Class 16 Unobtrusive Research
Class Outline • Two General Types of Research Methods • Reactive/obtrusive • Surveys • Experiments • Field research • Unobtrusive • Content Analysis • Analyzing Existing Statistics • Historical and Comparative Analysis
Content Analysis • A research method for systematically analyzing and making inferences from text. • Texts are broadly defined as books, chapters, essays, interviews, discussions, newspaper headlines, articles, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, etc. • Allows for both qualitative and quantitative operations. • Qualitative – involves coding and categorizing text and identifying relationships among constructs identified in the text. • Quantitative – statistically analyzes coded text.
Steps of Content Analysis • Identify a population of documents or other textual sources for study. • Determine the units of analysis. • Select a sample of units from the population. • Design coding procedures for the variables to be measured. • Test and refine the coding procedures. • Base statistical analyses on counting occurrences of particular words, themes, or phrases, and test relations between different variables.
Example:Who Wrote the 15th Book of Oz?Baum or Thompson? – Jose Binongo Population = 29 books of OZ: 14 by Baum, 14 by Thompson, and The Royal Book of Oz (the 15th book)
Units of analysis Units of analysis are text blocks of 5000 words. N = 223. Analysis dataset is a table of 233 observations by 50 variables. Variables are frequencies of function words. 50 variables are used, corresponding to the 50 most frequently used function words.
Principle Component Analysis (PCA): A Statistical Method for Dimensional Reduction 2nd PC position words 1st PC Interpretation: “which,” and “that” are on the opposite of “up,” “on,” “down,” and “over” on the 1st PC. This means that if a text block uses a lot of “which” or “that,” it tends to use fewer position words. In this application, the 1st PC coincides with authorship.
Each data point is a text block of 5000 words, either by Baum or by Thompson. PCA is a multivariate statistical technique for dimensional reduction. In this application, it preserves the variation of the 50 variables by using only 2 dimensions. The first dimension distinguishes authorship. Baum’s texts are clustered on the right side of the 1st Pc, while Thompson’s are clustered on the left side of the 1st PC. The Royal Book of Oz is clearly written by Thompson. The Attribution of the Royal Book of Oz Baum Thompson
Strengths of Content Analysis • Looks directly at communications via texts or transcripts. Richness of data. • Economy of time and money. • It's simple to repeat (a portion of) the study if necessary. • Permits you to study processes occurring over a long time. • Unobtrusive - Researcher seldom has any effect on the subject being studied. • Possible to achieve high reliability.
Weaknesses of Content Analysis • Limited to the examination of recorded communications. • Is often devoid of theoretical base. Tends to simply consists of word counts.
Analyzing Existing Statistics • Existing statistics can be the main source of data or a supplemental source of data. • Problems with validity - Often existing data don't cover the exact question. • Reliability is dependent on the quality of the statistics.
Secondary Data Sources • U.S. Bureau of Census (Data retrieval system American FactFinder) http://www.census.gov • Bureau of Labor Statistics http://stats.bls.gov • Data Archive – ICPSR http://www.icpsr.umich.edu
Historical and Comparative Research • Seeks to discover patterns in the histories of different cultures by comparing two or more cases across space and/or time. • Main resources for observation and analysis are historical records. • Where do history and sociology intersect and differ? • Nomothetic -- prevailing mode in sociology. • Idiographic -- prevailing mode in history. • Examples: • Durkheim’s study of suicide • Weber’s study of capitalism
Historical and Comparative Research Caution: • Documents and other evidence may have been lost of damaged. • Be wary of bias in data sources. • Available evidence may represent more newsworthy figures. • Written records will be biased toward those who were more prone to writing.
Macro-Causal Analysis • Purpose # 1 - developing new explanations. • Purpose # 2 - “setting scope conditions” for theory. • Method of Agreement • Method of Difference • Comments
Method of Agreement 1. Select cases with the same outcome (dependent variable). 2. Compare possible causal factors across cases. 3. Try to isolate one or a few features that are the SAME across cases. 4. Conclude that this is the causal factor producing the outcome. • Example from Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions.
Method of Difference 1. Select cases with different outcomes (dependent variable). 2. Compare possible causal factors across cases. 3. Try to isolate one or a few features that are DIFFERENT across cases. 4. Conclude that this is the decisive difference (i.e. the causal factor) producing different outcomes. • Another Example from Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions.
Weaknesses of Macro-Causal Analysis • Researcher must assume deterministic causality. • There might be multiple causes or interaction effects. • Unlikely that you could measure all causal factors. • Selection on the dependent variable.