What is social Research Methods

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Social research methods A.P. Kelly SC2145 2016 Undergraduate study in Economics, Management, Finance and the Social Sciences This is an extract from a subject guide for an undergraduate course offered as part of the University of London International Programmes in Economics, Management, Finance and the Social Sciences. Materials for these programmes are developed by academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). For more information, see: www.londoninternational.ac.ukThis guide was prepared for the University of London International Programmes by: Aidan P. Kelly, BA, MA, Lecturer in Social Research Methods, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. This is one of a series of subject guides published by the University. We regret that due to pressure of work the author is unable to enter into any correspondence relating to, or arising from, the guide. If you have any comments on this subject guide, favourable or unfavourable, please use the form at the back of this guide. University of London International Programmes Publications Office Stewart House 32 Russell Square London WC1B 5DN United Kingdom www.londoninternational.ac.uk Published by: University of London © University of London 2007 Reprinted with minor revisions 2016 The University of London asserts copyright over all material in this subject guide except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher. We make every effort to respect copyright. If you think we have inadvertently used your copyright material, please let us know. Contents Contents Introduction ............................................................................................................ 1 What this course is about .............................................................................................. 1 Aims ............................................................................................................................. 1 Learning outcomes ........................................................................................................ 2 Syllabus ......................................................................................................................... 2 The importance of social research methods .................................................................... 2 Structure of the course................................................................................................... 5 Essential reading ........................................................................................................... 6 Further reading .............................................................................................................. 6 Online study resources ................................................................................................... 7 Using the internet .......................................................................................................... 9 How to use the textbook and readings ........................................................................ 10 Hours of study and use of this subject guide ................................................................. 12 The examination and examination advice ..................................................................... 13 Part A: Social research strategies ......................................................................... 15 Chapter 1: What is social research? ...................................................................... 17 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 17 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 17 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 17 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 17 Websites ..................................................................................................................... 17 Works cited ................................................................................................................. 18 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 18 Research strategies ...................................................................................................... 19 Research design .......................................................................................................... 24 Research methods for data collection and analysis ....................................................... 27 Principles and practice in social research ...................................................................... 30 Social research and academic sociology ....................................................................... 30 The reaction against positivism and the paradigm wars ................................................ 31 1 ......................................................................... 32 Methodological awareness in sociology and social research The biographical context .............................................................................................. 34 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 35 A reminder of your learning outcomes .......................................................................... 36 Sample examination questions ..................................................................................... 36 Chapter 2: Concepts in social research ................................................................ 37 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 37 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 37 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 37 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 37 Websites ..................................................................................................................... 38 Works cited ................................................................................................................. 38 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 38 What is a concept? ...................................................................................................... 38 Theory, concepts and concept formation ....................................................................... 40 iSC2145 Social research methods Concept formation in sociology: the case of social exclusion ......................................... 41 Operational definitions in quantitative social research .................................................. 41 Coding and recoding in quantitative social research ..................................................... 42 Linking concepts and the outcomes of social research .................................................. 43 ‘Sensitising’ concepts................................................................................................... 43 Social exclusion in qualitative social research ............................................................... 