Seven Rules for Social Research

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1/3/2008
  • Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr

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Seven Rules for Social Research teaches social scientists how to get the most out of their technical skills and tools, providing a resource that fully describes the strategies and concepts no researcher or student of human behavior can do without.

Author Biography

Glenn Firebaugh is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
The First Rule: There Should Be the Possibility of Surprise in Social Researchp. 1
Selecting a Research Questionp. 2
Researchable Questionsp. 2
Interesting Questionsp. 4
Selecting a Samplep. 18
Samples in Qualitative Studiesp. 23
Is Meaningful Social Research Possible?p. 26
Summaryp. 29
Student Exercises on Rule 1p. 31
The Second Rule: Look for Differences That Make a Difference, and Report Themp. 36
You Can't Explain a Variable with a Constantp. 37
Maximizing Variance to Find the Effect of a Causep. 39
Size versus Statistical Significancep. 41
Comparing Effects Where There Is a Common Metricp. 42
Calibration: Converting Explanatory Variables to a Common Metricp. 44
Substantive Profiling: The Use of Telling Comparisonsp. 46
Visual Presentation of Resultsp. 51
Policy Importancep. 53
Importance for Theoryp. 54
Conclusionp. 56
Student Exercises on Rule 2p. 58
The Third Rule: Build Reality Checks into Your Researchp. 64
Internal Reality Checksp. 65
Reality Checks on Data-Dubious Values and Incomplete Datap. 65
Reality Checks on Measures-Aim for Consistency in Conceptualization and Measurementp. 69
Reality Checks on Models-The Formal Equivalence Checkp. 71
External Reality Checks: Validation with Other Data and Methodsp. 76
Using Causal-Process Observations to Test Plausibility of Resultsp. 77
Using Ethnographic Data to Help Interpret Survey Resultsp. 79
Other Examples of Multiple-Method Researchp. 81
Concluding Remarkp. 82
Student Exercises on Rule 3p. 84
The Fourth Rule: Replicate Where Possiblep. 90
Sources of Uncertainty in Social Researchp. 91
Overview: From Population to Sample and Back to Populationp. 93
Measurement Error as a Source of Uncertaintyp. 100
Illustration: Two Methods for Estimating Global Povertyp. 101
Toward a Solution: Identical Analyses of Parallel Data Setsp. 105
Meta-analysis: Synthesizing Results Formally across Studiesp. 106
Summary: Your Confidence Intervals Are Too Narrowp. 109
Student Exercises on Rule 4p. 111
The Fifth Rule: Compare Like with Likep. 120
Correlation and Causalityp. 121
Types of Strategies for Comparing Like with Likep. 129
Matching versus Looking for Differencesp. 130
The Standard Regression Method for Comparing Like with Likep. 131
Critique of the Standard Linear Regression Strategyp. 132
Comparing Like with Like Through Fixed-Effects Methodsp. 134
First-Difference Models: Subtracting Out the Effects of Confounding Variablesp. 134
Special Case: Growth-Rate Modelsp. 138
Sibling Modelsp. 140
Comparing Like with Like through Matching on Measured Variablesp. 146
Exact Matchingp. 146
Propensity-Score Methodp. 147
Matching as a Preprocessing Strategy for Reducing Model Dependencep. 151
Comparing Like with Like through Naturally Occurring Random Assignmentp. 152
Instrumental Variables: Matching through Partial Random Assignmentp. 153
Matching Through Naturally Occurring Random Assignment to the Treatment Groupp. 158
Comparison of Strategies for Comparing Like with Likep. 159
Conclusionp. 162
Student Exercises on Rule 5p. 165
The Sixth Rule: Use Panel Data to Study Individual Change and Repeated Cross-section Data to Study Social Changep. 172
Analytic Differences between Panel and Repeated Cross-section Datap. 173
Three General Questions about Changep. 175
Changing-Effect Models, Part 1: Two Points in Timep. 176
Changing-Effect Models, Part 2: Multilevel Models with Time as the Contextp. 182
What We Want to Knowp. 183
The General Multilevel Modelp. 183
Convergence Modelsp. 185
The Sign Test for Convergence: Comparing Your [phi]s and [delta]sp. 186
Convergence Model versus Changing-Effect Modelp. 191
Bridging Individual and Social Change: Estimating Cohort Replacement Effectsp. 195
An Accounting Scheme for Social Changep. 197
Linear Decomposition Methodp. 198
Summaryp. 201
Student Exercises on Rule 6p. 203
The Seventh Rule: Let Method Be the Servant, Not the Masterp. 207
Obsession with Regressionp. 209
Naturally Occurring Random Assignment, Againp. 209
Decomposition Work in the Social Sciencesp. 218
Decomposition of Variance and Inequalityp. 220
Decomposition of Segregation Indexesp. 222
The Effects of Social Contextp. 226
Context Effects as Objects of Studyp. 227
Context Effects as Nuisancep. 230
Critical Tests in Social Researchp. 231
Conclusionp. 235
Student Exercises on Rule 7p. 236
Referencesp. 241
Indexp. 253
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