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Disaster Research Boot Camp. A Brief Introduction to Social Science Research. Havidán Rodríguez, Ph.D. Disaster Research Center University of Delaware. 2005 NDMS Disaster Response Conference Orlando, Florida May 2, 2005.

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a brief introduction to social science research

Disaster Research Boot Camp

A Brief Introduction toSocial Science Research

Havidán Rodríguez, Ph.D.

Disaster Research Center

University of Delaware

2005 NDMS Disaster Response Conference

Orlando, Florida

May 2, 2005

behavioral objectives
Behavioral Objectives
  • Define Research and Basic Terms of the Field
  • Discuss Some Data Collection Methodologies
  • Explore Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
“Numbers do not exist independent of people; understanding numbers requires knowing:”
    • Who counted what?
    • Why they bothered counting?
    • How they went about it? (Best, 2004:XIII)
ethical issues and your research agenda

Babbie, 2004

Ethical issues and your Research Agenda
  • Voluntary participation: Informed consent
  • No harm to participants
  • Avoid deception
  • Confidentiality and privacy issues
  • Accurate Analysis and Reporting:
    • Researchers must be honest about their findings and research
social science research
Social Science Research
  • Social Science Research explores:
    • What is?
      • What is disaster preparedness?
    • Why?
      • Why do some individuals prepare for an impending disaster and others do not?
    • Social regularities
      • Who are most likely to prepare? What are their demographic and socio-economic characteristics?
three purposes of research
Three Purposes of Research
  • Exploration
  • Description
  • Explanation
foundations of social science
Foundations of Social Science
  • Theory - Logic - focuses on what is and not what should be
  • Data collection - Observation
  • Data Analysis - Comparison of what is logically expected with what is actually observed

The Wheel of Science

(Walter Wallace, 1971)

silverman 1993 9


Qualitative Use

Quantitative Use


Fundamental to understanding other cultures

Preliminary work: Before developing the questionnaire

Content Analysis

To understand the participant’s categories

Content analysis (counting the number of concepts in categories established by the investigator)


Open-ended questions to small samples

Closed-ended questions to a random sample


Used to understand how participants organize their conversations

Rarely used to verify the reliability of the interview

Qualitative and Quantitative

(Silverman, 1993: 9)

Unit of analysis


  • Who or what is being studied:
  • Dependent: Caused by another (independent) variable (e.g., evacuation behavior)
  • Independent: Impacts the dependent variable (e.g., income, gender, race, previous disaster experience)
  • A hypothesis is a specific statement or prediction
  • It describes in concrete (rather than theoretical) terms what you expect will happen in your study
  • Describes a provisional (but testable) relationship between two variables (i.e., white population is more likely to evacuate than minority population)
correlation vs causation
Correlation vs. Causation
  • Correlation vis-à-vis Causation:
  • What’s the difference?
the time dimension
The Time Dimension
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • In the 2000 Presidential election, pollsters came within a couple of percentage points of estimating the votes of 100 million people.
  • To gather this information, they interviewed fewer than 2,000 people.
random sampling
Random Sampling
  • Based on probability theory
  • All elements must have same probability of selection
  • Sample is representative of the elements included in that sampling frame
  • Allows you to generalize to the population
  • Primarily associated with quantitative data analysis

Random Sampling


random sampling25
Random Sampling
  • Types of Sampling Designs
  • Simple random sampling (SRS)
  • Systematic sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Multi-stage cluster sampling
    • Probability proportional to size sampling (PPS)
non probability sampling
Non-Probability Sampling
  • Are not representative of the population which it pretends to study
  • Ideal for qualitative studies
  • Some types of non-probability sampling:
    • Available subjects
    • Purposive sampling
    • Snowball Sampling

Strengths of Survey Research:

    • Useful in describing the characteristics of a large population
    • Flexible - many questions can be asked on a given topic
    • Primarily quantitative data analysis

Survey Research


Weaknesses of Survey Research:

    • Can seldom deal with the context of social life (e.g., artificiality)
    • Inflexible in some ways
    • Weak on validity

Survey Research


Survey Research

  • Mail Surveys:
    • Advantages:
      • Inexpensive
    • Disadvantages:
      • Low response rates
      • Biased samples
      • Multiple follow-ups are important

Telephone Surveys

    • Advantages:
      • Money and time
      • Control over data collection
    • Disadvantages:
      • Surveys that are really ad campaigns
      • People hang up on you
      • Answering machines
      • May not be representative: Use CATI with random digit dialing

Survey Research


Face-to-face Interviews:

    • Advantages:
      • Control over data collection
      • Very high response rates
    • Disadvantages:
      • Very expensive
      • Labor intensive

Survey Research

some questions regarding polls surveys

Babbie, 2004, Appendix G

Some Questions Regarding Polls & Surveys
  • Who conducted the poll/survey?
  • Who paid for the poll/survey and why was it done?
  • How many people were interviewed?
  • How were the people chosen? What was the response rate? Sample bias?
some questions regarding polls surveys33

Babbie, 2004, Appendix G

Some Questions Regarding Polls & Surveys
  • When was the poll/survey conducted?
  • How were the interviews conducted (face-to-face, mail, phone)?
  • What is the sampling error for the poll/survey results?
  • What questions were asked (wording, sensitive topics)?

Data collected by other researchers or institutions:

    • Decennial Census
    • Current Population Survey
    • Other types of surveys or archives
  • Advantages: Economical; accessible; ease of use
  • Disadvantages: No control over data collection process; validity/reliability issues; might not include some of the variables you need

Secondary Data Analysis

ethnographic studies are designed to answer some basic questions

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic studies are designed to answer some basic questions:
  • What is occurring in this environment,
  • community or place?
  • 2.Who is involved or participating in what types of activities?
  • 3.Why is what’s being done, done?

(Schensul, et. al. Enhanced Ethnographic Methods, 1999)


Ethnographic Research

Ethnographers use these questions to obtain basic information about social structures, social events, cultural patterns, and the definitions people give to these patterns or events


Ethnographic Research

1.It is directed by and generates theories2. Primarily qualitative 3.It is done locally (in communities)4.Ethnographic research is applied

  • Ethnographic studies are based on four basic principles:

(Schensul, et. al. Enhanced Ethnographic Methods, 1999)

schensul et al enhanced ethnographic methods 1999

Techniques to Obtain Ethnographic Information

Schensul, et. al. Enhanced Ethnographic Methods,1999)
  • Audiovisual techniques used to record behavior and communication through electronic devices
  • 2.Interviews using focus groups
  • 3.Non-structured observation
  • 4.Non-structured in-depth interviews
  • 5.Semi-structured interviews

Evaluation Research


concluding comments
Concluding Comments
  • The goals of social science research should be to:
    • Discover
    • Explain
    • Transform (Many debates on this issue)
concluding questions
Concluding Questions
  • What is the importance of the research?
  • What are the theoretical or applied contributions?
  • Do we now know more than what we did before the research?
  • What is the value and use of this research and how can it meet the needs of our communities?
for additional information
For Additional Information
  • Visit the DRC facilities at:
    • 87 E. Main Street, Newark, DE
    • (302) 831-6618
  • Visit the DRC webpage:
    • www.udel.edu/DRC/

The End