Sociology And The Scientific Method Research Paper Sample

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Sociology, Science, Testing, Theory, Racism, Discrimination, Stereotypes, Bias

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/10/10

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Sociology is a science with methodological standards. Sociologists do not make broad sweeping generalization about society based on assumptions or superficial observations (Hale 47). Sociologists use the scientific method, a structured, objective, and step by step approach to researching questions and testing a hypothesis. It involves a series of steps involving observation, description, control and replication. There are fives steps the scientific method. Step one is asking a question. What is the researcher trying to prove? This is the hypothesis. Step two is conducting background research. In sociology this can be a literature review, or testing the field to understand the subject better. Step three, construct a hypothesis and predict the outcome. It must be clear and concise. For example, “worker satisfaction increases worker productivity” would be a good example of sociological hypothesis. The fourth step is testing the experiment. Finally, the fifth step is replication. This makes sure the testing was accurate the first time (Pieper 33).
The steps are clear but there are number of other factors that are important when conducting sociological research. Avoiding personal and test bias and ensuring objectivity are essential for accurate research conclusions (Hale 47). A sociologist has to have very strict scientific standards to maintain the integrity of the research, and avoid methodological errors that could cloud the results. They must be skeptical of their own results. In quantitative true experiments, control of variables and testing replication are critical. In more observational experiments, like survey, testing bias is a big issue to watch out for. To help guide the process, sociologists rely on a database of research that has already been conducted, peer-reviewed and published (Pieper 35). Furthermore, there are number of theoretical frameworks they can use to analyze observations. These include functionalism, conflict theory, social stratification theory or interactionist approaches.
The collection and analysis of data often use samples, because it is often difficult or not possible to study entire populations (Hale 48). For example, instead of testing every student at a university, they will study a smaller representative sample group. There are different sample types, including convenient, random, representative, and cross-cultural. All have their strengths and weaknesses and the socialist chooses the type depending on the type of study, date and sample they are working with. Subject bias needs to be controlled. If the subject is aware of the testing hypothesis they may act differently, distorting the data and results. This type of bias is called the observer effect, or the Hawthorne effect (Pieper 39). Personal bias can also distort research. For example, a researcher with a particular political agenda may allow their emotional and ideological ideas to get in the way of neutral, objective and unbiased research (Creswell).
There are two major types of sociological research, quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is usually statistical, and more objective, examining a research question by accumulating data, which can be measurements or numbers (Creswell). Quantitative research looks at groups of people, trends and correlations. (Hale 48). Quantitative sociological research can be seen as more “scientific” because it uses all five steps of the scientific method. Examples of qualitative research is the true experiment, which involves the manipulation of an independent variable and a measured dependent variable. A correlation study is more statistical, looking for mathematical trends from -1.0 to +1.0. This research generates nice scatterplots and graphs with lines that give a good graphical representation of a trench or correlation. Correlation however, does not guarantee causation, it is simply a positive relationship (Creswell).
Qualitative research looks for deeper meaning and uses more personal observations of specific people. For example, a sociologist might interview pregnant mothers over a two year period to record observations and create case studies on postpartum depression. Case histories, surveys and observations only utilize two steps of the scientific method: observation and description. However, useful conclusions can be derived from this more intimate form of sociological research. (Hale 48).
Both types of research have their strengths and weaknesses, and there is no rule regarding which one needs to be used for a specific type of research. Some methods and types of research are best for specific types of theories. Functionalists are looking at societal interaction and trends, so they usually use more qualitative research methods.
More conflict based sociologists, such as Marxist or feminist theorists, will use quantitative methods to focus on individuals and how they exploit, or are exploited, in society. As a science, sociology has logical procedure that helps ensure valid results. It is an established academic and methodological framework, with existing sources, that enables researchers to learn about society and contribute their knowledge to a growing field.

Works Cited

Creswell, John W. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods
approaches. Sage, 2013.
Hale, Sylvia Marion. “A Critical Look at Methodologies.” In Controversies in
Sociology. Custom ed. Toronto: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2010. 47-48.
Pieper, Christopher. Intro to Sociology. Kendall Hunt, 2014. Print.

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