Research design
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Research Design. Purposes for Research Criteria for Causation Units of Analysis The Time Component. Three Purposes of Research. Exploration Description Explanation. Criteria for Causation . Two Things Must be Related (Correlation) The Cause Must Precede the Effect (Time ordering)

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Research Design

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Research design

Research Design

Purposes for Research

Criteria for Causation

Units of Analysis

The Time Component

Three purposes of research

Three Purposes of Research

  • Exploration

  • Description

  • Explanation

Criteria for causation

Criteria for Causation

  • Two Things Must be Related (Correlation)

  • The Cause Must Precede the Effect (Time ordering)

  • The Relationship Must be “Non-Spurious”

Common mistakes

Common Mistakes

  • “Complete” causation

  • Exceptional cases

  • Majority of cases

Necessary sufficient

Necessary / Sufficient

  • A Necessary Cause

    • X must be present for Y to occur

  • A Sufficient Cause

    • If X is present, Y must occur

Units of analysis

Units of Analysis

  • This is the “what” that is being studied

    • Social scientists can have almost anything as the unit of analysis

    • It is even possible to have a study with multiple units of analysis


    • Knowing that a person studied “people” does not necessarily tell you the unit of analysis

Some of my tricks

Some of my tricks…

  • Look at what a researcher is predicting or counting—if something is expressed in “rates,” it is a group level unit of analysis

  • Rephrase a persons research hypothesis or statement in way that makes the unit of analysis more explicit

  • If “groups” are a part of the study, figure out whether the researcher is comparing groups, or simply using group status as an “attribute” in order to compare individuals

The individual level

The Individual Level

  • Typically, individual people

    • Don’t confuse “generalizing” with units of analysis

    • You can study “groups” or “classes” of people, but still have individuals as unit of analysis

  • Non-people examples

    • Social artifacts and Social interactions

      • Typically individual, but could be aggregates

Group aggregate level

Group (Aggregate) Level

  • KEY = the group is the entity we study—looking at attributes of the group

    • May sometimes studies individuals to construct such attributes (e.g., construct rate)

  • Organizations

    • Corporations, churches,

Research design


  • Why is “time” important?

    • Causal ordering

    • Generalization

  • Cross-Sectional Research

  • Longitudinal

    • Trend

    • Cohort

    • Panel

Ways to get around longitudinal research e g cheating

Ways to Get Around Longitudinal Research (e.g., Cheating)

  • Logic can sometimes dictate cause and effect

  • Sometimes the data can help draw conclusions about cause and effect

  • Retrospective studies

  • Use age differences within sample to reach conclusions

  • Repeat a prior cross-sectional study

Designing a research project

Designing a Research Project

  • Research is MESSY!!!

  • Theories and Ideas

  • Starting Point

    • Read, read, read

    • Purpose of research

  • Conceptualization

  • Choice of Research Method

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