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Univensity of Massachusetts, Boston

The Pnocess and Practice of Research

5th Edition


/GSAGE Publications r .
Thor."nd Oaks

New Delhi


The Process and Problems of Social Research

Social Research Questions ldentifying Social Research Questions Refining Social Research Questions Evaluating Social Research Questions

The Role of SocialTheorY Explanatory Research

Social lmportance

Deductive Research Domestic Violence and the Research Ltrcle tnductive Research
Exploratory Research Victim Responses to Police lntervention Conflicts Among High School Studenx Descriptive Research Sociat Research Ethics Honesty and Openness The Uses of Science
Research on People

Scientific Relevance
Social Research Foundations Finding !nformation Searching the Literature Searching the Web Reviewing Research A Single-Article Review: Formal and lnformal Deterrents to Domestic
Violence An lntegrated Literature Review: When Does Arrest Matter?

Sociat Research Proposals, Part Conclusions

Social Research Strategies

or.resti" violence is a major problem in our society, with police responding'to between 2 million and 8 million complaints of assault by a spouse or lover yearly (Sherman 1992:6).
the accused arresting whether determine Minneapolis Police Department began an experiment to spouse abusers on the spot would deter repeat incidents. The study's results, which were widely publicized, indicated that arrest did have a deterrent effect. In part because of this, the Yy'hat can

be done to reduce this problem? In 1981, the Police Foundation and



percentage of urban police departments that made arrest the preferred response to complaints of domestic violence rose from 107o in 1984 to 90Vo in 1988 (Sherman 1992:14). Researchers in six other cities then conducted similar experiments to determine whether changing the location or other research procedures would result in different outcomes (Sherman 1992; Sherman & Berk 1984). The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment, the studies

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modeled after it, and the controversies arising from it will provide good examples for our systematic overview of the social research process. We will examine in this chapter different social research strategies. We will also consider in some detail the techniques required to begin the research process: formulating research questions, finding information, reviewing prior research, and writing a research proposal. Appendixes B, C, and D provide more details. I will use the Minneapolis experirnent and related research to illustrate the different research strategies and some of the related techniques. The chapter also introduces ethical guidelines that should be adhered to no matter what research strategy is used. By the chapter's end, you should be ready to formulate a research question, design a general strategy for answering this question, critique previous studies that addressed this question, and begin a proposal for additional research on the question. You can think of Chapters I and 2 as having introduced, respectively, the "why" and "what" of social research; Chapter 3 introduces the "how."

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A social research question is a question about the social world that you seek to answer
through the collection and analysis of firsthand, verifiable, empirical data. It is not a question about who did what to whom but a question about people in groups, about general social processes, or about tendencies in community change. What distinguishes Internet users from other persons? Does community policing reduce the crime rate? What influences the likelihood of spouse abuse? How do people react to social isolation? So many research questions are possible that it is more of a challenge to specify what does not qualify as a social research question than to specify what does. But that doesn't mean it is easy to specify a research question. In fact, formulating a good I research question can be surprisingly difficult. We can break the process into three stages: lidentifying one or more questions for study, refining the questions, and then evaluating the

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Social research questions may emerge from your own experienss-f1ern your "personal troubles," as C. Wright Mills (1959) put it. One experience might be membership in a church, another could be victimization by crime, and yet another might be moving from a dorm to a sorority house. You may find yourself asking a question like "In what ways do people tend to benefit from church membership?" or "Does victimization change a person's trust in others?" or "How do initiation procedures influence group commitment?" What other possible research questions can you develop based on your own experiences in the social world? The research literature is often the best source for research questions. Every article or book will bring new questions to mind. Even if you're not feeling too creative when you read

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Chapter 3

The Process and problems of Social Research 55

literature, most research articles highlight unresolved issues and end with suggestions additional research. For example, Lawrence Sherman and Douglas Smith, with their olleagues, concluded an article on some of the replications of the Minneapolis experiment m police responses to spouse abuse by suggesting that "deterrence may be effective for a dstantial segment of the offender population. . . . However, the underlying mechanisms rtmain obscure" (Sherman & Smith 1992:706). A new study could focus on these mechadsms: Why does the arrest of offenders deter some of them from future criminal acts? Any rcsearch article in a journal in your field is likely to have comments that point toward unremlved issues. Many social scientists find the source of their research questions in social theory. Some nsearchers spend much of their careers conducting research intended to refine an atswer to m research question that is critical for a particular social theory. For example, you may have mcluded that labeling theory can explain much social deviance, so you may ask whether

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uhat is termed an RFP, a request for proposals. (Sometimes the acronym RFR is used, meanQ request for applications.) The six projects to test the conclusions of the Minneapolis I)omestic Violence Experiment were developed in response to such a call for proposals irom te National Institute of Justice. Or you may learn that the social workers in the homeless rhelter where you volunteer need help with a survey to learn about client needs, which
becomes the basis for another research question.

