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Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

Science and Causal Relationships
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapters 1 and 3

1. Compare the epistemologies of empiricism, authority, intuition, and tradition. How do tradition and authority hinder inquiry? How do they support it? Give examples.

2. What is Science? How do the social and natural sciences relate to each other?

3. Are the social sciences really scientific? Why or Why not?

4. What is meant by the statement "The fundamental basis of knowledge is agreement."? How might you construct the method of knowing involving agreement with the scientific method? What is the place of agreement in the development of a scientific body of knowledge?

5. What is the difference between deterministic and probabilistic causal explanations? How are prediction and understanding related to each other?

6. Describe the logical and observational aspects of science. What is the relationship between these two aspects? How are they related to Homans' two jobs of science? Are both needed? Why?

7. Distinguish between inductive and deductive logic as they relate to the process of scientific inquiry.

8. Explain why people are uncomfortable applying the nomothetic model, and determinism in general, to human behavior and attitudes. Then present your views along with reasons for your views.

9. Explain why causes that are both necessary and sufficient are difficult to identify in the social sciences.

10. Select an independent and a dependent variable. Explain why you identified each as independent or dependent. Apply the three criteria for establishing causality to this relationship, and be sure to suggest specific control variables that might be relevant for examining your relationship.

11. List two examples of social science variables that could be considered necessary causes of a variable of interest, and list two examples of social science variables that could be considered sufficient causes of a variable of interest. Then list one social science variable that could be considered both necessary and sufficient.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Theory and Research
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 2

1. How can social relationships be studied in a social scientific manner?

2. List and describe the three basic components of scientific theories.

3. How are scientific theories verified by empirical research? What is the relationship between theory and research in the social sciences?

4. Contrast the inductive model of theory construction with the deductive model. Give examples of research that use each of these models.

5. Discuss the three main elements of the traditional model of science. Explain how Stouffer's study fits this model.

6. How are theory and research linked? Indicate what each contributes to the other. Give examples.

7. Identify a topic of interest. You might select religiosity, feminism, or occupational success if you cannot identify a topic.

a. Explain what your theory will address. It might be factors promoting religiosity, why some people are more feminist that others, or why some people are more successful in their occupations.

b. Specify the range of phenomena you theory addresses. All people? Women only? Americans only?

c. Identify and specify your major concepts and variables.

d. Derive at least one specific testable hypothesis, such as: younger females re more likely to be feminist that older females. Be sure your hypothesis reflects a specific relationship between two variables.

8. Select of the following "observations" or select one of your own (if you select one of your own, make sure it is very specific): 1) Women like coed dorms more than men do, 2) Students prefer male instructors over female instructors. 3) Older people are more likely to vote Republican than are younger people, or 4) one of your own.

a. Describe the specific behaviors or statements made by people that might lead to the observation you selected.

b. Based on the discussions and examples in the chapter, derive (make up) a reasonable theory for your observation. It should be more general than your observation.

9. What are paradigms, and what are their functions for social science research?

10. Why do sociologists need different theoretical paradigms? Why isn't one enough?

11. Compare and contrast the social factist and social definitionist paradigms within the field of sociology.

12. Compare and contrast the structural-functional and conflict orientations in family research.

13. Compare and contrast the symbolic interactionist and exchange orientations in family research.
Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997
Research Design
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 4

1. Discuss why the time element is important in research designs. Describe designs that make different use of the time element. Give examples and diagrams of research studies employing the different designs.

2. Discuss the reasons why a social scientist would do an exploratory study, a descriptive study, and an explanatory study. Select a research topic and show how this topic would be addressed in terms of each of the three purposes of research.

3. Compare the ecological fallacy with reductionism in terms of similarities and differences. Give examples of each. Present a case for one being a more serious error than the other.

4. Identify and give an example of each of the four units of analysis. Illustrate the ecological fallacy and reductionism using your examples.

5. Professor Tallon is doing a study on the effects of the following variables on the drinking behavior of St. Olaf College students: class level, sex, number of high school extracurricular activities, drug usage in high school, family stability during early adolescence, and religiosity. He has a grant to study 800 students at one point in time and wishes to make some causal assertions. Discuss how he can approximate a longitudinal study, and discuss the types of causal assertions he can legitimately make. Also discuss the limitations on these assertions. Be specific, and use some or all of the variables in your answer.

