Sociological Research

Read this chapter for a review of sociological research. As you read, consider the following topics:

  • Take note of the bold terms throughout the chapter.
  • Take some time to study Figure 1 and the accompanying text, which outline the scientific process of studying sociology.
  • Take note of the differences in scientific approaches to studying sociology, including surveys, field research, participant observation, ethnographies, case studies, experiments, and secondary data analysis.
  • Take note of the code of ethics and think about how these ethical standards are vital to conducting research about human subjects.

Key Terms

case study
in-depth analysis of a single event, situation, or individual

code of ethics

a set of guidelines that the American Sociological Association has established to foster ethical research and professionally responsible scholarship in sociology

content analysis
applying a systematic approach to record and value information gleaned from secondary data as it relates to the study at hand

when a change in one variable coincides with a change in another variable, but does not necessarily indicate causation

dependent variables
a variable changed by other variables

empirical evidence
evidence that comes from direct experience, scientifically gathered data, or experimentation

observing a complete social setting and all that it entails

the testing of a hypothesis under controlled conditions

field research
gathering data from a natural environment without doing a lab experiment or a survey

Hawthorne effect
when study subjects behave in a certain manner due to their awareness of being observed by a researcher

a testable educated guess about predicted outcomes between two or more variables

independent variables
variables that cause changes in dependent variables

interpretive framework
a sociological research approach that seeks in-depth understanding of a topic or subject through observation or interaction; this approach is not based on hypothesis testing

a one-on-one conversation between the researcher and the subject

literature review
a scholarly research step that entails identifying and studying all existing studies on a topic to create a basis for new research

a technique in which the results of virtually all previous studies on a specific subject are evaluated together

nonreactive research
using secondary data, does not include direct contact with subjects and will not alter or influence people's behaviors

operational definitions
specific explanations of abstract concepts that a researcher plans to study

participant observation
when a researcher immerses herself in a group or social setting in order to make observations from an “insider” perspective

a defined group serving as the subject of a study

primary data
data that are collected directly from firsthand experience

qualitative data
comprise information that is subjective and often based on what is seen in a natural setting

quantitative data
represent research collected in numerical form that can be counted

random sample
a study's participants being randomly selected to serve as a representation of a larger population

a measure of a study's consistency that considers how likely results are to be replicated if a study is reproduced

small, manageable number of subjects that represent the population

scientific method
an established scholarly research method that involves asking a question, researching existing sources, forming a hypothesis, designing and conducting a study, and drawing conclusions

secondary data analysis
using data collected by others but applying new interpretations

collect data from subjects who respond to a series of questions about behaviors and opinions, often in the form of a questionnaire

the degree to which a sociological measure accurately reflects the topic of study

value neutrality
a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment during the course of a study and in publishing results