beling theory can explain how spouse abusers react to being arrested. Hnally, some research questions have very pragmatic 'sources. you may focus on a msearch question posed by someone else because it seems to be to your advantage to do so. Sme social scientists conduct research on specific questions posed by a funding source in

lefining Social Research Questions

It is even more challenging to focus on a problem of manageable size than it is to come up an interesting question for research. We are often interested in much more than ,"" "u, rcasonably investigate with limited time and resources. In addition, researchers may wory



trey may address several research questions at once. Also, it might seem risky to focus on a research question that may lead to results discrepant with our own cherished assumptions *out the social world. The prospective commitment of time and effort for some research questions may seem overwhelming, resulting in a certain degree of paralysis. The best way to avoid these problems is to develop the research question one bit at a time. Don't keep hoping that the perfect research question will just spring forth from your pen. rnstead, develop a list of possible research questions as you go along. At the appropiiate time, you can look through this list for the research questions that appear more than once. Narrow your list to the most interesting, most workable candidates. Repeat this process as long as it
helps to improve your research questions.

staking a research project (and thereby a grant or a grade) on a single problem, and so

Evaluating Social Research Questions

In the third stage of selecting a research question, we erraluate the best candidate against fre criteria for good social research questions: feasibility, given the time and resources avail-

able; social importance; and scier_r1llc relevancEfKffiffiEiriel &Vei6a tq94).


We must be able to conduct any study within the time and given the resources we have. If time is short, questions that involve long-term change may not be feasible. Another issue is what people or groups we can expect to gain access to. Observing social interaction in corporate boardrooms may be taboo. Next we must consider whether we will have any additional resources, such as research funds or other researchers to collaborate with. Remember that there are severe limits on what one person can accomplish. On the other hand, we may be able to piggyback our research onto a larger research project. We also must take into account the constraints we face due to our schedules and other commitments and our skill level. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment shows how ambitious social research questions can be when a team of seasoned researchers secures the backing of influential groups. The project required hundreds of thousands of dollars, the collaboration of many social scientists and criminal justice personnel, and the volunteer efforIs of 41 Minneapolis police officers. Of course, for this reason, the Sherman and Berk (1984) question would not be a feasible question for a student project. You might instead ask the question "Do students think punishment deters spouse abuse?" Or perhaps you could work out an arrangement with a local police department to study the question "How satisfied are police officers with their treatment of domestic violence cases?"



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Social lmportance
Social research is not a simple undertaking, so it's hard tojustify the expenditure of effort and resources unless we focus on a substantive area that is important. Besides, you need to feel motivated to carry out the study. Nonetheless, "importance" is relative, so for a class assignment, student reactions to dormitory rules or something like that might be important enough.


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For most research undertakings, we should consider whether the research question is important to other people. Will an answer to the research question make a difference for society or for social relations? Again, the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment is an
exemplary case. But the social sciences are not wanting for important research questions. The April 1984 issue of the American Sociological Review, which contained the first academic article on the Minneapolis experiment, also included articles reporting research on elections, school tracking, discrimination, work commitment, school grades, organizational change, and homicide. All of these articles addressed research questions about important social issues, and all raised new questions for additional research.


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Scientific Relevance
Every research question should be grounded in the social science literature. Whether we

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formulate a research question because we have been stimulated by an academic article or because we want to investigate a current social problem, we should first turn to the social science literature to find out what already has been learned about this question. You can be 1 I sure that some prior study is relevant to almost any research question you can think of. ' The Minneapolis experiment was built on a substantial body of contradictory theorizing about the impact of punishment on criminality (Sherman & Berk 1984). Deterrence theory

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Chapter 3

The process and problems

of Social Research 57

predicted that arrest would deter individuals from repeat offenses; labeling theory predicted Sat arrest would make repeat offenses more likely. Only one prior experimental siudy of this islsue was about juveniles, and studies among adults had yielded inconsistent findings. clearty, the Minneapolis researchers had good reason for another study. Any ,", ."r"*"h question should be connected in this way to past research.


