1. The Scientific Method in
A systematic, rganized series of steps
that ensures maximum objectivity and
consistency in researching a problem: A
By Greg Kleponis, Guest Lecturer, PhD Candidate
University of Bolton
2. What are the 5 Basic Steps?
1.) Define the problem
2.) Reviewing the literature
3.) Formulating the Hypothesis
4.) Selecting the research design and collecting & analyzing data
5.) Developing the Conclusion
3. The Scientific Method
• The Scientific Method is a systematic way to look at a
“problem” and evolve a solution.
• The Method utilizes distinct steps in it’s methodology. These
steps follow a natural pattern of intuition, observation,
collation of information and analysis
• This system is cyclical and can be repetitive informing the
issue on repetitive terms
• The system is designed to “evolve” or in other words develop
hypothesis, conclusions and further hypotheses to advance a
theory or thought mode.
4. Define the Problem
Review the Literature
Formulate a Testable Hypothesis
Select a research design /Collect
and analyze data
Survey Observation Experiment Existing Sources
Develop the Conclusion
Ideas for further for Research
5. Defining the Problem
• The first step in any research project
• State as clearly as possible what it is you hope to investigate
• Clearly Outline the problem to be investigated
6. Develop an Operational Definition
• A researcher must develop an operations definition of each
concept being studied
• An explanation of an abstract concept that is specific enough
to allow a researcher to assess the concept
• “Functionalist Perspective” measuring real world outcomes
based on variables of abstract concepts
7. Reviewing the Literature
• Reviewing relevant scholarly studies and information- by
doing this, researchers refine the problem under study, clarify
possible techniques to be used in collecting data and
eliminate or reduce avoidable mistakes.
• Examine macro-level data such as meta-analytical data
• Examine micro-level data such as individual experiences and
8. Formulating a Hypothesis
• After reviewing research and drawing on the contributions of
sociological theorists, researchers will formulate a hypothesis
• Hypothesis is a speculative statement about the relationship
between two or more factors known as variables
• Variable: A measurable trait or characteristic that is subject to
change under varying conditions
– Independent Variable: The variable hypothesized to cause or influence
– Dependent Variable: this variables action depends on the influence of the
– Control Variable: a factor that is held constant to test the relative impact
of and independent variable.
• In this case the researcher believes that the independent variable
predicts or causes change in the dependent variable.
9. Causal Logic Illustration
Independent Variable Dependent Variable
Level of Educational Degree Level of income
Degree of lack of integration
Into Society Likelihood of Suicide
Parents Church Attendance Children’s Church Attendance
Time spent preparing for Quiz Performance on quiz
Parents income Likelihood of children’s
enrolling in college
The independent variable “X” influences a dependent variable “Y”
10. Formulating a Hypothesis
• Identifying independent and dependent variables is a critical
step in clarifying cause and effect relationships
– Casual Logic: Involves the relationship between a condition or
variable and a particular consequence with one event leading to the
– Correlation: exists when a change in one of variable coincides with a
change in the other. Correlations are an indication that causality may
be present; they do not necessarily indicate causation,
• Sociologists seek to identify the causal link between variables;
the suspected causal link is generally described in the
11. Collecting and Analyzing Data
• Research Design- guides the researcher in collecting and
• Selecting the Sample: The sample is a selection from a larger
population that is statistically representative of that
– Random Sample: is where every member of an entire population
being studied has the same chance of being selected.
12. Validity & Reliability
• Validity: refers to the degree to which a measure or scale
truly reflects the phenomenon under study.
– Valid measures must first be based on accurate data.
– How accurate is the source? What do we base accuracy in reporting
• Reliability: refers to the extent to which a measure produces
13. Developing a Conclusion
• The conclusion of a research study represents both and end
and a beginning. It terminates a specific phase of the
investigation but should also generate ideas for future study.
14. Major Research Designs
• Research Design: Detailed plan or method for obtaining data
• Selection of a research design is often based on the theories
and hypotheses the researcher starts with.
• The choosing of a design requires creativity and ingenuity
because it directly influences both the cost of the project and
the amount of time needed to collect data
• These designs that sociologists use to generate data including
surveys, observations, experiments, and existing sources.
• A study, generally in the forma of an interview or
questionnaire, that provides researchers with information
about how people think and act.
– Gallup Poll
– Harris Poll
– “Person on the street interview”
• Problems with Surveys
– Not an accurate indication of public opinion
– Mainly just a sample of those interviewed.
– Must represent a broad sample of the population
16. Surveys – Main Forms
• Interview- Researcher obtains information through face –to-face or
• Questionnaire: Researcher uses a printed or written form to obtain
information from a respondent.
– Each form has it’s own advantage
– Interviews often have a higher response rate as people find it more
difficult to turn down a person rather than a questionnaire
– Interviewer can also go beyond written questions to probe the feelings or
real underlying reasons for answers.
