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How to design a research project

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Introduction

How to design a research project The distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is commonly made. Quantitative research is sometimes referred to as statistical or sometimes (somewhat sloppily) as empirical research. Qualitative research is sometimes referred to as the sociological approach to research. Elsewhere the distinction is often made between certain research methods as either being Qualitative or Quantitative. For example Interviewing, Participant Observation and Documentary Analysis are often referred to as Qualitative research methods. The use of Surveys and Statistical data is referred to as Quantitative. These distinctions do have a fair degree of truth to them. However as we will see later they do not hold true in all cases. What are commonly thought of as used in purely Qualitative research can be part of Quantitative research programmes and vice versa. In this lecture we are going to look at this distinction between qualitative and quantitative research. After looking at brief definitions of each we are going to look at what the goals of social research are. This will allow us to reflect on how both qualitative and quantitative research strategies can be employed to achieve those goals. Definitions "Qualitative Research is a basic strategy of social research that usually involves in-depth examination of a relatively small number of cases. Cases are examined intensively with techniques designed to facilitate the clarification of theoretical concepts and empirical categories." (CC Ragin, 1994, p190) "Quantitative Research is a basic strategy of social research that usually involves analysis of patterns of covariation across a number of cases. This approach focuses on variables and relationships among variables in an effort to identify general patterns of covariation." (CC Ragin, 1994, p190) Each can make a contribution to the study of society. The best way of approaching their relative strengths and weaknesses is through looking at what are the goals of social research. 7 Goals of Social Research (from CC Ragin) ...read more.

Middle

Causality - Quantitative Analysis about establishing causes. The level of INTERNAL VALIDITY of a research design relates to how unequivocally it establishes causality. 1 - Relationship between 2 variables (correlation). 2 - Relationship non-spurious. 3 - Time order - cause precedes effect. Q1 - Do we need a perfect relationship between two variables for causation? Q2 - Give a couple of examples of a spurious relationship relevant to the study of politics. Looking for a link in kids between AGGRESSION and HOURS WATCHING TV. 1) Experimental Design - Take 2 random groups of kids. Measure aggression amongst them. Subject one group to TV watching over a period of time(depends on theory). Measure level of aggression. This isolates the cause and discovers time order - high internal validity. 2) Survey Design - No time order as in an experiment. Imagine looking for whether job satisfaction increases productivity. Need to check not both caused by length of service. Can we do this and satisfy 3 criteria of causality. Which is most common in politics and sociology. (survey design - experiment is more social psychology). Q3: Assess the reasoning behind the following. Is it experimental or survey design. A researcher collects data by interview on a sample of households to find out if people who read quality newspapers are more knowledgeable about politics than tabloid readers. The hunch was confirmed. People who read qualities were twice as likely to respond accurately to questions designed to test political knowledge. The researcher concludes that the qualities induce higher levels of political knowledge than the tabloids. Answer : It is survey design. The reasoning is faulty. Firstly people cannot be treated as if they have been randomly assigned to two experimental treatments - they will have differ in other ways. Secondly higher levels of political knowledge may cause paper choice and not vice versa. What would it look like with experimental design? ...read more.

Conclusion

An explanation of behaviour requires an understanding of why a person is acting as they are. This requires knowledge of the rules or culture of society - because behaviour is rule governed. e.g. traffic light example. Weber argues fof concept of Verstehen - understanding based on us being human - can empathise with others. Q1- Does your view on this link to your choice of research method? If so how? Q2- Does it link to deduction/induction argument? Q3- List Qualitative and Quantitative research methods from Interviews Postal Surveys Government Statistics Participant Observation Documentary analysis. Can any all be both qualitative and quantitative? OBJECTIVITY IN SOCIAL SCIENCE It is key for scientific research to be Objective. It is supposed to reflect FACT rather than OPINION. BUT some poeple argue that accepted research practices have an inbuilt bias toward certain outcomes. An Example, The Question of Feminist Research. 1) Problem of most social scientists having been men. Methods themselves still seen as value neutral. 2) Focus of Political Science in particular on the Public Sphere. 3) Methods have a theoretical underpinning (Sandra Harding). - Oral History rather than documented history. - Conversation analysis rather than interview. - Unstructured Group Interviews (Oakley). - Use of personal diaries rather than official accounts.. (Reinharz) Not all people who class themselves as feminists accept that research methods are linked to values. Feminist Empiricists believe empirical evidence is the most powerful tool for proving disadvantage. SO IS VALUE FREE RESEARCH POSSIBLE? - What of "facts" like most Catholics in the USA vote Democrat. These can be re-worded as physical facts to do with ballot papers. Is this the case for all social science? Do simple facts allow us to: a) Build complicated predictive models. b) Give a complete understanding of social phenomena. - BUT if we start using concepts like disadvantage or using Can A Man Do Feminist Research? Scientific criticisms of research can be used as an excuse (Reinharz) . Does the acceptance of different standpoints on any research question doom the idea of social science as science? ?? ...read more.

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