Sociology Investigation

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The Sociological Investigation
~ These notes are taken and adapted from Macionis, John J. (2012). Sociology (14th Edition). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

There are two basic requirements for sociological investigation: 1. Know how to apply the sociological perspective or paradigms or what C. Wright Mills termed as the “sociological imagination.”
2. Be curious and ready to ask questions about the world around you.

There are three ways to do Sociology. These three ways are considered as research orientations:
A. Positivist Sociology
• Positivist sociology studies society by systematically observing social behaviour.
• Also known as scientific sociology.
• It includes introducing terms like independent variable, dependent variables, correlation, spurious correlation, control, replication, measurement, cause and effect, as well as operationalizing a variable1.

• Positivist sociology requires that researcher carefully operationalize variables and ensuring that measurement is both reliable and valid.
• It observes how variables are related and tries to establish cause-and-effect relationships.
• It sees an objective reality “out there.”
• Favours quantitative data (e.g. data in numbers; data from surveys). • Positivist sociology is well-suited to research in a laboratory. • It demands that researchers be objective2 and suspend their personal values and biases as they conduct research.

• There are at least FOUR limitations to scientific / positivist sociology. • Positivist sociology is loosely linked to the structural-functional approach / paradigm / perspective.

B. Critical Sociology
• Critical sociology uses research to bring about social change. • It asks moral and political questions.
• It focuses on inequality.


Specifying exactly what is to be measured before assigning a value to a variable (Macionis: 2012, p.50).


Personal neutrality in conducting research (Macionis: 2012, p. 50)

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It rejects the principle of objectivity, claiming that ALL researches are political.
Critical sociology corresponds to the social-conflict approach / paradigm / perspective.

C. Interpretive Sociology
• Interpretive sociology focuses on the meanings that people attach to their behaviour.
• It sees reality as constructed by people in the course of their everyday lives. • It favours qualitative data (e.g. data acquired through interviews). • It is well-suited to research in a natural setting.

• Interpretive sociology is related to the symbolic-interaction approach / paradigm / perspective.

Gender and Research
Gender3, involving both researcher and subjects, can affect research in five ways: 1. Androcentricity (literally, “focus on the male”)
2. Overgeneralising
3. Gender blindness
4. Double standards
5. Interference

Research Ethics
Researchers must consider and do the following things when conducting research: • Protect the privacy of subjects / respondents.
• Obtain the informed consent of subjects / respondents.
• Indicate all sources of funding.
• Submit research to an institutional review board to ensure it does NOT violate ethical standards.
• There are global dimensions to research ethics. Before beginning research in another country, an investigator must become familiar enough with that society to understand what people there are likely to regard as a violation of privacy or a source of personal danger.

Research and the Hawthorne Effect
Researchers need to be aware that subjects’ or respondents’ behaviour may change simply because they are getting special attention, as one classic experiment revealed. Refer to Elton Mayo’s investigation into worker productivity in a factory in Hawthorne, near Chicago. 3

The personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to being female or male (Macionis: 2012, p.50).

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The term Hawthorne Effect is defined as a change in a subject’s behaviour caused simply by the awareness that s/he is...
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