• Unit 2: Sociological Research

    Sociologists rely on a philosophy called positivism which asserts we can only gain authentic knowledge or truth through empirical observations. We must experience our observations and make scientific measurements through sensory experience rather than rely on faith-based and emotional experiences.

    In this Unit, we study the six steps of the scientific method and the importance of reliability and validity. We also examine different data collection methods in sociology research, including surveys, field research, participant observation, ethnographies, case studies, experiments, and secondary data analysis. Each data collection method has advantages and disadvantages and is best matched with certain theoretical perspectives and questions. For example, a macro question about women in society would most likely use surveys as a research method since we need to sample a large group to get a representative picture.

    Finally, we discover the historical motivation for ethical standards when conducting research. We explore some infamous cases where the scientists had adopted a questionable and disturbing ethical rationale, such as the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male conducted from 1932–1972, Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment in 1961, and Philp Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment in 1971. The negative ramifications of these experiments, including a prevailing lack of trust in the healthcare industry and research community, continue to this day.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

    • 2.1: Approaches to Sociological Research

      Sociology is the systematic study of society based on observations, not opinions. Sociology uses the scientific method to study our social world. This method begins with a testable hypothesis and, through observation tests and retests, the accuracy of the findings.

    • 2.2: Research Methods

      How do sociologists know what they know? Researchers use the scientific method to test various hypotheses through observation, and sociologists employ several methods for observing society. Here, we discuss the most commonly used data collection strategies and the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

    • 2.3: Ethical Concerns

      The history of the scientific method includes notorious examples of research subjects who were left unprotected and were overtly harmed. Sociologists are no different. We can point to many studies that incorporated controversial practices in the name of sociology research. These abuses of power have prompted government and professional agencies to impose standards that researchers must follow to protect the subjects in any research study.

    • Unit 2 Assessment

      • Receive a grade