The Process of Social Research

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 6/29/2015
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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The Process of Social Research successfully meets two major challenges of teaching social science methods: to make the material interesting and accessible to students, and to provide them with the tools necessary to understand, evaluate, and conduct research. Authors Jeffrey C. Dixon, Royce A. Singleton, Jr., and Bruce C. Straits employ a conversational writing style that is engaging and student-friendly. Using everyday examples to introduce chapters and clarify complex concepts, they provide current research examples on such cutting-edge topics as immigration, family composition, prosecutorial misconduct, organized racism, homelessness, social inequality and education, and alcohol consumption and grades. Placing a unique emphasis on the research process, the book helps students understand the logic and mechanics of social research, giving them the tools and the power to evaluate the research of others and to conduct their own research. Beginning with the introduction, every chapter contains flowcharts of research processes. As each diagram is presented, the authors relate the specific method to the overall research process. Then, over the course of the chapter or section, they flesh out each step. This way, they convey information about the "nuts and bolts" of research while ensuring that students do not lose sight of the logic of inquiry.

Comprehensive and up-to-date without attempting to be encyclopedic in its coverage, The Process of Social Research provides a balance between qualitative and quantitative research, taking a more integrated approach to describing the relationship between theory and research.

Author Biography

Jeffrey C. Dixon is Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

Royce A. Singleton, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

Bruce C. Straits is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Why Care About Research Methods?
Why Study Research Methods?
The Process of Social Research
Four Facebook Studies
-- An Experiment
-- A Survey
-- Field Research
-- An Analysis of Existing Data
-- Reading Social Research 1.1: Critical Evaluation of Facebook Studies

Chapter 2. From Theory to Data and Back
The Characteristics and Process of Science
-- Theory
-- Verifiable Data
-- Systematic Observation and Analysis
-- Logical Reasoning
Logics of Inquiry
-- Does Contact Change Stereotypes? An Answer from Deductive Inquiry
-- How Does Class Matter? An Answer from Inductive Inquiry
-- Combining the Logics of Inquiry
-- From a Psychological Theory of Suicide to a Sociological One
Evaluating Science: Possibilities, Cautions, and Limits
-- Tentative Knowledge
-- The Ideal and Reality of the Scientific Process
-- The Social-Historical Aspect of Science
-- The Human Element of Science
-- Reading Social Research 2.1: Verify This!
-- Checking Your Understanding 2.2: Practice Questions in Deductive and Inductive Logic

Chapter 3. The Ethics and Politics of Research: Doing What's "Right"
Overview: Ethics
Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Research Participants
-- Potential Harm
-- Informed Consent
-- Deception
-- Invasion of Privacy
Federal and Professional Ethical Guidelines
-- Evaluating Potential Harm
-- Informed Consent Procedures
-- Deception Ground Rules
-- Privacy Protection: Anonymity and Confidentiality
The Process of Ethical Decision-Making
-- Review Federal Regulations and Professional Ethics Codes
-- Assess Costs and Benefits of Proposed Research
-- Identify and Address Areas of Ethical Concern
-- Prepare and Submit Application for IRB Approval
-- Conduct Research and Secure Participants' Rights
Politics and Social Research
-- Topic Selection, Political Ideology, and Research Funding
-- Data Analysis and Interpretation and Political Ideology
-- Dissemination of Research Findings: Science, Politics, and Public Policy
The Intersection of Ethics and Politics in Social Research
-- A Case Study: Research on Same-Sex Parenting
-- Conflict of Interest
-- Social Responsibility
-- Reading Social Research 3.1: Privacy Invasion in the Public Identification of Participants
-- Checking Your Understanding 3.2: Ethics Practice Questions
-- Doing Social Research 3.3: Web Resources on Research Ethics

Chapter 4. Research Designs: It Depends on the Question
Initial Steps in the Research Process
-- Select Research Topic
-- Review the Literature/Consider Theory
-- Formulate Research Question
-- Prepare Research Design
Designing Research to Answer Quantitative Questions
-- Select a Research Strategy
-- Identify and Select Units of Analysis
-- Measure Variables
-- Gather Data and Analyze Relationships among Variables
Designing Research to Answer Qualitative Questions
-- Select Research Strategy
-- Select Field Setting, Social Group, and/or Archival Records
-- Gain Access and Establish Relationships
-- Decide Whom to Observe or Interview or What to Read
-- Gather and Analyze Data
-- Doing Social Research 4.1: How to Conduct a Literature Review
-- Checking Your Understanding 4.2: Quantitative Research Questions, Units of Analysis, and Variables
-- Reading Social Research 4.3: How to Interpret Correlations and Tests of Statistical Significance