44 Retroduction and ‘double-fitting’ ................................................................................. 44 Conceptual modelling .................................................................................................. 44 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 45 A reminder of your learning outcomes .......................................................................... 45 Sample examination questions ..................................................................................... 46 Part B: Qualitative social research ........................................................................ 47 Chapter 3: Designing qualitative social research ................................................. 49 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 49 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 49 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 49 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 49 Works cited ................................................................................................................. 49 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 50 Sources of qualitative data ........................................................................................... 53 Non-probability sampling and theoretical sampling ...................................................... 56 Prestructuring of qualitative research design ................................................................ 57 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 57 A reminder of your learning outcomes .......................................................................... 58 Sample examination questions ..................................................................................... 58 Chapter 4: Qualitative data analysis .................................................................... 59 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 59 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 59 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 59 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 59 Websites ..................................................................................................................... 59 Works cited ................................................................................................................. 59 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 60 Research questions and qualitative analysis ................................................................. 60 Validity in qualitative data analysis ............................................................................... 64 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 65 A reminder of your learning outcomes .......................................................................... 66 Sample examination questions ..................................................................................... 66 Part C: Quantitative social research ..................................................................... 67 Chapter 5: Designing quantitative social research .............................................. 69 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 69 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 69 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 69 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 69 Works cited ................................................................................................................ 69 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 70 Research questions and quantitative designs ................................................................ 71 Descriptive quantitative social research ........................................................................ 72 Hypothesis testing and evaluation research .................................................................. 72 Interpretative model building ....................................................................................... 73 iiContents Synthetic model building .............................................................................................. 73 Causal models in quantitative social research ............................................................... 75 Validity in social survey research .................................................................................. 76 Causal inference in the classical scientific experiment ................................................... 78 The panel study ........................................................................................................... 79 The social survey – the random sample ‘one-group, post-test only design’ .................... 80 Causal modelling and survey design ............................................................................. 81 Designing social surveys: interview schedules and questionnaires ................................. 82 Multi-dimensional attitude scales ................................................................................. 82 Sample design, sampling theory and statistical inference .............................................. 83 Secondary analysis of large-scale social surveys ............................................................ 85 Conclusions ................................................................................................................. 86 A reminder of your learning outcomes ......................................................................... 86 Sample examination questions ..................................................................................... 86 Chapter 6: Analysing quantitative data ............................................................... 87 Aims and objectives ..................................................................................................... 87 Learning outcomes ...................................................................................................... 87 Essential reading ......................................................................................................... 87 Further reading ............................................................................................................ 87 Websites ..................................................................................................................... 88 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 88 Univariate analysis ....................................................................................................... 89 Sampling distributions, standard error and confidence intervals .................................... 89 Exploring causal models .............................................................................................. 91 Bivariate data analysis ................................................................................................. 