How do we find prior research on questions of interest? You may already know some of the relevant material from prior coursework or your independent reading, but that won,t be enough. When you are about to launch an investigation of a new research question, you must ryply a very different standard than when you are studying for a test or jusi seeking to ,.learn about domestic violence." You need to find reports of previous investigations thaisought to answer the same research question that you wish to answer, not just those that were about a similar topic' If there have been no prior studies of exactly the same research question on which you wish to focus, you should seek to find reports from investigations of very similar research questions. Once you have located reports from prior research similar to the research you wish to conduct, you may expand your search to include investigations about related topics or studies that used similar methods. Sometimes you'll find that someone else has already reviewed the literature on your research question in a special review article or book chapter. For example, Rosemary Chalk and Joel H. Garner (2001) published an excellent review of the research on arrest and domestic violence in the journal , New Directions for Evaluation. Most of the research articles you find will include a literature review. These reviews can help a lot, but they are no substitute for reviewing the literature yourself. No one but you can decide what is relevant for your research question and the research circumstances you will be facing-the setting you will study, the timing of your study, the new issues that you want to inciude in your stuay, and your specific methods. And you can't depend on any published research review for information on the most recent work. New research results about many questions appear continually in scholarlyjournals and books, in research reports from governrnent agenciis and other organizations, and on Web sites all over the world; you'll need to check f* r"w research like this yourself.

Finding lnformation
eonducting a thorough search of the research literature and then reviewing critically what you have found is an essential foundation for any research project. Fortunately, much ofthis inforrnation can be identified online, without leaving your desktop, and an incieasing number of published journal articles can be downloaded directly to your own computer ldepJnding on your particular access privileges). Butjust because there's a lot available online doesn't niean that you need to find it all. Keep in mind that your goal is to find reports of prior researchZ investigations; this means that you should focus on scholarlyjournals ihat choose articles fori publication after they have been reviewed by other sociai icientists-"refereed iournals.-( Newspaper and magazine articles just won't do, although you may find some th.r;i* i,";;;_ ' tant issues or even that summarize sociar science research investigations.


Every year, the Web offers more and more useful material, including indexes of the published research literature. You may find copies of particular rating scales, reports from online research in progress, papers that have been presented at professional conferences, and finding for procedures basic the section in this review will We discussions of related topics. in relevant research information in both the published literature and on the Web, but keep journals. refereed in published articles research identify goal is to mind that the primary Appendix D provides more detailed instructions'
Searching the Literature The social science literature should be consulted at the beginning and end of an investigahelp to tion. Even while an investigation is in progress, consultations with the literature may part any As with explorations. supplementary facilitate or resolve methodological problems You should your results. quality of the affect will you use of the research process, ihe method try to ensure that your search method includes each of the following steps:
So broad that hunSpecrfu your research question.Your research question should be neither

"Is inforai"Ot tf urti"les are judged relevant nor so nilrow that you miss important literature. rates reduce control social "Does informal broad. too probably mal social control effective?" is effective more control "Is social informal narrow. too of burglary in large cities?" is probably in reducing crime rates than policing?" provides about the right level of specificity' Identify appropriate bibliographic databases to search. Sociological Abstracts may meet *urylf yo* r""ar, but if you are studying a question about social factors in illness, you If your focus snouta also search it Medline,the database for searching the medical literature. Abstracts Psychological the online in a search include is on mental health, you'll also want to 1985, since of articles text full psycINFO, the contains also that or the version database, psycARTICiES. To find articles that refer to a previous publication, like Sherman and Berk's study of the police response to domestic violence, the Social Science Citation Index willbe "Google helpiul. In addition, the search engine Google now offers anyone with Web access journals) "Google Print" and selected of text full the Scholar' (which indexes and searches research by selected owned that are books of the text (which digitizes and searches the full libraries).lWhen this book went to press the Google Print project was on hold due to copyright concerns raised by some publishers, while the sealch engine and directory Yahoo was right law [Hafner 2005:C1]')
referChoose a search technology. For most purposes, an online bibliographic database that for unpopular searches However, you need. all be ences the publishedjournal literature will topics or very recent literature may require that you also search Web sites or bibliographies of relevant books.

by copystarting a similar venture that focused only on older books that are no longer covered

lrrror, a tentative list of search terms. Ltstthe parts and subparts of your research question [a.rd any related issues that you think are important: "informal social control," "policing," ,.influences on crime rates," and perhaps "community cohesion and crime." List the authors of relevant studies. Specify the most important journals that deal with your topic.

Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social Research 59 For example'

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Check the results. Read the titles and abstracts you have found and identify the articles that appear to be most relevant. Ifpossible, click on these article titles and generate a list oftheir {eferences. See if you find more articles that are relevant to your research question but that you have missed so far. You will be surprised (I always am) at how many important articles your initial online search missed. Read the articles. Now it is time to find the full text of the articles of interest. If you're lucky, some of the journals you need will be available to patrons of your library in online versions, and you'll be able to link to the full text just by clicking on a "full text" link. But many journa1s, specific issues of some journals, or both will be available only in print; in this case, you'll have to find them in your library or order a copy through interlibrary loan.

