Social Research Methods (Outline)

Bryman, A. (2008). Social Research Methods (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.

Some of you may or may not be interested in this, but this was essentially my crash course/note taking in sociology methods.  I keep it here for future reference.  I may or may not modify it or add to it.

INTRODUCTION

Questions:

  • Is a natural science model of the research process applicable to the study of society?  Why or why not?
  • What kind or kinds of research findings are regarded as legitimate and acceptable (q.v. Chapter 25, p. 505, Politics and ethics in social research)?

 

Structure of the Book:

CH 1 – Nature of relationship between theory and research
CH 2 – Research design and research questions
CH 3 (Part 2) – Nature of quantitative research
CH 4 – Sampling issues
CH 5 – Structured interviewing
CH 6 – Questionnaire design
CH 7 – Asking questions
CH 8 – Structured observation
CH 9 – Content analysis
CH 10 – Data analysis
CH 11 – Quantitative analysis tools
CH 13 (Part 3) – Qualitative research overview
CH 14 – Ethnography and participant observation
CH 15 – Qualitative interviews
CH 16 – Focus group method
CH 17 – Conversation and discourse analysis
CH 18 – Qualitative document analysis
CH 19 – Approaches to qualitative data analysis
CH 21 (Part 4:  Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis) – Blurred distinctions between qualitative and quantitative
CH 22 – Integration of these two methods
CH 24 – The writing of research
CH 25 – Ethical and political issues
CH 26 – Research projects: Step by step

 

How to Use This Book:

  • Wider methodological and philosophical issues (CH 1, 21)
  • Survey research (CH 4, 7, 11, 23)
  • Qualitative practical issues (CH 2, all of Part 3)
  • Analyzing data  (CH 11, 19)
  • Formulating research questions (Part 1, CH 26)
  • Doing your own research  (CH 26)
  • Writing (CH 24, 26)
  • Ethics (CH 25)
  • Qualitative vs Quantitative (CH 1, 13, 21, 22)

 

CHAPTER 1

  • Nature of the relationship between Theory and Research
  • Theory guides research = Deductive approach
  • Theory is an outcome of research = Inductive approach
  • Theory
  • Hypothesis
  • Data collection
  • Findings
  • Hypothesis
  • Confirmed
  • Rejected
  • Revision of Theory

 

Epistemological Issues (The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its pre-suppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.):  What is acceptable knowledge in a discipline.  Can the social world be studied according to the same principles, procedures, ethos, as the natural sciences, primarily Positivism, an epistemological position that advocates the application of methods of the  natural sciences to the  study of social reality and beyond, which includes:

  1. Only phenomena and knowledge confirmed by the senses (Phenomenalism).
  2. Theory that generates hypotheses that can be tested, that allow for explanations of laws to be assessed (Deductivism).
  3. Knowledge is arrived at through the gathering of facts that provide the basis of laws (Inductivism).
  4. Must be “objective” in that science must be conducted so that it is value free.
  5. There must be a clear distinction between scientific and normative states.

 

Ontological Issues/Considerations (The theory of the nature of social issues from that department of the science of metaphysics which investigates and explains the nature and essential properties and relations of all beings, as such, or the principles and causes of being.) that are situationally defined by the social circumstances in question. Ontological issues are primarily manifested in:

 

Objectivism, that asserts that social phenomenon and their meanings have an existence independent of social actors.

 

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

 

Quantitative:

  1. Deductive approach
  2. Natural scientific model
  3. External, objective social reality

 

Qualitative

  1. Inductive generation of theory
  2. Interpretivism
  3. Constructivism — constantly shifting social reality

The values of the social researcher influence his social research.

 

CHAPTER 2:  Research Design

Research Design:  a framework for the collection and analysis of data that reflects decisions about the priority being given to a range of dimensions of the research process (Research design is used in conjunction with research strategy — either quantitative or qualitative) including:

  • Expressing causal connections
  • Generalizing to larger groups of individuals than those forming part of the investigation
  • Understanding the behaviors and the meaning of that behaviour in the specific social context
  • Having a temporal appreciation of social phenomenon and their interconnections

 

Research Method:  a technique for collecting data

 

Criteria for evaluation of social research

  • Reliability (consistency of measures)
  • Replication
  • Validity (integrity of the conclusions)

 

Research Questions: Crucial.  No research questions or poorly formulated questions will lead to poor research that is unfocused.

  • Guide the literature search
  • Guide the decisions about the kind of research design to employ
  • Guide decisions about what data to collect and from whom
  • Guide the analysis of your data
  • Guide the writing of your data
  • Guide you from going off on any unnecessary tangents

 

Research Area:

  1. Select Aspects Of Research Area
  2. Research Questions
  3. Select Research Questions

 

Research Designs:

  • Experimental – experimental group (aka treatment group) vs. control group
  • Cross-Sectional or Survey – questionnaires, structured observation, content analysis, official statistics, and diaries
  • Longitudinal – data collected on a sample of people, documents, etc. on at least two occasions.  This is generally time and cost intensive.
  • Case-Study – detailed and intensive analysis of a single case (community, school, family, organization, person, or event)
  • Comparative – study using more or less identical methods of two contrasting cases in order to illuminate existing teory or generate theoretical insights as a result of contrasting findings uncovered through the comparison.