91 Measures of association and bivariate tables ................................................................ 93 Measures of association based on proportionate reduction in error (PRE) ..................... 93 Measures of association based on Chi-square: Cramer’s V ........................................... 94 Which measure of association do we use in our crosstabulations? ................................ 95 Multivariate analysis .................................................................................................... 99 The elaboration paradigm .......................................................................................... 103 Causal modelling and path analysis ........................................................................... 108 The assessment of indirect effects .............................................................................. 111 Conclusions ............................................................................................................... 113 A reminder of your learning outcomes ........................................................................ 113 Sample examination questions ................................................................................... 114 Part D: The context of social research ................................................................ 117 Chapter 7: The ethics and politics of social research ......................................... 119 Aims and objectives ................................................................................................... 119 Learning outcomes .................................................................................................... 119 Essential reading ....................................................................................................... 119 Further reading .......................................................................................................... 119 Websites ................................................................................................................... 119 Works cited ............................................................................................................... 120 Introduction .............................................................................................................. 120 The ethics of social research ....................................................................................... 120 Feminism and the politics of social research ............................................................... 123 The politics of identity ................................................................................................ 124 Conclusions ............................................................................................................... 125 A reminder of your learning outcomes ........................................................................ 126 Sample examination questions ................................................................................... 126 iiiSC2145 Social research methods Notes ivIntroduction Introduction What this course is about This subject guide aims to help you learn about social research. In this introduction, I want to point out some features of learning about social research methods and discuss how to use this guide and its associated readings. Social research methods is a technical subject that has its own language and this language must be used in a very precise way. When studying social research methods what may seem to be everyday terms, such as ‘validity’ have a much more specific meaning. In this course, the precise meaning of technical terms has to be learned and then used carefully, especially in the examination. That is why one of your first tasks will be to start a glossary of your own. As students of social sciences, you will be familiar with the idea of sociology as a multi-paradigm discipline: sociology does not have a single paradigm of interlinked theory and method. Debates and controversies abound By far the deepest divide, up until recently, has concerned the philosophical basis of sociological research and the choice of appropriate social research methods. This divide has a long history and it widened considerably during the 1970s. Many textbooks introduce sociology students to the debate between the positivists who argued that social science was similar in method to the natural sciences, and the anti- positivists who argued that the nature of the subject matter made the idea of a social science a contradiction in terms. The division between positivism and anti-positivism has become synonymous with that between qualitative and quantitative social research strategies. The so-called ‘paradigm-wars’ between these opposing strategies are thought to be outdated, but the conflicting perspectives live on in the structure of textbooks on social research methods and in this subject guide. It seems impossible to teach social research methods in any other way than to consider quantitative and qualitative approaches separately. As far as the practice of social research is concerned, it is also important to keep in mind three developments: • the increased willingness to use both quantitative and qualitative strategies • the argument that choice of strategy is based on the research question and what sort of answers are to be pursued • the shift of emphasis in the paradigm wars, away from quantity versus quality, to the debate questioning the existence of a social reality that is independent of our means of studying it. This subject guide retains the old distinction between qualitative and quantitative research strategies as it is reflected in the essential textbook. Aims This course is designed to: • describe the key components of social research • develop skills and knowledge about quantitative and qualitative social research • identify criteria used to evaluate the quality of social research. 