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Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social Research


details about methods, findings, and theoretical implications will be found only in the dy of the article, and many important articles will not be available online. To understand, ,rrlipe; and really learn from previous research studies, you must read the important articles, Drnatter how you have to retrieve them. If you have done your job well, you will now have more than enough literature as Hground for your own research, unless it is on a very obscure topic (see Exhibit 3.3). (Of @rse, ultimately your search will be limited by the library holdings you have access to and lf the time jou have to order or find copies of journal articles, conference papers and FhaPs dissertations that you can't obtain online.) At this point, your main concern is to conItEt a coherent framework in which to develop your research question, drawing as many Lssons as you can from previous research. You may use the literature to identify a useful ftory and hypotheses to be reexamined, to find inadequately sfudied specific research quesfus, to explicate the disputes about your research question, to summarize the major findings dpnor research, and to suggest appropriate methods of investigation. Be sure to take notes on each article you read, organizing your notes into standard sections: ftory, methods; findings, conclusions. In any case, write the literature review so that it contibutes to your study in some concrete way; don't feel compelled to discuss an article just hecause you have read it. Bejudicious. You are conducting only one study of one issue; it will only obscure the value of your study if you try to relate it to every tangential point in related


Don't think of searching the literature as a one-time-only venture-something that you have behind as you move on to your real research. You may encounter new questions or unanticipated problems as you conduct your research or as you burrow deeper into the literature.


Searching the literature again to determine what others have found in response to these questions or what steps they have taken to resolve these problems can yield substantial improvements in your own research. There is so much literature on so many topics that it often is not possible to figure out in advance every subject you should search the literature for or what type of search will be most beneficial. Another reason to make searching the literature an ongoing project is that the literature is always growing. During the course of one research study, whether it takes only one semester or several years, new findings will be published and relevant questions will be debated. Staying attuned to the literature and checking it at leasl when you are writing up your findings may save your study from being outdated. Searching the Web The World Wide Web provides access to vast amounts of information of many different sorts (6 Dochartaigh 2002). You can search the holdings of other libraries and download the complete text of government reports, some conference papers, and newspaper articles. You can find policies oflocal governments, descriptions ofindividual social scientists and particular research projects, and postings of advocacy groups. It's also hard to avoid finding a lot of information in which you have no interest, such as commercial advertisements, third-grade homework assignments, or college course syllabi. In 1999, there were already about 800 million publicly available pages of information on the Web (Davis 1999). Today there may be as many as 15 billion pages on the Web (Novak 2003). After you are connected to the Web with a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigatol you can use three basic strategies for finding information: direct addressing-typing in the address, or URL, of a specific site; browsing-reviewing online lists of Web sites; and searching-the most common approach. Google is currently the most popular search engine for searching the Web. For some putposes, you will need to use only one strategy; for other purposes, you will want to use all three. Appendix D contains information on all three methods. The end-of-chapter Web exercises, Appendix H, the CD-ROM, anA\ne Pine Forge Press Study Site for this text list many URLs relevant to social science


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Exhibit 3.4 illustrates the first problem that you may encounter when searching the Web: the sheer quantity of resources that are available. It is a much bigger problem than when
searching bibliographic databases. On the Web, less is usually more. Limit your inspection of Web sites to the first few pages that turn up in your list (they're ranked by relevance). See what those first pages contain and then try to narow your search by including some additional terms. Putting quotation marks around a phrase that you want to search will also help to limit


your search-searching for "informal social control" on Google (on September 11,2005)
produced 31,100 sites, compared to the roughly 15,500,000 sites retrieved when I omitted the quotes, so Google searched "informal" and"social" and"controll' Remember the following warnings when you conduct searches on the Web:


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Clartf! your goals. Before you begin the search, jot down the terms that you think you need to search for as well as a statement of what you want to accomplish with your search. This will help to ensure that you have a sense of what to look for and what to

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Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social Research 63

Quality is not guaranteed. Anyorre can post almost anything, so the accuracy


adequacy of the information you find are always suspect. There's no journal editor or librarian to evaluate quality and relevance. Anticipate change. Web sites that are not maintained by stable organizations can come and go very quickly. Any search will result in attempts to link to some URLs that no Ionger exist. One size does not fit all. Different search engines use different procedures for indexing Web sites. Some attempt to be all-inclusive, whereaS others aim to be selective. As a

result, you can.get different results from different search engines (such as Google or Yahoo) even though you are searching for the same terms. Be concerned about generalizability. You might be tempted to characterize police department policies by summarizing the documents you find at police department Web sites. But how many police departments a-re there? How many have posted their policies on the Web? Are these policies representative of all police departments? To answer all these questions, you would have to conduct a research projecijust on the Web sites

Evaluate the sites. There's a lot of stuff out there, so how do you know what,s good? Some Web sites contain excellent advice and pointers on how to differentiate the good from the bad. I have included one such site in Appendix H. AvoidWeb addiction. Another danger of the enormous amount of information available on the Web is that one search will lead to another and to another and so on. There are


always more possibilities to explore and one more interesting source to check. Establish boundaries of time and effort to avoid the risk of losing all sense of proportion. Cite your sources. Using text or images from Web sources without attribution is plagiarism. It is the same as copying someone else's work from a book or article and pretending that it is your own. Record the Web address (URL), the name of the information provideq and the date on which you obtain material from the site. Include this information in a footnote to the material that you use in a paper.

