Research Methods in the Social Sciences What is Research?
Outline • Ice breaker • What is the course about? • Definitions of research • Key terms & issues • What is the purpose of research? • Positivism & Interpretism
Ice Breaker • Introductions • In pairs: • What research have you conducted recently? • What evidence did you collect?
What is this course all about • Gain knowledge and a theoretical understanding of a wide range of research approaches in the social sciences as well as enabling students to apply their research knowledge and skills to research situations Learning Outcomes • demonstrate an understanding of the principles underlying the design, process and analysis of a range of social research • identify appropriate research methods for particular research questions and settings be able to relate different research methods to theoretical perspectives • show an awareness and sensitivity to the ethical and political issues of research • conduct a mini social science research project
CE204 : Research Methods in the Social Sciences • 8 Units • Two hour session each week Assessment: • either 100% Coursework (5,000 word essay and 5,000 word mini research project) or • 100% Examination (3 hours) or • 50% : 50% coursework and examination (coursework - either a 5,000 word essay or a 5,000 word mini research project and an examination - 2 hours)
This Term Autumn Term Week 1: Introduction to research: What is research in the social sciences? The purpose of research. Week 2: Research design: Deciding on an appropriate method – introduction to quantitative and qualitative methods. Week 3: Quantitative research: Designing a questionnaire. Week 4: Quantitative research: Sampling methods for survey research and the logic of the survey method. Week 5: Quantitative research: Analysis and writing up. Week 6: Reading weekWeek 7: Statistics and their Uses Week 8: Quantitative methods: Approaches to interviewing. Week 9: Qualitative methods: Analysis and writing up. Week 10: Qualitative methods continued and study skills, writing essays and writing a mini research project.
Definitions of Research • “Research is a disciplined process for answering questions about some aspect of the observable, touchable world” (Dixon, Bouma & Atkinson, 1987) • “The systematic, controlled, empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about the presumed relations among natural phenomena” (Kerlinger, 1969) • “The production of a publicly scrutinizable analysis of a phenomenon with the intent of clarification” (Reinharz, 1992) • “A critical process for asking and attempting to answer questions about the world” (Dane, 1990)
Empirical • Refers to the collection of data on the social world to test or generate propositions of social science • Empirical research is based on observation and experiment – data that can be measured.
Empiricism • “The Belief that there are ‘facts’ which we can gather on the social world, independently of how people interpret them. As a method of research empiricism lacks, or more usually has not referred explicitly to the theory guiding its data collection” (May, 1993) • “Empiricism refers to a conception of social research involving the production of accurate data – meticulous, precise, generalizable – in which the data themselves constitute an end for the research. It is summed up by the catchphrase ‘ the facts speak for themselves’” (Bulmer, 1982)
Key Issues • Generalizability • Soft vs hard data • Quantitative or qualitative • Research - theory - practice • Positivist / interpretist • Reliability • Replication • Validity
What is the Purpose of Research? • Influence Policy • Change practice • Enhance knowledge • Develop theory • Describe social situations
Positivist Sociology • Aims to follow the scientific model • An objective & external world that can be discovered and measured through observation of how it acts upon us • Seeks laws
Interpretive Sociology • Belief in a subjective reality • Social world is the outcome of interaction • Concerned with the study of experience from the perspective of the individual
Next Week Research design: Deciding on an appropriate method – introduction to quantitative and qualitative methods.
Homework • Find a newspaper article that: • Presents qualitative evidence • Presents quantitative evidence • Obtain a methods course book • Visit webpage