1SC2145 Social research methods Learning outcomes By the end of the course, and having completed the Essential reading and activities, you should be able to: • formulate researchable questions • define a research strategy and design a research project to answer a research question • discuss the practice and principles of qualitative and quantitative social research • use skills and knowledge acquired in the course to evaluate the quality of published research by sociologists and other social scientists. Syllabus The contexts of Social Research: Social research as a professional activity. The market for social research outputs. The contexts of data collection. Social research and academic sociology. Philosophy and the practice of social research. The cultural context and ethnocentrism. Developing research proposals in context. Models and Modelling in Social Research: Ontological and epistemological status of models. Models and researchable questions. Exploratory and Confirmatory approaches to model building. Flexibility in Research Design. The use of models in quantitative and qualitative social research. Concepts in Social Research: Approaches to concept formation in Sociology. Theory and concepts. Induction and deduction. The use of concepts in qualitative and quantitative social research. Coding qualitative data. Operationalising concepts. Complex concepts: property spaces. Qualitative Social Research: Sources of qualitative data: the interview, focus groups, participant observation and field work methods, documents. Sampling in qualitative social research: grounded theory and theoretical sampling. Analytic induction and qualitative classification analysis. Small N research and case studies: ‘thick’ description. Quantitative Social Research: Sources of quantitative data: the social survey, administrative and official statistics. Secondary analysis of survey data. Designing social surveys. Quasi-experimental designs. Units and levels of analysis. Graphics and visualising data. Explanation and causal inference. Deciphering and Evaluating Social Research Outputs: The components of a social research publication. Identifying components. Reconstructing the research project. Validity in quantitative and qualitative research. The importance of social research methods We only need to consider one important aspect of modern societies to justify the importance of learning about social research methods. Whatever the merits of the description, the phrase ‘the information society’ conveys the importance of ‘data’ in all its forms to everyday life in the contemporary world. Large corporations and governments construct massive datasets and have teams of employees who work as ‘data miners’ to interrogate these datasets. Consider the following instances: • Modern supermarkets such as Tesco collect data on every consumer who has their store card. The consumer is then sent special offer vouchers targeted to reflect their purchasing history which increases the chances of the consumer revisiting the store. 2Introduction • Political parties use opinion surveys and focus groups to monitor the likely reaction to new policy developments or to indicate the points of advantage the party has over its political rivals. Governments and large businesses are increasingly evidence-based in their approach to decision making. It is a feature of contemporary societies that people make, or claim to make, decisions based on data: data about impact of medicines, data about impact of marketing campaigns, data about sports performance. If it moves, that movement is being recorded and stored on a database somewhere. Nowhere is private and protected from data collectors: mobile phones record calls made and their duration and ‘spy’ software invades our personal computers to record keystrokes and websites visited often without our knowledge or permission. Search engines such as Google also collect the same kind of data about the websites we visit. Apart from our worries about the invasion of privacy represented by these developments, the very existence of these data mines should sensitise us to the need to understand how data is constructed, collected and analysed. Knowledge of research methods will lead us to analyse the data collection techniques used and the potential impact of the methods on the analysis of the data collected. Conclusions that others may draw from the analysis of such data can be scrutinised using principles and techniques of social research methods. In everyday life everyone will be affected by the results of analysed data, it is therefore important that we learn how to scrutinise the strategies, methods and techniques of those that produced these findings. Example: Breastfeeding and educational achievement The Guardian newspaper has published research findings that suggest that children of mothers who breastfeed achieve better results in school. Knowledge of research methods will mean that you are extremely sceptical about such results presented in the media. This result might be an instance of the spurious relationship resulting from a failure to meet the criteria of causal inference. If highly educated mothers are more likely to breastfeed their children and highly educated mothers are more likely to have children who do well at examinations, then it will be the case that breastfeeding will appear to be related to examination passes, but it will be an association that is not a causal relationship between two variables. The association is a product of a common antecedent variable – the mother’s education. In learning about social research, it is important to recognise the different types of knowledge that you will gain: • insights into the practical implications of debates over the philosophy of social science for the conduct of social research • knowledge of how the choice of research strategy, e.g. quantitative or qualitative research, reflects the research question addressed and constrains the possible outcomes of social research • knowledge of the technical requirements or ‘best practices’ that govern and inform contemporary social research and the criteria used by professional audiences to evaluate social research. Having access to the body of knowledge about research methods will allow you to acquire three key skills: • the ability to be systematic in the design and conduct of your own research and in the description and evaluation of others’ research 3SC2145 Social research methods • the ability to deploy an informed scepticism when making judgments about your own and others’ social research • the ability to place research projects, including your own, within a specific social context. This includes an ethical context, a political context and an academic context as well as the immediate context of data collection that may influence or may have influenced the construction of the data collected. Knowledge of social research methods will provide you with a checklist of issues surrounding the conduct of social research. Thus when confronted with a journal article reporting on a research project, you will have a new way of reading that article. Your reading will be informed by your ability to identify the key components of a project and a knowledge of the potential weaknesses of the research. It will then deploy a properly informed skepticism – an unwillingness to accept the validity of arguments and evidence until a set of criteria has been applied. One of the significant advantages of Bryman’s book Social Research Methods is his continual reference to actual empirical studies. You may also wish to consult the book by Devine and Heath entitled Sociological Research Methods in Context (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1999), which summarises and comments on eight recent sociological studies. Without referring to these and other empirical studies, learning about social research methods can become a very artificial, even abstract