The Logic of Social Science Research. A lecture by. Sociology 3522 31 Jan. 2006. Dr. Christopher Kollmeyer. Epistemology: How do we know when something is true?. Religion Faith / Tradition / Dogma Natural Sciences Scientific Method Social Sciences 3 Research Orientations
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The Logic of Social Science Research A lecture by Sociology 3522 31 Jan. 2006 Dr. Christopher Kollmeyer
Epistemology: How do we know when something is true? • Religion Faith / Tradition / Dogma • Natural Sciences Scientific Method • Social Sciences 3Research Orientations • Positivism • Realism • Interpretivism
The Scientific Method Supported Theory Tentative Explanation (Hypothesis) Unexplained Phenomenon Observable Prediction Experiment
Key Characteristics of the Scientific Method: • Falsification • Karl Popper (1959) “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” • Either reject or support hypothesis, but never “prove” it • existential statements • Repeatable / Verifiable / Peer Reviewed • Theories Scientific Laws (Accepted Theories) • “Laws” can be overturned • Science is dynamic
Key Epistemological Question: Can the social world be studied with the same methods and principles used in the natural sciences? • YES Positivism (Emile Durkheim) • Typically Deductive Research • NO Interpretivism or Verstehen (Max Weber) • Typically Inductive Research • YES Realism (Karl Mark, Sigmund Freud) • No methodological preference
Positivism • Scientific knowledge derived from observations (empiricism) • Theory alone is not scientific knowledge philosophy • Scientific knowledge based on data and facts • Science is value free • Objective vs. normative statements • Deductive research is best Theory Hypothesis Collect Data Findings Hypothesis confirmed or rejected Revise theory
Building Blocks of Positivistic Social Research: Theories, Hypotheses, and Variables Theory: Elaborate and detailed explanation for a particular social phenomenon. Theory determines the ‘causal relationship’ between social variables. The data determine the ‘correlation between variables’. Founding Theories of Sociology Karl Marx (Capitalism and Society) Max Weber (Religion and Capitalism) Emile Durkheim (DOL and Anomie) Sigmund Freud (social norms and individual happiness)
Hypothesis: A short and empirically testable statement, based upon a theory, that describes a certain social phenomenon. Possible Hypotheses for Founding Theories: Marx: The more the economy is privately owned, the more economic inequality that society will experience. Weber: Protestant dominated countries have stronger economies than Catholic dominated countries. Durkheim: The more advanced the division of labor in a society, the more that society will suffer from anomie. Freud: People living in societies with repressivesexually norms tend to have more nervous disorders.
Variables: An important “social object” within a theory that can take on two or more different values or categories. Examples of Sociological Variables: Economic systems: capitalism, socialism, mixed economies. Social Class: upper class, middle class, working class, lower class. Gender: Age: Sexual orientation: Income:
Measurement Validity Proxies: A variable that represents (albeit imperfectly) a more complicated sociological concept. Proxies enable researchers to measure abstract social phenomena. Examples: Concept PossibleProxy Economic inequality ---- Gini Coefficient Industrial Conflict ---- Strikes per year Gender Equality -- Gender pay gap Political participation --- ??? Academic abilities -- ??? National Prosperity --- ????
In-Class Exercise: 1) Write out a one sentence hypothesis that may explain the following social problems: poverty gender inequality in the workplace low voter turnout anti-social behavior among teenagers 2) How you would measure the variables identified in your hypothesis?