– Questionnaires are cheaper to send out and more numerous
– Questionnaires will often reveal more truthful answers as they
“human questioner” is not there and therefore the interviewee is more
apt to give a truthful answer rather than a “politically correct” one or one
they think the interviewer will want to hear.
17. Types of Research
• Quantitative Research: collects and reports data in primarily
• Good at making use of large samples.
• Quantitative Research: relies on what is seen in field and
naturalistic settings, and focuses on small groups and
communities rather than on large groups or whole nations.
– The key to qualitative research is observation
– Observation: Method allows sociologists to examine certain
behaviors and communities that could not be investigated through
other research techniques. They may seem a relatively informal
method compared to surveys or experiments, researchers are careful
to take detailed notes while observing their subjects.
18. Types of Research
• Ethnography: refers to the study of an entire social setting
through extended systematic observation.
– Emphasis on how the subjects themselves view their social life in
some setting. In some cases the sociologist actually joins a group for
a period to get an accurate sense of how it operates.
• Participant Observation
– What are the challenges to Participant Observation?
• Objectivity- walking the tightropes
• Army Human Terrain Systems Debate
– Helping US Army to understand cultures, customs, kinship structure and internal social
• Should sociologists and Anthropologists get that involved
• Should they “influence” the social system they are observing – what is the
difference between “observing” and “Advising”
• An artificially created situation that allows a researcher to
– Experimental Group- is exposed to an independent variable
– Control Group- The control group is not exposes
• Obviously the aim of the experiment using two groups would be to test the hypothesis of
the effect of the independent variable in terms of what & how much
• “The Hawthorne Effect” The importance of the Hawthorne effect on group behavior and
what Anthropologists call “Reflexivity”
– Content Analysis: Many social scientists find it useful to study cultural,
economic, and political documents, including newspapers, periodicals,
radio and television tapes, the Internet, scripts, diaries, songs, folklore and
20. Ethics of Research
• Code of Ethics
– Maintain objectivity and integrity in research
– Respect the subject’s right to privacy and dignity
– Protect subjects from personal harm
– Preserve confidentiality
– Seek informed consent when data are collected from research
participants or when behavior occurs in a private context.
– Acknowledge research collaboration and assistance.
– Disclose all sources of financial support (American Sociological
• Because most sociological research uses people as sources of information
– as respondents to survey questions, subjects of observation or
participants in experiments.
21. Ethics of Research
• Value Neutrality:
– How do social scientists interpret their results?
– Recognized that personal values would influence the questions that
sociologists select for research.
– Under no circumstances should a researcher allow his or her personal
feelings to influence the Interpretation of data (Max Weber)
– Ethical obligation to accept research findings even when the data run
counter to their own personal views, to theoretically based
explanations or to widely accepted beliefs.
22. Terms for Quantitative Research
• Percentage: Shows a portion of 100.
– Use of percentages allows us to compare groups of different sizes. By
using percentages we can obtain a more meaningful comparison,
showing the proportion of persons in each group
• Mean or Average: is a number calculated by adding a series
of values and then dividing by the number of values.
• Mode: is the single most common value in a series of scores
• Median: is the mid-point or number that dives a series of
values into two groups or equal numbers of values
23. Graphs & Charts
• Enormously helpful in depicting findings and presenting visual
representations of the results of experiments
• Can be used to show Quantitative as well as Qualitative data
relative to other like data.
• Bar Charts
• Pie Charts
• Line Graphs
24. “Building Blocks” of Generic Social
• Core Components:
– Methods and Sources
• It is important to understand the importance of the
interrelationship between the core components.
25. The Tools of the Trade
• Ontological and Epistemological Assumptions that underpin
research is necessary in order to:
1. To understand the interrelationship of the key components of
2. To avoid confusion when discussing theoretical debates and
approaches to social phenomena
3. To be able to recognize others and defend our own positions
• Clarity and Constancy of Terms
– Important so all understand the foundations of ontological and
epistemological positions of colleagues to avoid confusion and mis-
appraising another's position
– Central to all research
• Starting point of all research, after which epistemological and
methodological positions logically follow
– “The image of social reality upon which a theory is based.
– Claims and assumptions that are made about the nature of social
reality, claims about what exists, what it looks like, what units make it
up and how these units interact with each other.
– Ontological assumptions are concerned with what we believe
constitutes social reality
• Emphasis on the need to understand, acknowledge, and
defend one’s own ontological position!
• Examples of Ontological Positions
– Objectivism- position that asserts that social phenomenon and their
meanings have an existence independent of social actors
– Constructivism- asserts that social phenomena and their meanings are
continually being accomplished by social actors. Implies that social
phenomena and categories are not only produced through social
interaction but are in constant state of revision
• Obviously one position affects the manner in with one
• A core branch of philosophy – concerned with the theory of
– Important with regards to methods, validation and ways of gaining
knowledge of social reality.