6. An economics student at St. Olaf College, who has not taken research methods, comes to you for assistance in developing her ECON 99 research project. Which of the research design issues discussed in this chapter would you suggest she address? Why? In what order? Why? What would be your response to her question: "Which of these is the most important? " Why did you respond as you did?

7. Select a topic of interest--some characteristic, orientation, or action. Show how this topic would be researched following each of the following designs: cross-sectional, trend, cohort, and panel.

8. The data reported below come from the General Social Survey. the question asked was, "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?" The question was asked of different random samples in 1976 and 1986.

Should marijuana be legal?
Year       1976 1986

Should     29%  19%

Should not 71% 81%
         _____ _____

          100% 100%

Summarize the results of the table. Does this table reflect longitudinal or cross-sectional data? If longitudinal, which type? Why?

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Instructor
Fall 1997

Conceptualization and Measurement
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 5

1. Differentiate among the following: conception, terms, direct observables, indirect observables, and constructs.

2. Show how indicators and dimensions contribute to the conceptualization process.

3. Illustrate reification and explain why it is an error.

4. Develop both nominal and operational definitions for three concepts.

5. Differentiate precision from accuracy by definition and example.

6. Differentiate reliability from validity and tell how each relates to the process of measurement. Which is more important, reliability or validity? Why?

7. Select one of the following concepts: feminism, marital happiness, political conservatism. Then do each of the following:

a. Provide a nominal definition of the concept.

b. Describe the conceptualization process you would employ to measure the concept.

c. Describe the indicators you would use in developing your operational definition.

8. Quite often a college student's grade point average (GPA) is taken as an indicator of his or her intelligence relative to that of other students. Give some reasons why GPA may NOT be reliable and valid as a measure of the intelligence of college students.

9. Your task is to count the number of restaurants in Northfield, Minnesota. Discuss the problem of conceptualization and operationalization in relation to this assignment. How would you define "restaurant" and "Northfield?" How many restaurants would you count?

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

Operationalization
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 6

1. Distinguish conceptualization from operationalization.

2. Explain why attributes should be exhaustive and mutually exclusive and give examples of each.

3. Differentiate the following three levels of measurement and give an example of each: nominal, ordinal, and interval. What are the advantages and disadvantages of collecting data at the highest level?

4. Please identify whether the following variable characteristics are measured on a 1) nominal, 2) ordinal, or 3) interval scale:
____ Age (Old/ Middle-Aged/ Young)
____ Age (actual number of years lived)
____ Age (17 or younger/ 18-25/ 26-35/ 36-50/ 50 or older)
____ Political Party (Democrat/ Republican/ other)
____ Religion (Protestant/ Catholic/ Jewish/ Other/ None)
____ Degree of conservatism (Very conservative/ somewhat
conservative/ somewhat liberal/ very liberal)

5. Explain why it is important to know the level of measurement for the variables in a study.

6. Discuss the conditions under which open-ended and closed-ended questions are used. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

7. Explain why social desirability is a problem in asking questions.

8. Explain why the order in which questions are asked is important, and describe how the principle is differentially applied in questionnaires and interviews.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The True Experiment
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 9

1. Give examples showing that the experimental mode of observation is particularly appropriate for explanatory purposes.

2. Contrast the following three strategies for selecting subjects: probability sampling, randomization, and matching.

3. Explain how the following factors may threaten internal validity:
a. history b. testing c. instrumentation
d. statistical regression e. selection biases f. causal time-order
g. diffusion of treatments h. compensation i. demoralization
j. compensatory rivalry k. experimental mortality l. maturation

Show how the classical experiment handles each of these problems of internal validity.

4. Show how the true experimental designs address the problems of external validity.

5. Describe how natural experiments occur and give two examples. Which features of the classical experimental design would be most difficult to incorporate in natural experiment? Why?

6. Describe and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the experimental method.

7. You have been asked to develop a study of the effects of watching "Sesame Street" on children's sex-role orientations, intelligence, or sociability. Describe how you would design the study using a true experiment and a quasi-experimental design (one-shot case study, one-group pretest-posttest design, static-group comparison). Note the major advantages and weaknesses of each design.

