the most well known. In sociology and biology, conflict theory states that the society or organization functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximize their benefits, which inevitably contributes to social change such as changes in politics and revolutions. ... Ethnomethodology (literally, the study of peoples methods) is a sociological discipline which focuses on the way people make sense of the world and display their understandings of it. ... Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation. ... Social Darwinism is the idea that Charles Darwins theory can be extended and applied to the social realm, i. ... This article describes the term positivism as used in social sciences, especially within the science of sociology. ... The article is about functionalism in sociology; for other uses, see functionalism. ... Social structure (also referred to as a social system) is a system in which people forming the society are organized by a patterns of prelationships. ... For other uses, see Paradigm (disambiguation). ... Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective which examines how individuals and groups interact, focusing on the creation of personal identity through interaction with others. ... Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a 19th century philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective which examines how individuals and groups interact, focusing on the creation of personal identity through interaction with others. ... For the politician, see Max Weber (politician). ... The article is about functionalism in sociology; for other uses, see functionalism. ... David Émile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 - November 15, 1917) is known as the founder of modern sociology. ...


The ethics of social research

Two main assumptions of the ethics in social research are: For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ...

  • voluntary participation
  • no harm to subjects

See also

Analytic frame is a detailed sketch or outline of some social phenomenon, representing initial idea of a scientist analyzing this phenomenon. ... Program evaluation is essentially a set of philosophies and techniques to determine if a program works. It is a practice field that has emerged, particularly in the USA, as a disciplined way of assessing the merit, value, and worth of projects and programs. ... Scaling is the measurement of a variable in such a way that it can be expressed on a continuum. ... Tony Vinson is one of Australias leading social scientists and outspoken[2] public intellectuals[3], an honorary Doctor of Letters in Social Work (honoris causa) from the University of Sydney, as well as being an Honorary Professor in the School of Social Work and Policy Studies at the University... A research method in social sciences. ...

Social research organisations

The Economic and Social Research Council is the main UK state funding agency for research and graduate studies in the social sciences. ... The Institute for Social Research (German: Institut für Sozialforschung) is a research organization covering topics such as sociology and continental philosophy, best known as the institutional home of the Frankfurt School. ... Mass-Observation was a United Kingdom social research organisation founded in 1937. ... Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Socia Research ... The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) was founded in 1969 as Social and Community Planning and Research (SCPR) by Professor Roger Jowell and Gerald Hoinville. ... The National Opinion Research Center (NORC),established in 1941, is one of the largest and highly respected national social research organizations in the United States. ... New School University is an institute of higher learning in New York City. ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ... Hebrew Arabic حَيْفَا Founded in 3rd century CE Government City District Haifa Population 267,000 1,039,000 (metropolitan area) Jurisdiction 63,666 dunams (63. ...

Social research projects

The Radio Project was a social research project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. ... Year 1937 (MCMXXXVII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Social research techniques

A structured interview (also known as a standardised interview or a researcher-administered survey) is a quantitative research method commonly employed in survey research. ... Statistical surveys are used to collect quantitative information about items in a population. ... A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. ... Content analysis (also called: textual analysis) is a standard methodology in the social sciences on the subject of communication content. ... Quantitative marketing research is a social research method that utilizes statistical techniques. ... Analytic induction refers to a systematic examination of similarities between various social phenomena in order to develop concepts or ideas. ... Ethnography ( ethnos = people and graphein = writing) is the genre of writing that presents varying degrees of qualitative and quantitative descriptions of human social phenomena, based on fieldwork. ... A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. ... For other senses of this word see morphology. ... Participant observation is a major research strategy which aims to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, or deviant group) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment. ... A semi-structured interview is a method of research used in the social sciences. ... Unstructured Interviews are a method of interviews where questions can be changed or adapted to meet the respondents intelligence, understanding or belief. ... Textual analysis when refering to the Constitution is analyzing the text. ... Theoretical sampling is a term coined by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in 1967 in the context of social research to describe the process of choosing new research sites or research cases to compare with one that has already been studied. ...

Notes

  1. ^ Sutton, Robert I. & Rafaeli, Anat (1988), Untangling the relationship between displayed emotions and organizational sales: The case of convenience stores. Academy of Management Journal, 31(3): 461-487

References

  • Earl Babbie, 'The Practice of Social Research', 10th edition, Wadsworth, Thomson Learning Inc., ISBN 0-534-62029-9
  • W. Lawrence Neuman, 'Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 6th edition, Allyn & Bacon, 2006, ISBN 0-205-45793-2
  • Charles C. Ragin, 'Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity of Method', Pine Forge Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8039-9021-9

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