Chapter 5. Measurement: Linking Theory to Research
Overview: The Measurement Process
Conceptualization and Operationalization
-- Conceptualization
-- Operationalization
Types and Selection of Operational Definitions
-- Manipulated Versus Measured Operations
-- Types of Measured Operational Definitions
-- Selection of Operational Definitions
Levels of Measurement
-- Nominal Measurement
-- Ordinal Measurement
-- Interval Measurement
-- Ratio Measurement
Assessing the Quality of Operational Definitions
-- Forms of Reliability Assessment
-- Forms of Validity Assessment
The Feedback Loop: From Data Back to Concepts and Measurement
-- Checking Your Understanding 5.1: Inferring Level of Measurement from Operational Definitions
-- Reading Social Research 5.2: Measurement Error and the Social Desirability Effect

Chapter 6. Sampling: Case Selection as a Basis for Inference
Overview: The Sampling Process
Principles of Probability Sampling
-- Probability and Random Selection
-- Probability Distributions and Sampling Error
-- Sampling Distributions
-- Statistical Inference
Steps in Probability Sampling
-- Define Target Population
-- Construct Sampling Frame
-- Devise Sampling Design
-- Determine Sample Size
-- Draw Sample
Nonprobability Sampling
-- Overview of Nonprobability Sampling
-- Steps in Nonprobability Sampling
-- Doing Social Research 6.1: How to Select Things Randomly
-- Reading Social Research 6.2: Assessing Nonresponse Bias and Overall Sample Quality

Chapter 7. Experiments: What Causes What?
Introductory Example: Misconduct in Criminal Prosecution
The Logic of Experimentation
Variations on the Experimental Method
-- Variations in Experimental Design
-- Variations in Experimental Context
The Process of Conducting Experiments
-- Pretesting
-- Participant Recruitment and Informed Consent
-- Introduction to the Experiment
-- Experimental Manipulation and Random Assignment
-- Manipulation Checks
-- Measurement of the Dependent Variable
-- Debriefing
Strengths and Weaknesses of Experiments
-- Internal Validity
-- External Validity
-- Reactive Measurement Effects
-- Content Restrictions
-- Checking Your Understanding 7.1: The Difference Between Random Sampling and Random Assignment
-- Doing Social Research 7.2: Informed Consent Form for an Experiment
-- Reading Social Research 7.3: Thinking Critically About Research Designs and Threats to Internal Validity

Chapter 8. Surveys: Questioning and Sampling
Introductory Example: The Constructing the Family Survey
General Features of Survey Research
-- Large-Scale Probability Sampling
-- Structured Interviews or Questionnaires
-- Quantitative Data Analysis
Variations in Survey Designs and Modes
-- Survey Research Designs
-- Data Collection Modes
The Process of Planning and Conducting a Survey
-- Choose Mode of Data Collection
-- Construct and Pretest Questionnaire
-- Choose Sampling Frame/Design and Select Sample
-- Recruit Sample and Collect Data
-- Code and Edit Data
Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys
-- Generalizations to Populations
-- Versatility
-- Efficiency
-- Establishing Causal Relationships
-- Measurement Issues
-- Reading Social Research 8.1: Open-ended Versus Closed Ended Questions in Survey Research
-- Reading Social Research 8.2: Questions to Ask about Survey Questions
-- Doing Social Research 8.3: Informed Consent Statement in the Constructing the Family Survey

