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The Process of Social Research

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2022-02-25
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Featuring a conversational, engaging, and student-friendly writing style, The Process of Social Research, Third Edition, introduces students to the fundamentals of research. It places a unique emphasis on process with flowcharts in every chapter that provide step-by-step guides for conducting social research and evaluating the research of others. The authors use relatable, everyday examples and carefully selected research examples to make the book accessible to undergraduates. 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 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?
The Process of Social Research
Four Social Media Studies
An Experiment
A Survey
A Field Research Study
An Analysis of Existing Data
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 1.1: Critical Evaluation of Facebook Studies

CHAPTER 2 Science and Social Research: From Theory to Data and Back
The Characteristics and Process of Science
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 Sociohistorical Aspect of Science
The Human Element of Science
CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 2.2: Identifying and Analyzing Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 2.3: A Replication or Reproducibility Crisis in Social Science?

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
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
Collect Data 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: Principles and Recommendations for Ethical Data Collection and Analysis

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 the 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 Search the Literature
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 4.2: The Ecological Fallacy
CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 4.3: Quantitative Research Questions, Units of Analysis, and Variables
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 4.4: How to Interpret Correlations and Tests of Statistical Significance

CHAPTER 5 Measurement: Linking Theory to Research
Overview: The Measurement Process
Conceptualization and Operationalization
Variations in Operational Definitions: Data Sources
Manipulated Versus Measured Operations
Sources of Measured Operational Definitions
Variations in Operational Definitions: Levels of Measurement
Nominal Measurement
Ordinal Measurement
Interval Measurement
Ratio Measurement
Select and Apply Operational Definitions to Produce Data
Assess the Quality of Operational Definitions
Forms of Reliability Assessment
Forms of Validity Assessment
The Feedback Loop: From Data Back to Concepts and Measurement
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.1: Improving Measurement with Composite Measures
CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 5.2: Inferring Level of Measurement from Operational Definitions
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.3: Indexes, Scales, and Scaling Techniques
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 5.4: 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 Distribution 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
Making Inferences from Nonprobability Samples
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.1: How to Select Things Randomly
CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 6.2: The Principles of Probability Sampling as Applied to the 2020 Pre-election Polls
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.3: Assessing Nonresponse Bias and
Overall Sample Quality
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 6.4: Methodological Issues Related to Sampling via Crowdsourcing and Online Panels

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
Participant Recruitment and Informed Consent
Introduction to the Experiment
Experimental Manipulation and Random Assignment
Manipulation Checks
Measurement of the Dependent Variable
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
Generalization to Populations
Establishing Causal Relationships
Measurement Issues
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.1: Open-Ended Versus Closed-Ended Questions in Survey Research
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.2: Writing Survey Questions
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 8.3: Informed Consent Statement in the Constructing the Family Survey

CHAPTER 9 Field Research and In-Depth Interviews: Systematic People-Watching and Listening
Introductory Field Research Example: Mexican New York
Introductory In-Depth Interview Example: Mexican Americans Across Generations
General Features of Qualitative Research
Supplementary Archival and Other Data
Nonprobability Sampling
Qualitative Data Analysis
Variations in Qualitative Research Methods
Degrees of Participation and Observation
Overt Versus Covert Observation
Interview Structure
Individual Versus Group Interviews
Technological Developments Crosscutting Observations and Interviews
The Process of Conducting Field Research
Select Setting/Group
Gain Access
Establish Roles and Relationships
Decide What to Observe/Whom to Interview
Gather and Analyze Data
Leave the Field
Write the Report
The Process of Conducting In-Depth Interviews
Select and Recruit Interviewees
Develop Interview Guide
Gather Data
Analyze Data
Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research
Naturalistic Approach
Subjective and Contextual Understanding
Flexible Research Design
Reliability and Validity
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 9.3: Preparing for an In-Depth Interview

CHAPTER 10 Existing Data Analysis: Using Data from Secondhand Sources
Sources and Examples of Existing Data
Public Documents and Official Records
Private Documents
Mass Media
Physical, Nonverbal Evidence
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
Strengths and Limitations of Existing Data Analysis
Studying Social Structure, History, and Social Change
Nonreactive Measurement
Cost Efficiency
Data Limitations
READING SOCIAL RESEARCH 10.1: The Big Data Revolution
CHECKING YOUR UNDERSTANDING 10.2: Identifying Units of Analysis
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 10.3: Analyzing the Content of Cell Phone Use

CHAPTER 11 Multiple Methods: Two or More Approaches Are Better Than One
A Comparison of Four Basic Approaches to Social Research
Examples of Mixed Methods Research
Effect of Abuse on Marriage and Cohabitation
What Employers Say Versus What They Do
Explaining Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market
Unpredictability and Unequal Control of Work Schedules and Time
Purposes of Mixed Methods Research
Mixed-Methods Research Designs
Sequential Designs
Concurrent Designs
Component Designs
Integrated Designs
DOING SOCIAL RESEARCH 11.1: Limitations and Guidelines for Doing Mixed Methods Research

CHAPTER 12 Quantitative Data Analysis: Using Statistics for Description and Inference
Introductory Example of Survey Data Analysis: Drinking and Grades
Introductory Overview: The Process of Quantitative Analysis
Prepare Data for Computerized Analysis: Data Processing
Entering the Data
Inspect and Modify Data
Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables
Carry Out Preliminary Hypothesis Testing
Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
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
Introductory Example: Homelessness in Austin, Texas
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
Data Displays
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 in Social Research: 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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