 

CHAPTER 3

Nature of Quantitative Research

 

Process:

  1. Theory
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Research Design
  4. Devise measures of concepts*
  5. Select research site
  6. Select research subjects/responders
  7. Administer research instruments/collect data
  8. Process data
  9. Analyze data
  10. Findings/Conclusions
  11. Write up findings/conclusions

*Concepts are the building blocks of theory that represent the points** around which social research is conducted.  Concepts require Indicators.  An indicator is a measure of a concept or an operational definition, an indicator or indicators that will stand for the concept when no direct measure is available.

**Points are labels we give to our social world, e.g. “culture,” “academic achievement,” “conversion,” “healthy lifestyle”.

Measuring:

  1. Allows us to delineate fine differences between people in terms of the characteristic in question.
  2. Gives us a consistent device for making such distinctions.
  3. Provides the basis for more precise estimates of the degree of relationship between concepts.

 

Main Preoccupations of quantitative researchers:

  • Measurement
  • Causality
  • Generalization
  • Replication

 

CHAPTER 4:  Sampling

Sample:  A segment of the population that is selected for research.  A sample is a subset of the population.

Sampling:  Proper Steps in conducting a social survey

  1. Issues to researched
  2. Review literature/theories relating to topic area
  3. Formulate research questions
  4. Consider whether a social survey is appropriate or consider an alternate method
  5. Consider what kind of population will be appropriate
  6. Consider what kind of sample design will be employed
  7. Explore whether there is a sampling frame that can be employed
  8. Decide on a sampling size and note that absolute size is more important than relative size
  9. Decide on mode of administration, whether face to face,  phone, postal, email, or web
  10. Develop questions and devise answer alternatives for closed questions
  11. Review questions and assess face validity
  12. Pilot questions
  13. Finalize questionnaire and schedule
  14. Sample from population >>Administer questionnaire and schedule to sample
  15. Follow up on non-respondents at least once
  16. Transform completed questionnaires/schedules into computer readable data
  17. Enter data into statistical analysis program like SPSS
  18. Analyze data
  19. Interpret findings
  20. Consider implications of findings for research questions.

 

Chapter 5:  Structured Interviewing or research interviewing in which all respondents are asked exactly the same questions in the same order with the  aid of a formal interview schedule.

Chapter 6:  Self-completion questionnaires where the respondents answer without the aid of an interviewer

Chapter 7:  Asking open or closed questions

Chapter 8:  Structured observation

Chapter 9:  Content analysis or quantitative analysis of documents and texts that seeks to quantify content in terms of predetermined categories in a systematic and replicable manner

Chapter 10:  Secondary analysis and official statisitcs collected by others and the government

Chapter 11:  Quantitative data analysis or the quantification in the collection and analysis of data that is usually deductivist and objectivist as a research strategy.

 

Chapter 13:  Nature of qualitative research

Main steps:

1. General research questions
2. Selecting relevant site(s) and subjects
3. Collection of relevant data
5b. Collection of further data
4. Interpretation of data
5. Conceptual and theoretical work
5b. Tighter specification of the research questions (see 5b, above)
6. Write up findings/conclusions

 

Chapter 14:  Ethnography and participant observation that entail the extended involvement of the researcher in the social life of the study of the subjects.

Chapter 15:  Interviewing in Qualitative research is less structured and includes focus groups

Chapter 16:  Focus groups

 

CHAPTER 17:  Language in qualitative research

  • Conversation analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Nonverbal communication analysis

 

Chapter 18:  Documents as sources of data

Chapter 19:  Qualitative data analysis

 

CHAPTER 24:  Writing up social research

  • Utilizes rhetoric
  1. Introduction
  2. Theory
  3. Data
  4. Measurement (how main concepts in research are measured)
  5. Methods and Models – outlines the different ways in which the relationships between the variables might be conceptualized and the
  6. implications of using different multivariate analysis approaches
  7. Results
  8. Conclusion

 

CHAPTER 25:  Ethics and Politics

Whether it is:

  • Harmful to participants
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Deception

 

CHAPTER 26:  Doing a research project

  • Understand the university’s expectations
  • Start thinking about your research area early on

 

Identifying research questions helps to:

  • Guide literature search
  • Guide to decide what data needs collecting
  • Guide your analysis of data
  • Guide your writing up of data
  • Focus your paper and stop/prevent it from going off into unnecessary directions and tangents

 

Necessities:

  • Using your supervisor
  • Managing time and resources
  • Searching existing literature
  • Preparing for research (write literature reviews to practice and to study others)
  • Doing research and analyzing results

 

Writing research

  • Start early
  • Get feedback
  • Avoid biased language

 

Structure your writing:

  1. Title page
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Contents
  4. Abstract
  5. Introduction
  6. Literature review (Review main ideas and research relating to your area of interest)
  7. Research methods
  8. Results:  bulk of findings
  9. Discussion:  Implications of your findings for your research questions that have driven your research.
  10. Conclusion
  11. Appendices
  12. References