experience. Since there are limits to the amount of research you can conduct on your own while doing this course, I urge you to develop knowledge of actual examples of the way in which research methods are used and with what results. In this way, you can judge research by the outcomes of social research processes: what findings do the methods produce and how useful are they in advancing your understanding of the social world? This seems far more sensible than evaluating a research method by reference to some pre-existing philosophical scheme such as positivism and interpretivism. Although it is important to understand the philosophical underpinnings of research strategies, these, in my view, have become far too dominant in the practice of teaching social research methods. What I want you to be able to say after taking this course is that you have: • studied a range of social research methods • seen what kind of research results from a choice or choices of method • acquired an awareness of the contribution research can make both to our understanding of the social world and to the way it is changing. Thus, whatever political views you may have about current social arrangements you should be able to conduct empirical social research that can inform debates about these and you can evaluate the research of other sociologists and assess its relevance for current social debates. Not all students have the ambition to become professional social researchers. However, all social science students should recognise the valuable intellectual and practical skills that are acquired through knowledge of social research methods. My own approach to social research may be described as a pragmatic realism. I assume that there is a social world out there, independent of our private conceptions, which we can explore and attempt to model. This assumption allows me to conduct research that may or may not lead me to find out things we do not already know. If the results enhance understanding of the social world then this justifies spending time and resources on the conduct of social research. What other justification can there be for the conduct of social research? 4Introduction Structure of the course This course is divided into three problem areas that you are required to address: Parts A and D: The nature of social research and The context of social research In Part A of the guide, you will be learning about the nature of social research and its key components. This involves exploring the process of social research and the specific issues of deduction and induction in social research especially in relation to concepts and concept formation. As well as knowing how to do social research, it is important to understand the social and intellectual factors that influence the nature of social research. In Part A, these include: • philosophical positions and methodological awareness • practical matters such as the people and places involved. And in Part D, the following influences on research practice are reviewed: • ethical constraints and values • the politics of social research, including the influence of feminist politics on the conduct of social research. Part B: Qualitative social research In Part B, we will be looking in detail at qualitative social research, including: • the research questions typical of qualitative research • the balance between induction and deduction in the qualitative research process • the sources of qualitative data including ethnography, participant observations, interviews and documents • issues relating to time order and comparison in selection of sites, subjects and data • the process of analysing qualitative data • the criteria used to evaluate the quality of qualitative research. Part C: Quantitative social research In Part C, we will be examining quantitative social research, including: • the research questions typical of quantitative research • the balance between induction and deduction in the quantitative research process • the sources of quantitative data • issues relating to sampling and experimental design, including time order, selection of sites, comparison groups • the process of analysing quantitative data, including establishing causal inferences • the criteria of validity and reliability in quantitative social research. 5SC2145 Social research methods Essential reading The Essential reading for this course is from one textbook: Bryman, A. Social Research Methods. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) fourth edition ISBN 9780199588053. Detailed reading references in this subject guide refer to the edition of the set textbook listed above. New editions of this textbook may have been published by the time you study this course. You can use a more recent edition of any of the books; use the detailed chapter and section headings and the index to identify relevant readings. Also check the virtual learning environment (VLE) regularly for updated guidance on readings. Further reading Please note that as long as you read the Essential reading you are then free to read around the subject area in any text, paper or online resource. You will need to support your learning by reading as widely as possible and by thinking about how these principles apply in the real world. To help you read extensively, you have free access to the VLE and University of London Online Library (see below). = edited collection which contains many supplementary readings. = particularly recommended reading. Ali, S. et al. ‘Politics, Identities and Research’ in Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Aneshensel, C.S. Theory-Based Data Analysis for the Social Sciences. (London: Pine Forges Press, 2002) ISBN 978-0761987369. Arbor, S. ‘Secondary Analysis of Survey Data’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Blalock, H. ‘Are there really any constructive alternatives to causal modeling’, Sociological Methodology 21 (1991), pp.325–35. Blalock, H. ‘The Operationalism Controversy’ in Blalock, H. and A.B. Blalock (eds) Methodology in Social Research. (London, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971) ISBN 0070941815. Blumer, H. ‘The Ethics of Social Research’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Bryman, A. Quantity and Quality in Social Research. (London: Routledge, 1988) ISBN 9780415078986. Bryman, A. ‘Paradigm Peace and the Implications for Quality’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 9(2) 2006, pp.111–26. Byrne, B. ‘Qualitative Interviewing’ in Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Dale A., S. Arber and M. Procter Doing Secondary Analysis. (London: Allen and Unwin, 1988) ISBN 9780043120422 Chapters 8–11. Devine, F. and S. Heath Sociological Research Methods in Context. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1999) ISBN 9780333666326 Chapters 1, 7 and 10. Devine, F. and S. Heath Sociological Research Methods in Context. