What is Sociology? – Module 1B
The Research Process
I. Introduce lecture
II. What is the scientific research method?
III. Sociological explanations differ from opinion and common sense in at least 4 ways
because sociologists use scientific research methods.
IV. The different steps in the scientific research process (see on-line research process
diagram and notes):
A. Research topic
B. Research question
C. Theoretical explanations: theories and models
D. Testable Hypotheses
F. Data Sources
I. Results (your answer)
V. A brief research example (if time allows)
Theory: A logically inter-related set of propositions that attempt to explain social
phenomena. Simply put, a theory is a complex explanation of social phenomena.
Models and Arguments: Like theories, models and arguments are explanations of social
phenomena. However, they are less complicated and formalized than theories.
*Theories, models, and arguments are too complicated to test. Before you can determine
whether or not a theory, model, or argument is valid, it must be simplified. Researchers
simplify complex explanations by developing testable hypotheses.
Testable Hypothesis: A hypothesis is a prediction about the relationships you expect to
find in society. A hypothesis is testable if its prediction can be compared to data drawn
from the real world in such a way that you can determine whether or not the prediction
has been met. Researchers develop testable hypotheses so that they can evaluate models,
arguments, and theories.
Indicators: Indicators are variables that measure the concepts that make up your
hypotheses. For example, you might hypothesize that people with more education have
higher incomes. But before you can test this hypothesis you must figure out how to
measure the concepts ‘income’ and ‘education’. For instance, you can use ‘years of
schooling’ or ‘highest degree received’ to measure education. ‘Years of schooling’ and
‘highest degree received’ are both indicators of education.
Decision Rule: A decision rule tells you the conditions under which a hypothesis is
supported and the conditions under which it is contradicted. It tells you what your data
must look like before you can conclude that your hypothesis is supported or contradicted.
RESEARCH PROCESS DIAGRAM
(qualitative and quantitative)
DATA SOURCES INDICATORS
(qualitative or quantitative)
NEW QUESTIONS, HYPOTHESES, MODELS, AND THEORIES
Testable Hypothesis Example 1
William J. Wilson has developed a theory to explain the rapid rise of poverty among
urban blacks in the 1970s. He argues that the decline of manufacturing and the movement
of blue-collar jobs out of the inner-city and into suburbia in the 1960s and 1970s
eliminated many well-paying jobs for unskilled blacks and reduced the pool of
marriageable black men, thereby undermining the strength of the family and increasing
the poverty rate. These forces did not increase white poverty rates because whites were
more likely than blacks to live in suburbia and less likely than blacks to depend on
manufacturing jobs for their income.
Testable Hypothesis Example 2
Many sociologists want to know why some immigrant groups succeed economically
while others do not. According to some sociologists, immigrants cannot succeed
economically if society’s dominant groups do not accept them. Acceptance is important,
these sociologists argue, because immigrants who are not accepted experience severe
discrimination, which prevents them from doing well economically. To gain acceptance,
immigrants must adopt the cultural values, norms, and habits of the dominant group,
including the dominant group’s language, clothing, religion, and holidays (adopting
another group’s values, norms, and habits is called acculturation).