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Reviewing Research
Effective review of the prior research you find is an essential step in building the foundation for new research. You must assess carefully the quality of each research study, consider the implications of each article for your own plans, and expand your thinking about your research question to take account of new perspectives and alternative arguments. It is though reviewing the literature and using it to extend and sharpen your own ideas and methods that _z!ou become a part of the social science community. Instead of being just one individual \ studying an issue that interests you, you are building on an ever-growing body ofknorvledge \ that is being constructed by the entire community of scholars. The research information you find on various Web sites comes in a wide range of formats and represents a variety of sources. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) is the watchword when you search the Web; following review guidelines like those I have listed will minimize, but not eliminate, the risk of being led astray. By contrast, the published scholarly journal literature that you find in databases llke Sociological Abstracts and Psychological Abstracrs follows a much more standard format and has been subject to a careful review process. There is some variability in the contents of these databases-some journals publish book reviews, comments on prior articles, dissertation abstracts, book reviews, and conference papers. However, most literature you will find on a research topic in these databases represents peer-reviewed articles reporting analyses of data collected in a research project. These are the sources on which you should focus, This section concentrates on the procedures you should use for reviewing these articles. These procedures also can be applied to reviews of research monographsbooks that provide much more information from a research project than that which can be contained in a journal article. Reviewing the literature is really a two-stage process. In the first stage, you must assess r--qach article separately. This assessment should follow a standard format like that represented i Ui, tt "Questions to Ask About a Research Article" in Appendix B. However, you should kkeep " in mind that you can't adequately understand a research study if you just treat it as a series of discrete steps, involving a marriage of convenience among separate techniques. Any research project is an integrated whole, so you must be concerned with how each component of the research design influenced the others-for example, how the measurement approach might have affected the causal validity of the researcher's conclusions and how the sampling strategy might have altered the quality of measures. The second stage of the review process is to assess the implications of the entire set of articles (and other materials) for the relevant aspects of your research question and procedures and then to write an in{egrated review that highlights these implications. Although you can find literature reviews that consist simply of assessments of one published article after another-that never get beyond stage one in the review process-your understanding of the

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p'me and the quality of your own work will be much improved if you make the effort to mh an integrated review.

In the next two sections, I will show how you might answer many of the questions in fpcndix B as I review a research article about domestic violence. I will then show how the

,-&* of a single article can be used within an integrated review of the body of prior research r &is research question. Because at this early point in the text you won't be familiar with all - mminology used in the article review, you might want to read through the more elaborate
rticle review in Appendix C later in the

A Single-Article Review: Formal


lnformal Deterrents to Domestic Violence

Antony pate and Edwin Hamilton at the national Police Foundation designed one of the dies funded by the U.S. Department of Justice to replicate the Minneapolis Domestic ffience Experiment. In this section, we will examine the article that resulted from that replirxbn, which was published in the American Sociological Review (Pate & Hamilton 1992).

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numbers in brackets refer to the article review questions in Appendix B. Research Question.

Lke Sherman and Berk's (1984) original Minneapolis study, Pate spouse assault experiment sought to test the deterrent (1992) Metro-Dade Hamilton's but with an additional focus on the role of inforcases, violence domestic cffwt of arrest in r social control tll. The purpose of the study was explanatory because the goal was to crplain variation in the propensity to commit spouse abuse [2]. Deterrence theory provided & theoretical framework for the study, but this framework was broadened to include the poposition by Williams and Hawkins (1986) that informal sanctions like stigma and the loss d valued relationships augment the effect of formal sanctions like arrest [4]. Pate and Eamilton's (lgg2) literature review referred, appropriately, to the original Sherman and Berk findings, and to t1984) research, to the other studies that attempted to replicate the original control social [3]. research on informal There is no explicit discussion of qthical guidelines in the article, although reference is made b a more complete unpublished repo\t [6]. Clearly, important ethical issues had to be considere4 given the experimental intervention in the police response to serious assaults, but the dherence to standard criminal justice procedures suggests attention to the welfare of victims as well as the rights of suspects. We will consider these issues in more detail later in this chapter.
The Research Design. Developed as a follow-up to the original Minneapolis experiment, the