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1999) ISBN 9780333666326 Chapter 9 ‘Disarming Patriarchy’. De Vaus, D. Analyzing Social Science Data. (London: Sage Publications 2002) ISBN 978-0761959380. Especially Chapter 32, ‘How and When to Use Cross Tabulations’ and Chapter 35, ‘How to Interpret a Correlation Coefficient’. 6Introduction De Vaus, D. Surveys in Social Research. (London: Routledge, 2002) fifth edition ISBN 9780415268585. De Vaus, D. Research Design in Social Research. (London: Sage Publications, 2001) ISBN 9780761953470 Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 12. Fielding, J. ‘Coding and Managing Data’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Fielding, N. ‘Ethnography’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Gilbert, N. ‘Research Theory and Method’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Hammersley, M. The Politics of Social Research. (London: Sage Publications, 1995) ISBN 9780803977198. Healey, J. Statistics: a Tool for Social Research. (Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005) seventh edition ISBN 9780534627942. Kirk, J. and J. Miller Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Social Research. (London: Sage Publications, 1986) ISBN 9780803924703. Layder, D. Sociological Practice: Linking Theory and Social Research. (London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1998) ISBN 9780761954293 Chapters 3, 4 and 5. Lewins, A. ‘Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Marsh, C. The Survey Method: the Contribution of Surveys to Sociological Explanation. (London: Unwin Hyman, 1982) ISBN 9780043100158. Procter, M. ‘Analysing Survey Data’ in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. (London: Sage Publications, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780761972457. Ritchie, J. and J. Lewis Qualitative Research Practice. (London: Sage Publications, 2003) ISBN 9780761971108. Robson, C. Real World Research. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2002) second edition ISBN 9780631213055 Chapter 2 ‘Approaches to Social Research’. Seale, C (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) second edition ISBN 9780761941965. Seale, C. ‘Coding and Analysing Data’ in Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Seale, C. ‘Statistical Reasoning: Causal Arguments and Multivariate Analysis’ in Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Seale, C. et al. The Quality of Qualitative Research. (London: Sage Publications, 1999) ISBN 9780761955986 Chapters: ‘Trust Truth and Philosophy’, ‘Guiding Ideals’ and ‘Grounding Theory’. Tonkiss, F. ‘Analysing Text and Speech’ in Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Tonkiss, F. ‘Focus Groups’ in Seale, C (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. (London: Sage Publications, 2004) ISBN 9780761955986. Wooffitt, R. Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis. (London: Sage Publications, 2005) ISBN 9780761974260. Online study resources In addition to the subject guide and the Essential reading, it is crucial that you take advantage of the study resources that are available online for this course, including the VLE and the Online Library. You can access the VLE, the Online Library and your University of London email account via the Student Portal at: http://my.londoninternational.ac.uk 7SC2145 Social research methods You should have received your login details for the Student Portal with your official offer, which was emailed to the address that you gave on your application form. You have probably already logged in to the Student Portal in order to register As soon as you registered, you will automatically have been granted access to the VLE, Online Library and your fully functional University of London email account. If you have forgotten these login details, please click on the ‘Forgotten your password’ link on the login page. The VLE The VLE, which complements this subject guide, has been designed to enhance your learning experience, providing additional support and a sense of community. It forms an important part of your study experience with the University of London and you should access it regularly. The VLE provides a range of resources for EMFSS courses: • Electronic study materials: All of the printed materials which you receive from the University of London are available to download, to give you flexibility in how and where you study. • Discussion forums: An open space for you to discuss interests and seek support from your peers, working collaboratively to solve problems and discuss subject material. Some forums are moderated by an LSE academic. • Videos: Recorded academic introductions to many subjects; interviews and debates with academics who have designed the courses and teach similar ones at LSE. • Recorded lectures: For a few subjects, where appropriate, various teaching sessions of the course have been recorded and made available online via the VLE. • Audiovisual tutorials and solutions: For some of the first year and larger later courses such as Introduction to Economics, Statistics, Mathematics and Principles of Banking and Accounting, audio-visual tutorials are available to help you work through key concepts and to show the standard expected in exams. • Self-testing activities: Allowing you to test your own understanding of subject material. • Study skills: Expert advice on getting started with your studies, preparing for examinations and developing your digital literacy skills. Note: Students registered for Laws courses also receive access to the dedicated Laws VLE. Some of these resources are available for certain courses only, but we are expanding our provision all the time and you should check the VLE regularly for updates. Making use of the Online Library The Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.london.ac.uk) contains a huge array of journal articles and other resources to help you read widely and extensively. To access the majority of resources via the Online Library you will either need to use your University of London Student Portal login details, or you will be required to register and use an Athens login. The easiest way to locate relevant content and journal articles in the Online Library is to use the Summon search engine. 