8. Your assignment is to design a small-group experiment that would test the following hypothesis using the classical design: Despite the negative image men frequently have of women's analytical abilities, those men who work with women that appear clearly more effective than themselves in finding a solution to a problem-solving task will have a higher regard for women than men who do not have such an experience.

a. Describe the experimental and control groups appropriate to the experiment. Describe how you would select people for the study. Describe how you would assign people to the experimental and control groups.

b. Describe a problem-solving task that might be appropriate for this experiment.

c. Describe the means by which you would test the attitudes of men regarding women's analytical abilities prior to the experiment (pretest of attitudes).

d. Describe how you would make sure that the women in the problem-solving groups would be clearly more effective in solving the problem than men.

e. Describe the means by which you would test the attitudes of men regarding women's analytical abilities after the problem-solving exercises (posttest of attitudes).

f. Describe some of the potential sources of internal invalidity that your design reduces or avoids. Explain why or how your design does this.

g. Describe some of the potential sources of external invalidity that your design reduces or avoids. Explain why or how your design does this.

h. Make up some "results" that you might get in such an experiment and interpret them. Be sure to indicate whether the "results" tend to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

Survey Research
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 10

1. How may surveys be used for descriptive, explanatory, and exploratory purposes?

2. Describe three methods for distributing self-administered questionnaires.

3. What are the response rates that Babbie considers adequate, good, and very good?

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of interviews over questionnaires.

5. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of survey research as compared with experimental research.

6. Give two examples of secondary analysis and/or data archives, and summarize the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

7. Design a survey research design which would test the relationship between religious orthodoxy and political party preference controlling for socio-economic status. Describe each step in the process of completing your research.


Questionnaires and Interviews
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 7

1. Give three reasons for the frequent use of indexes and scales in social science research.

2. What do indexes and scales have in common? How are they different?

3. Compare and contrast the following scaling procedures: Likert, Thurstone, and Guttman. For each, note purpose, advantages, disadvantages, and procedures.

4. Describe the utility of topologies.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997
Field Research
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 11

1. Give three examples of research topics particularly appropriate for field research. What are the strengths and weaknesses of field research compared to the other research designs we have discussed?

2. Define and give examples of each of the following types of social phenomena addressed by field researchers: meanings, practices, episodes, encounters, roles, relationships, groups, organizations, and settlements.

3. Compare the following four roles that field researchers may play, and give examples of each:

1. Complete participant
2. Participant-as-observer
3. Observer-as-participant
4. Complete Observer

4. Provide advice on each of the following steps in preparing for the field: review of the relevant literature, use of informants, and establishing initial contacts.

5. Explain why sampling in field research is more complicated than in other types of research designs. How can each of the following sampling designs be utilized in field research: quota sample, snowball sample, deviant cases sample, and purposive sample.

6. How would you record field observations and how would you analyze the data you have collected?

7. Explain what Babbie means when he says the field research is not only a data-gathering activity but a theory-generating activity as well. Illustrate each function. Which is more important? Why?

8. Your assignment is to plan a possible field research project to investigate differences in friendship patterns in coed and sing-sex residence halls. The questions below deal with some of the concepts you may wish to consider in such a study. For each, describe some of the possible indicators that might be relevant to the concept.

A. How would you determine the strength of friendships.

B. How would you determine the quality of friendships.

C. Which other aspects of friendship patterns would you expect to differ in the two situations? List at least three along with possible indicators.

D. List two other variables that you might consider in a study such as this. How might you measure each of these variables.

Evaluation Research
Babbie Chapter 13 -- Discussion Questions

1. What are the purposes of evaluation research and why has there been a growth in this type of research?

2. Define and illustrate social intervention. Why has it been important to identify the purpose of an intervention? What are some of the problems with specifying interventions?

3. Define and illustrate outcome variables. Compare the two options for measuring variables.

4. Apply the classical experimental design to an evaluation research study. Do the same with the quasi-experimental design.

5. Define and illustrate cost-benefit analysis. Define and illustrate social indicators research. Discuss why the implications of evaluation research are not always put into practice.

