Lecture 2: Research Methods and Introduction to Sociology

Research Cycle

  • Formulate research question
  • Lift review
  • Select appropriate method
  • Collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Quantitative data (numeric - e.g. tables)
  • Qualitative data (non-numeric - e.g. images, handwritten)
  • Report results
  • Annual meetings, conference presentations
  • Journals
  • Peer review: People who are considered experts in the same field look at the article and assess if it's good enough to be printed in the journal

Research Terminology

Variable: A concept that can take on more than one value (it can vary). (e.g. age, level of education, etc.)

Independent Variable: The presumed cause in a cause-and-effect relationship.

Dependent Variable: The presumed effect in a cause-and-effect relationship.

Correlation: Data suggests that two things are linked/related. (e.g. Facebook usage and GPA - if one changes, the other will change in no definitive direction)

Causation: Data suggests that one thing caused the other thing to occur. (e.g. Facebook usage and GPA - if one changes, the other will change in a definitive direction - e.g. if Facebook usage increases, GPA decreases)

Population: The entire group about which the researcher wants to generalize.

Sample: The part of the population of interest that is selected for analysis.

Sampling Frame: The list of all the elements in a population.

Sampling Techniques

Probability: Mathematically random. It means that every unit in my sampling frame has an equal likelihood of being selected into my sample.

Non-Probability: Not mathematically random. The researcher is being selective about who/what to choose as samples.

Research Methods


  • Method more associated with the natural sciences
  • Test X → Y via an experiment
  • Control group
  • Experimental group
  • Ex. A researcher is interested in studying the relationship between watching the TV show Game of Thrones and the development of antisocial behavior
  • Independent variable: watching GOT
  • Dependent variable: development of antisocial behavior
  • Experimental Group: undergoing experiment
  • Control Group: observe experiment


  • Widely-used method
  • Knowledge, attitudes, behavior
  • Open-ended, closed-ended questions
  • Look for association between X and Y
  • Surveys have questions asked by someone. Questionnaires don't actually have anyone asking the questions

Field Research

  • Participation observation
  • Reactivity and Interpretation
  • Look for association between X and Y
  • Guiding questions

Analysis of Existing Documents and Official Statistics

  • Statistics Canada, including census data
  • Look for association between X and Y
  • Pro: Cost effective
  • Con: May not have all the variables needed for research

Other Methods

  • Content analysis (quantitative and qualitative)
  • Historical-comparative
  • Ethnography
  • Secondary analysis
  • Interviews

Research Ethics

  • Safety, privacy, confidentiality (vs. anonymity), and informed consent
  • Institutional REBs: Research Ethics Board
  • Group vulnerability

Research risk

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