8Introduction If you are having trouble finding an article listed in a reading list, try removing any punctuation from the title, such as single quotation marks, question marks and colons. For further advice, please use the online help pages (http://onlinelibrary. london.ac.uk/resources/summon) or contact the Online Library team: onlinelibraryshl.london.ac.uk Using the internet The internet is a vast and increasingly valuable source of information, knowledge, arguments and research findings. Unless otherwise stated, all websites in this subject guide were accessed in April 2011. We cannot guarantee, however, that they will stay current and you may need to perform an internet search to find the relevant pages. To start finding out more about social research methods, try this website: www.intute.ac.uk/socialsciences/researchtools/ Here you can find many links and addresses related to directories and gateways that provide an entry point for resources collated specifically for a chosen area that you could search and browse. In addition, there are article references and abstracts databases which provide searchable information about where you can find publications and articles in journals. There are also research information databases that let you explore details of current research and data, including both quantitative and qualitative data. The following databases provide a good starting point for identifying publications about social research methods: http://wok.mimas.ac.uk/ Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), accessible via the ISI Web of Knowledge (WOK), indexes around 5,000 journals spanning 50 social science disciplines and covers scientific and technical items. It covers most of the major journals that address research methods dating back to 1973. From a search, you can obtain titles and, for over half the author abstracts, you can retrieve titles of citations references. http://zetoc.mimas.ac.uk/ ZETOC is a searchable database of the British Library’s Electronic Table of Contents (ETO). This includes almost 15 million journal articles from over 20,000 journals, and titles of papers from over 70,000 volumes of research proceedings. www.csa.com/factsheets/assia-set-c.php Applied Social Science Index and Abstracts (ASSIAnet) provides online abstracts from around 650 UK, US and international journals in the field of health and social science dating back to 1987. Online access to web sources may be restricted to students and staff at higher educational institutions. You should always consult your own library to see which ones they subscribe to. To search the web for supplementary tutorial assistance from course documents use Google scholar as available on the free browser from Firefox (www.mozilla.com/en-US/). Many online resources explain concepts and techniques used in social research. You can also consult the website, (www.oup.com), which provides a list of selected web links made available to those who have purchased the Bryman text. 9SC2145 Social research methods Online journals and texts Online journals and texts allow you to read publications and documents such as official and unofficial reports, reviews, on-going debates and press articles. Freely accessible full text peer-reviewed journals include the following: • Sociological Research Online is an online journal that publishes high quality applied sociology articles, focusing on theoretical, empirical and methodological discussions. www.socresonline.org.uk/ • Social Research Update is a quarterly electronic journal that covers new developments in social research. Each issue covers a different research methods topic spanning qualitative and quantitative methods. It is pitched at a level that can be appreciated by both novice and expert reader. www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/sru/ • The Qualitative Report is an online journal dedicated to qualitative research and critical inquiry and which serves as a forum and sounding board for researchers, scholars and practitioners. www.nova.edu/ssss/ QR/index.html • Forum for Qualitative Social Research (FQS) is a free multilingual online journal for qualitative research that aims to promote discussion and cooperation between qualitative researchers from different countries and social science disciplines. www.qualitative-research.net/ Examples of journals of interest for social research methods that allow you to browse tables of contents and/or abstracts online are: • Sociological Methodology is an annual volume on methods of research in the social sciences. • Social Science Research is a quarterly journal that publishes papers devoted to quantitative social science research and methodology. • International Journal of Social Research Methodology (IJSRM) is a relatively new journal covering a mix of academic and theoretically slanted methodological articles and articles relating to research practice in professional and service settings. How to use the textbook and readings This subject guide aims to assist your private study, including the reading of the course textbook and other more specialist readings. It is a guide to the required reading and directs you to approach the reading with certain questions or issues in mind. I have chosen not to follow the same structure as Bryman and you will be required to take what you have learned from Bryman and other readings and bring it to this subject guide. I wish to avoid presenting social research in a way that allows qualitative research to be seen as a critical reaction to quantitative social research. Also, I wish to engage your mind in a creative and exploratory way with the practice of social research. The kinds of research questions addressed by qualitative social research allows this to happen more spontaneously. In addition, taking a slightly different approach provides more of a test of your understanding of what you have read in the textbook. This subject guide requires you to use the Bryman textbook and readings in a creative way. There is no substitute for reading Bryman and supplementing this with some of the further reading 10Introduction I suggest. You must not rely on this subject guide alone. This guide alone does not provide a basis for the successful completion of the course. I would begin this course by reading and making notes on whole chapters of Bryman in the following sequence: Part A of the subject guide • Chapter 2 Social research strategies • Chapter 3 Research designs • Chapter 7 The nature of quantitative social research • Chapter 17 The nature of qualitative social research Part B of the subject guide • Chapter 19 Ethnography and participant observation • Chapter 24 Qualitative data analysis • Chapters 26 and 27 on combining qualitative and quantitative social research Part C of the subject guide • Chapter 8 Sampling • Chapter 9 Structured interviewing • Chapter 11 Asking questions • Chapter 14 Secondary Analysis • Chapter 15 Quantitative Data Analysis Part D of the subject guide • Chapter 6 The ethics and politics of social research Logics and ‘logics in use’ In his book The Conduct of Inquiry, Abraham Kaplan makes a distinction between the logic that governs the production of social science and the logic as it is presented in finished published accounts of social science research. Social scientists present their work in a recognisably logical way. There are beginnings, endings and ordered steps governed by rules along the path from initial hypothesis to research conclusions. Similarly, when social scientists are writing textbooks on research methods they often follow a similar practice. I have also attempted to display social