6. Why is evaluation research particularly subject to problems in the actual execution of the research.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

Sampling
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 8

1. Describe the logic of probability sampling, and include heterogeneity and representativeness in your response.

2. List two advantages of probability sampling over nonprobability sampling.

3. Define an EPSEM sample.

4. Define each of the following terms and explain its role in probability sampling: element, population, study population, sampling unit, sampling frame, observation unit, and variable.

5. Differentiate a parameter from a statistic.

6. What are the cautions regarding making generalizations from sampling frames to populations?

7. Describe simple random sampling and list two reasons why it is rarely used.

8. Link stratified sampling with the principle of heterogeneity and describe how this strategy is executed.

9. Identify the major advantage of multistage cluster sampling and describe how this procedure is executed.

10. What is the rationale for disproportionate sampling and weighting? What are the dangers of these strategies?

11. Describe and illustrate each of the following types of nonprobability sampling: purposive (judgmental) sampling, quota sampling, and available subjects sampling.

12. Suppose you were asked by the principle of a local high school to do a survey of the student body. The principal believes it is sufficient to stop students on their way to the library and hand out the questionnaire. You argue for a probability sample instead. State your argument, and give at least two reasons why probability sampling might be preferred. Be sure your analysis incorporates the text discussion on the logic of probability sampling.

13. You have received a grant from Dean Mary Skorheim to study drug usage among St. Olaf College students. Describe the stratified cluster sample you would use. Stratify on at least two variables. Sample at least two stages, including the final sampling unit. Describe why you made the decisions you did. Discuss the limitations of your sample.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

Evaluation Research
Babbie Chapter 12 -- Discussion Questions

1. What are the purposes of evaluation research and why has there been a growth in this type of research?

2. Define and illustrate social intervention. Why has it been important to identify the purpose of an intervention? What are some of the problems with specifying interventions?

3. Define and illustrate outcome variables. Compare the two options for measuring variables.

4. Apply the classical experimental design to an evaluation research study. Do the same with the quasi-experimental design.

5. Define and illustrate cost-benefit analysis. Define and illustrate social indicators research. Discuss why the implications of evaluation research are not always put into practice.

6. Why is evaluation research particularly subject to problems in the actual execution of the research.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael R. Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The True Experiment
Discussion Questions on Babbie's Chapter 9

1. Give examples showing that the experimental mode of observation is particularly appropriate for explanatory purposes.

2. Contrast the following three strategies for selecting subjects: probability sampling, randomization, and matching.

3. Explain how the following factors may threaten internal validity:
a. history b. testing c. instrumentation
d. statistical regression e. selection biases f. causal time-order
g. diffusion of treatments h. compensation i. demoralization
j. compensatory rivalry k. experimental mortality l. maturation

Show how the classical experiment handles each of these problems of internal validity.

4. Show how the true experimental designs address the problems of external validity.

5. Describe how natural experiments occur and give two examples.Which features of the classical experimental design would be most difficult to incorporate in natural experiment? Why?

6. Describe and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the experimental method.

7. You have been asked to develop a study of the effects of watching "Sesame Street" on children's sex-role orientations, intelligence, or sociability. Describe how you would design the study using a true experiment and a quasi-experimental design (one-shot case study, one-group pretest-posttest design, static-group comparison). Note the major advantages and weaknesses of each design.

8. Your assignment is to design a small-group experiment that would test the following hypothesis using the classical design: Despite the negative image men frequently have of women's analytical abilities, those men who work with women that appear clearly more effective than themselves in finding a solution to a problem-solving task will have a higher regard for women than men who do not have such an experience.

a. Describe the experimental and control groups appropriate to the experiment. Describe how you would select people for the study. Describe how you would assign people to the experimental and control groups.

b. Describe a problem-solving task that might be appropriate for this experiment.

c. Describe the means by which you would test the attitudes of men regarding women's analytical abilities prior to the experiment (pretest of attitudes).

d. Describe how you would make sure that the women in the problem-solving groups would be clearly more effective in solving the problem than men.

e. Describe the means by which you would test the attitudes of men regarding women's analytical abilities after the problem-solving exercises (posttest of attitudes).

f. Describe some of the potential sources of internal invalidity that your design reduces or avoids. Explain why or how your design does this.

g. Describe some of the potential sources of external invalidity that your design reduces or avoids. Explain why or how your design does this.