Metro-Dade experiment exemplified the guidelines for scientific research that were presented in Chapter 2 t5l. It was designed systematically, with careful attention to specification of terms and clarification of assumptions, and focused on the possibility of different outcomes rather than certainty about one preferred outcome. The major concepts in the study, formal and informal deterrence, were defined clearly t9l and then measured wilh straightforward indicators-arrest or nonarrest for formal deterrence and marital status and employment status for informal deterrence. However, the specific measurement procedures for marital and employment status were noi discussed, and no attempt was made to determine whether they
captured adequately the concept of informal social control [9, 10]. Three hypotheses were stated and also related to the larger theoretical framework and prior research t7l. The stqdy design focused on the behavior ofindividuals [13] and collected data


over time, including records indicating subsequent assault up to 6 months after the initial arrest [14]. The project's experimental design was used appropriately to test for the causal effect of arrest on recidivism [15, 17]. The research project involved all eligible cases, rather than a sample of cases, but there were a number of eligibility criteria that narrow the ability to generalize these results to the entire population of domestic assault cases in the MetroDade area or elsewhere [11]. There is a brief discussion of the 92 eliglble cases that were not given the treatment to which they were assigned, but it does not clarify the reasons for the misassignment [15].
The Research Findings and Conclusion. Pate and Hamilton's (1992) analysis of the MetroDade experiment was motivated by concern with the effect of social context, because the replications in other cities of the original Minneapolis domestic violence experiment had not had consistent results [19]. Their analysis gave strong support to the expectation that informal social control processes are important: As they had hypothesized, ar:rest had a deterrent effect on suspects who were employed, but not on those who were unemployed (Exhibit 3.5). However, marital status had no such effect [20]. The subsequent discussion of these findings gives no attention to the implications of the lack of support for the effect of marital status [21], but the study represents an important improvement over earlier research that had not examined informal sanctions [22]. The need for additional research is highlighted and the importance of the findings for social policy are discussed: Pate and Hamilton suggest that their finding that amest deters only those who have something to lose (e.9., ajob) must be taken into account when policing policies are establishedl23l. Overall, the Pate and Hamilton (1992) study represents an important contribution to understanding how informal social control processes influence the effectiveness of formal sanctions


-trrfus-J rqi-


lh es{ of fre m 5m seprre mi*

Tbeiq (!l .ri


prior rm qmtimsH @rumACrmt

IhEl- [Erm

a:p rrd their femalc P reserch t . portitrg *fo-arrest- pcffi

-Cfi -srrch on &e trch the-v faus: h rclHo)'le & S&
As& yourself

hat {

a Suhsequent Assault



Hove you

=20 (!
o o

1'our reseact !l highestqually I are therel

E15 (,
o o 3 {n arv
(E E

2- Is





3. Ha'e you dt

express the when thel-aca


t E

= Eo-

o o o

pior rcw addition to all ftepfi B, you should also *

nals and written b1'cm
Unemployed Employed

following questioml l- How $'as the tql

Source: Pate & Hamilton 1992:695. Reprinted with permission.

academic journals go' and revision. Top -nf

Chapter 3

The process and problems

of Social Research


1ltEiments distinguishes this research

h -est- Although the use of a population of actual spouse assault cases precluded the use drry sophisticated measures of informal social control, the experimental disign of the study rdfu researchers' ability to interpret the results in the contexi of several other comparable
as exceptionally worthwhile. It is not hard to underwhy these studies continue to stimulate further research and ongoing policy discussions.

, h

lntegrated Literature Review: When Does Arrest Matter?


The goal of the second stage of the literature review process is to integrate the results separate article reviews and develop an overall assessment of the implications of
The integrated literature review should accomplish three goals:



(l) Summarize (2) critique prior research, and (3) present pertinent conclusions (Hart trIB:18G187).I'll discuss each of these goals in turn.

Utbrinology research article about mandatory arrest policies in domestic violence cases with ft they term a "provocative" question: What is the point of making it a crime for men to ralt theii female partners and ex-partners? They then review the different theories and rlEnrting research that has justified different police policies: the "victim choice,' position, lh ipo-anest" position, and the "victim empoweflnent,, position. Finally, they rwiew the reach on the "controlling behaviors" of men that frames the specific research question on nfch they focus: how victims view the valuerof criminal justice interventions in their own \ res (Hoyle & Sanders 2000:15).
Ask yourself three questions about your summary of the literature:

'%uize p:rior research. Your summary of prior research must focus on the particular rcrch questions that you will address, but you also may need to provide some more genrd background' Carolyn Hoyle and Andrew Sanders (2000:14) begin their B ritish Journil of


Have you been selective? If there have been more than a few prior investigations of your research question, you will need to narrow your focus to the most relevant and highest-quality studies. Don't cite a large number of prior.articles 'Just because they
are there."