research methods as a sequence of topics. However, it can be misleading to view the process of research in this way because the process of learning about research methods is not a linear progression of incremental steps. The reconstructed logic of methodology textbooks can be a misleading version of the actual research process. Although some parts of the research process can be mechanistic or highly structured processes, others are not. In the case of qualitative social research, rules of conduct have not been fully developed and the consequence is that ‘rules’ are constructed by the researcher during the process of data collection and analysis. In qualitative research, the absence of rules generates the need for creativity and flexibility that are seen as an advantage rather than a drawback. There must be a sequence to learning about the various topics covered in a social research methods course. However, it is often apparent to students and tutors that the first topics covered would be easier to understand if the students had already completed the topics that follow It is quite 11SC2145 Social research methods normal to teach students how to design research before covering matters of data analysis, even though it is considerably easier to understand how to ask research questions and design social research when the problems of data analysis and the shaping of research outcomes have been addressed. Learning social research methods is iterative, not sequential, and this means that you will need more than one run through of the complete materials to understand properly each of the topics that make up social research. Learning by doing This subject guide has to convey knowledge of research methods by means of addressing required readings and assessing students’ ability to reproduce descriptions, evidence and arguments under examination conditions. This has to be the case in the nature of the degree programme offered by the University of London. It is not possible to assess students’ ability to apply what they have learnt through projects or coursework exercises requiring the collection and analysing of data. There is no reason why you should not practise qualitative observation and perhaps some restricted form of simple counting in your everyday life. We will be requiring you to undertake social research practice yourself at some stage. However, I would encourage you to begin to address your everyday life as an apprentice social researcher. There is no reason why you should not become a trained observer of social life, developing a systematic approach to the observation of selected social settings. For example: • Social interaction in bus queues and on bus journeys. How do people start up conversations with strangers? What is the content of the conversations you overhear? • Collect your local newspapers for several weeks and list the content of stories and the priority given to stories by their placement in the paper. Classification is something you can practice in a wide range of social settings. At a sports event, can you identify and classify different types of sports fans by their demeanour at the fixture concerned? This will be taken up again in the chapter on qualitative research methods. Hours of study and use of this subject guide If you are intending to study this course over the period of one year, we would expect you to be spending at least seven hours per week on it. On the following page is a map of the sequence of reading and the associated preparation for your examination that you are strongly advised to follow during the academic year. If you are taking longer than one year to study the course, then adjust this table accordingly. 12Introduction Month Practical Sections and topics September/ October Read the introduction to the subject guide. Buy Bryman, Social Research Methods October Complete reading and note Prepare outline examination taking on Chapters 1, 2, 13 answers on the nature of and 3 of the textbook. social research strategies. November Complete reading and note Begin observing and making taking on Chapters 14, 15 or field notes on everyday social 16, 19 of the textbook. situations. December Complete reading and note Practise answering one taking on Chapters 21 and 22 question from Part A of the of the textbook. example paper. Prepare outline examination answers on Qualitative Design January Complete reading and note Prepare outline examination taking on Chapters 7, 5, 4 and answers on Qualitative 10 of the textbook. Analysis. February Complete reading and note Practise answering one taking on Chapters 11 and 12 question from Part B of the of the textbook. example paper. Prepare outline examination answers on Quantitative Design. Complete reading and note Practise answering two taking on Chapters 25, 26 and questions from Part B of the 24 of the textbook. example paper Prepare outline examination answers on Quantitative Analysis March Practise answering two questions from Part C of the example paper. Prepare outline examination answers on the Ethics and Politics of Social Research. April Practise full examination paper answers under untimed and then timed conditions. The examination and examination advice Important: the information and advice given here are based on the examination structure used at the time this guide was written. Please note that subject guides may be used for several years. Because of this we strongly advise you to always check both the current Programme regulations for relevant information about the examination, and the VLE where you should be advised of any forthcoming changes. You should also 13SC2145 Social research methods carefully check the rubric/instructions on the paper you actually sit and follow those instructions. The examination paper is divided into three sections and you have three hours to answer three questions, choosing one question from each section. At the end of each chapter in this guide, you are provided with sample examination questions which can be answered using this subject guide and the essential readings identified. You cannot rely on this guide alone; it is a guide to the reading of the textbook and other readings that you must study thoroughly if you are to pass the examination. A general piece of advice on the examination is to use, as much as possible, examples of social research that illustrate or support your argument. This will allow you to convey to the examiners how the arguments and debates over social research methods are actually reflected in the way empirical social research is conducted by professional research practitioners. Remember, it is important to check the VLE for: • up-to-date information on examination and assessment arrangements for this course • where available, past examination papers and Examiners’ commentaries for the course which give advice on how each question might best be answered. 14

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