h. Make up some "results" that you might get in such an experiment and interpret them. Be sure to indicate whether the "results" tend to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The Anthropological Lens: Harsh Light, Soft Focus
Discussion Questions on Peacock's Chapter 1: Substance

1. What is culture? What is the distinctive method of anthropology?

2. What do hermeneutics have to do with anthropology?

3. Explain the meaning of the title of the book -- The Anthropological Lens: Harsh
Light, Soft Focus

4. What are the roles of assumptions in anthropological study?

5. What are our (western people's) assumptions about time, individualism,
collectivism, equality, and nature?

6. What is the role of language in understanding culture?

7. What is wholism and how does it relate to the anthropological method? How does
one think wholistically?

8. What is the fallacy of misplaced concreteness?

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The Anthropological Lens: Harsh Light, Soft Focus
Discussion Questions on Peacock's Chapter 2: Method

1. There are 3 stages in field work: the experience, establishing a role in the community, and interpretation. Explain each.

2. How does field work lead to transformation? What is culture shock and reverse culture shock.

3. What is the relationship between involvement and detachment in fieldwork? What are the roles engaged in as one becomes a participant-observer?

a. Total Participant
b. Participant-Observer
c. Observer as Participant
d. Total Observer

4. What is the relationship between description and interpretation? What is the relationship between induction and deduction in field work and ethnographic research? What is the role of survey research in ethnographic research?

5. What is "thick description"? Why is this at the opposite end of survey research and positivism?

6. What is the relationship between particularism and generalization? What is the comparative method and why is it so important in anthropology? Why are all ethnographic studies comparative? Why is comparison impossible?

7. What are the goals of the comparative method? What is meant by the statement that "anthropology is the most extrospective discipline"? What is the relationship between introspection and extrospection in anthropology?

8. Explain the following:

Anthropology is deductive as well as inductive, introspective as well as extrospective and experimental. Anthropology's distinctive emphasis remains the understanding of human nature based on fieldwork.

9. Explain the following:

Ethnography can never describe with complete objectivity, producing a set of facts that are completely true; but through its portrayals and interpretations it can communicate human truths.

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The Anthropological Lens: Harsh Light, Soft Focus
Discussion Questions on Peacock's Chapter 1: Substance

1. What is culture? What is the distinctive method of anthropology?

2. What do hermeneutics have to do with anthropology?

3. Explain the meaning of the title of the book -- The Anthropological Lens: Harsh
Light, Soft Focus

4. What are the roles of assumptions in anthropological study?

5. What are our (western people's) assumptions about time, individualism,
collectivism, equality, and nature?

6. What is the role of language in understanding culture?

7. What is wholism and how does it relate to the anthropological method? How does
one think wholistically?

8. What is the fallacy of misplaced concreteness?

Sociology 371 -- Research Methods
Dr. Michael Leming, Professor
Fall 1997

The Anthropological Lens: Harsh Light, Soft Focus
Discussion Questions on Peacock's Chapter 2: Method

1. There are 3 stages in field work: the experience, establishing a role in the community, and interpretation. Explain each.

2. How does field work lead to transformation? What is culture shock and reverse culture shock.

3. What is the relationship between involvement and detachment in fieldwork? What are the roles engaged in as one becomes a participant-observer?

a. Total Participant
b. Participant-Observer
c. Observer as Participant
d. Total Observer

4. What is the relationship between description and interpretation? What is the relationship between induction and deduction in field work and ethnographic research? What is the role of survey research in ethnographic research?

5. What is "thick description"? Why is this at the opposite end of survey research and positivism?

6. What is the relationship between particularism and generalization? What is the comparative method and why is it so important in anthropology? Why are all ethnographic studies comparative? Why is comparison impossible?

7. What are the goals of the comparative method? What is meant by the statement that "anthropology is the most extrospective discipline"? What is the relationship between introspection and extrospection in anthropology?

8. Explain the following:

Anthropology is deductive as well as inductive, introspective as well as extrospective and experimental. Anthropology's distinctive emphasis remains the understanding of human nature based on fieldwork.

9. Explain the following:

Ethnography can never describe with complete objectivity, producing a set of facts that are completely true; but through its portrayals and interpretations it can communicate human truths.

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If you have any questions or comments please email:

leming@stolaf.edu

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