Is the research up-to-date? Be sure to include the most recent research, not just the
"classic" studies-

lz! I

ruow you used direct quotes sparingly? To focus your literature review, you need to express the key points from prior research in your own words. Use direct quotes only when they are essential for making an important point (pyrczak 2005:51-59).

pior research. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the prior research. In to all the points you develop as you answer the "article review questions" in Appendix B- you should also select articles.for review that reflect work published in peer-reviewed.lournals 41d written by credible authols who have been funded by reputable sources. Consider the ftillowing questions as you decide how much weight to give each article: l. How was the report reviewed prior to its publication or release? Articles published in rademic journals go through a rigorous review process, usually involving criticism "-"fut and revision. Top "refereed" journals may accept only I07o of submitted articles, so they can



be very selective. Disserlations go through a lengthy process of criticism and revision by a few members of the dissertation writer's home institution. A report released directly by a research organization is likely to have had only a limited review, although some research organizations maintain a rigorous internal review process. Papers presented at professional meetings may have had little prior review. Needless to say, more confidence can be placed in research results that have been subject to a more rigorous review. 2. What is the author's reputation? Reports by an author or team of authors who have published other work on the research question should be given somewhat greater credibility
at the outset.


reodr to coosider{

l'ben u'e !ffi {e--ee erident re


3. Who funded and sponsored the research? Major federal funding agencies and private foundations fund only research proposals that have been evaluated carefully and ranked highly by a panel of experts. They also often monitor closely the progress of the research. This does not guarantee that every such project repoft is good, but it goes a long way toward ensuring some worthwhile products. On the other hand, research that is funded by organizations that have a preference for a particular outcome should be given particularly close scrutiny (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso 1998:37_/.4).
Present pefiinent conclusions. Don't leave the reader guessing about the implications of the prior research for your own investigation. Present the conclusions you draw from the research you have reviewed. As you do so, follow several simple guidelines:

FtrBss ot (bfirxr$El il&rmrirell- reserrh oniluting the.iaq-* d 3-6r ThLs in&xtive r A,* 1ou'll sce- a re$El


Ihe Role of Sc& I hare atrcad.v gl 1ilarys an impulil d

lurger role of smiatrft @n us make *nscd ffi&e\ to occur sbo

o Distinguish o

clearly your own opinion of prior research from conclusions of the authors of the articles you have reviewed. Make it clear when your own approach is based on the theoretical framework you are
using rather than on the results of prior research.

looli for in a su{Y aC




\Iost social rc$er dercloped in a Pafr

researchers are

project. Don't empha1 . ,q.nrowledge the potential limitations of any empirical research size problems in prior research that you can't avoid either (Pyrczak 2005:53-56). ?o Explain how the unanswered questions raised by prior research or the limitations of
methods used in prior research make it important for you to conduct your own investi-


report. thel'ma1'eaC w clariff ing Partic*

general understanfrl

gation (Fink 2005:190-192). good example of how to conclude an integrated literature review is provided by an article based on the replication in Milwaukee of the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. For this article, Raymond Paternoster, Robert Brame, Ronet Bachman, and Lawrence Sherman (1991) sought to determine whether police officers' use of fair procedures when arresting assault suspects would lessen the rate of subsequent domestic violence. Paternoster et al. (1997) conclude that there has been a major gap in the prior literature: "Even at the end of some seven experiments and millions of dollars, then, there is a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the question of how arrest impacts future spouse assault" (p. rcD. Specifically, they note that each ofthe seven experiments focused on the effect ofarrest itself, but ignored the possibility that "particular kinds of police procedure might inhibit the recurrence of spouse assault" (p. 165). So Paternoster and his colleagues (1991) ground their new analysis in additional literature on procedural justice and conclude that their new analysis will be "the first study to examine the effect of fairness judgments regarding a punitive criminal sanction (arrest) on serious criminal behavior (assaulting one's partner)" (p. l'72).


Chapter 3 + The Process and Problems of Social Research 69




a research question formulated and a review of the pertinent literature taking shape, we ready to consider the process of conducting our research. 'When we conduct social research, we are attempting to connect theory with empirical


evidence we obtain from the social world. Researchers may make this connection *iE? q9gg1-11r"*,ry 4I4I!191r t_eltiqg s:ggre.of its igrpli-c_g-ti9qs with data. This is the

f,ftffi,atively, researchers may develop a connection GffiAri soCilt ttreory ahil



odlecting the data and then developing a theory that explains patterns in the data (see Exhibit 3-6)- This inductive research process is more often the strategy used in qualitative.methods<r
As you'll see, a research project can draw on both deductive and inductive