Chapter 9. Field Research and Qualitative Interviews: Systematic People Watching and Listening
Introductory Field Research Example-Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants
Introductory In-Depth Interview Example-Mexican Americans Across Generations
General Features of Qualitative Research
-- Observation
-- Interviews
-- Supplementary Archival and Other Data
-- Nonprobability Sampling
-- Qualitative Data Analysis
-- Reflexivity
Variations in Qualitative Research
-- Degrees of Participation and Observation
-- Overt vs. Covert Observation
-- Interview Structure
-- Individual vs. Group Interviews
The Process Of Conducting Field Research
-- Select Setting or Group
-- Gain Access
-- Establish Roles and Relationships
-- Decide What to Observe/Whom to Interview
-- Gather and Analyze Data
The Process of Conducting In-Depth Interviews
-- Select and Recruit Interviewees
-- Develop Interview Guide
-- Gather Data
-- Analyze Data
Strengths and Weaknesses of Qualitative Research
-- Naturalistic Approach
-- Subjective and Contextual Understanding
-- Flexible Research Design
-- Generalizability
-- Reliability and Validity
-- Efficiency
-- Checking Your Understanding 9.1: The "Nacirema" and Reflexivity
-- Reading Social Research 9.2: Getting an Insider's View of Students by Passing as One
-- Doing Social Research 9.2: Preparing for an In-Depth Interview

Chapter 10. Existing Data Analysis: Using Data from Secondhand
Sources and Examples of Existing Data
-- Public Documents and Official Records
-- Private Documents
-- Mass Media
-- Physical, Nonverbal Materials
-- Social Science Data Archives
Analysis of Existing Statistical Data
-- Existing Statistics Example: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing
-- The Process of Analyzing Existing Statistics
Content Analysis
-- Content Analysis Example: Journalistic Accounts of the Iraq War
-- The Process of Content Analysis
Comparative Historical Analysis
-- An Example of Comparative Historical Analysis: The Emergence of Mass Imprisonment
-- The Process of Comparative Historical Analysis
-- Reading Social Research 10.1: The Ecological Fallacy
-- Checking Your Understanding 10.2: Identifying Units of Analysis
-- Doing Social Research 10.3: Analyzing the Content of Cell Phone

Chapter 11. Multiple Methods: Two or More Approaches Are Better Than One
Multiple Measures of Concepts within the Same Study
-- Composite Measures: Indexes and Scales
-- Structural Equation Modeling
Multiple Tests of Hypotheses across Different Studies
-- Replications Using the Same Research Strategy: Social Exclusion
-- Replications Using Different Research Strategies I: What Employers Say Versus What They Do
-- Replications Using Different Research Strategies II: Effect of Abuse on Marriage and Cohabitation
A Comparison of Basic Approaches to Social Research
--Reading Social Research 11.1: Development of a Summated Scale

Chapter 12. Quantitative Data Analysis: Using Statistics for Description and Inference
Introductory Example of Survey Data Analysis: Drinking and Grades
Overview: The Process of Quantitative Data Analysis
Prepare Data for Computerized Analysis
-- Coding
-- Editing
-- Entering the Data
-- Cleaning
Inspect and Modify Data
Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables
Carry Out Preliminary Hypothesis Testing
Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
Tests of Statistical Significance
Measures of Association
Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables
Conduct Multivariate Testing
-- Elaboration of Contingency Tables
-- Multiple Regression
-- Doing Social Research 12.1: Codebook Documentation
-- Checking Your Understanding 12.2: The meaning of Statistical Significance and Strength of Association
-- Reading Social Research 12.3: The Impact of Statistical Assumptions in Quantitative Data Analysis

Chapter 13. Qualitative Data Analysis: Searching for Meaning
Overview: A Process of Analyzing Qualitative Data
Prepare Data
-- Transform the Data to Readable Text
-- Check for and Resolve Errors
-- Manage the Data
Identify Concepts, Patterns, and Relationships
-- Coding
-- Memo-Writing
-- Data Displays
------- Taxonomies
------- Data Matrices
------- Typologies
------- Flow Charts
Draw and Evaluate Conclusions
Variations in Qualitative Data Analysis
-- Grounded Theory Methods
-- Narrative Analysis
-- Conversation Analysis
-- Doing Social Research 13.1: Coding Textual Data
-- Reading Social Research 13.2: From Displays Back to Data

Chapter 14. Reading and Writing a Research Paper: It's all About Communication
Read, Take Notes, and Write Research Proposal
-- Locate Relevant Research Literature
-- Read and Evaluate Prior Research
-- Formulate Research Question
-- Design Research and Prepare Proposal
Write Research Report
-- Outline and Prepare to Write
-- Write First Draft
-- Revision and Other Writing Considerations
-- Reading Social Research 14.1: Questions to Ask in Evaluating a Research Report
-- Doing Social Research 14.2: ASA Guidelines for In-Text Citations and References


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