strategies. l

fhe Role of SocialTheory

Ihave already pointed out that social theory can be a source ofresearch questions and that it flays an important role in literature reviews. What deserves more attention at this point is the lrger role of social theory in research. A theory is a logically intenelated set ofpropositions that l@s us make sense of many interrelated phenomena and predict behavior or attitudes that are

ftggrylelps social scientists to know what to implieations of6"ir-iiudltE, for otliei*reSearifilBuifaiig 1 {u${.to spee-ify.the. flenaluating theory is therefore one of the most important objectives of socidi siienie. Most social research is guided by some theory. a\hough the theory may be only partially fueloped in a particular study or may even be u)rrecognized by the researcher. When msearchers are involved in conducting a research project or engrossed in writing a research mport, they may easily lose sight of the larger picture. It is easier to focus on accumulating a clarifying particular findings rather than consider how the study's findings fit into a more general understanding of the social world.
hok !o111

ftely to occur

when certain conditions are met.





Social theories do not provide the answers to the questions we pose as topics for research. Instead, social theories suggest the areas on which we should focus and the propositions that we should consider for a test. For example, Lawrence Sherman and Richard Berk's (1984) original domestic violence experiment was a test of predictions that they derived from two alternative theories of the impact of punishment on crime. Deterrence theory expects punishment to deter crime in two ways. General deterrence occurs when people see that crime results in undesirable punishments, that "crime doesn't pay." The persons who are punished serve as examples of what awaits those who engage in proscribed acts. Specific deterrence occurs when persons who are punished decide not to


commit another offense so they can avoid further punishment (Lempert & Sanders 1986:86-87). Deterrence theory leads to the prediction that arresting spouse abusers will
lessen their likelihood of reoffending.

Labeling theory distinguishes between primary deviance, the acts of individuals that lead to public sanction, and secondal:y deviance, the deviance that occurs in response to public sanction (Hagan 1994:33). Arrest or some other public sanction for misdeeds labels the offender as deviant in the eyes of others. Once the offender is labeled, others will treat the offender as a deviant, and he or she is then more likely to act in a way that is consistent with the deviant label. Ironically, the act of punishment stimulates more of the very behavior that it was intended to eliminate. This theory suggests that persons arrested for domestic assault are more likely to reoffend than those who are not punished, which is the reverse of the deterrence theory prediction. Theorizing about the logic behind punishment can also help us draw connections to more general theories about social processes. Deterrence theory reflects the assumptions of ratio' nal choice theory, which assumes that people's behavior is shaped by practical calculations: People break the law if the \nefits of doing so exceed the costs. If crime is a rational choice for some people, then increasiirg the certainty or severity of punishment for crime should shift the cost-benefit balance away from criminal behavior. Labeling theory is rooted h symbolic interactionism, which focuses on the symbolic meanings that people give to behavior (Hagan,

it increase

1994:40).Instead of assuming that some forms of behavior are deviant in and of themselves (Scull 1988:678), symbolic interactionists view deviance as a consequence ofthe application of rules and sanctions to an "offender" (Becker 1963:9). Exhibit 3.7 summarizes how these general theories relate to the question of whether or not to arrest spouse abusers. Specific predictions about the effect of arrest are deduced ftom
general theories about punishment. Does either deterrence theory or labeling theory make sense to you as an explanation for the impact of punishment? Do they seem consistent with your observations of social life? As you have already seen, Patemoster et al. (1997) concluded that something was missing in these theories. Procedural justice theory explains law-abidingness as resulting from a sense of duty or morality and predicts that people will obey the law from a sense of obligation that flows from seeing legal authorities as moral and legitimate (Tyler 1990). From this perspective, individuals who are arrested will be less likelyto reoffend if they are treated faidy, irrespective of the outcome of their case, because fair treatment will enhance their view of legal authorities as moral and legitimate. Procedural justice theory expands our view of the punishment process by focusing attention on how authorities treat subjects rather than just on what decisions they make. Are you now less certain about the likely effect of arrest for intimate partner violence? Will arrest decrease abuse because abusers do not wish to suffer from legal sanctions again? Will

to act like treated fairly bY


fre impli
keep thinking

The process involves movi
ized with a

As Exhibit
general We call the

a relationship

Chapter 3

a The Process and Problems of Social Research 7"1

Rational choice theorY Theoretical

People's behavior is shaPed bv calculations of the costs and benefits of their actions.

Symbolic interactionism
People give symbolic meanings to objects, behaviors, and


other people.

ffi Y
Criminological component
Deterrence theory: People break the law if the benefits ofdoing so outweigh the costs. Labeling theory: People label offenders as deviant, promoting further deviance.

(effect of arrest for

Abusing spouse, having seen the costs of abuse (namely, arrest),
decides not 10 abuse

Abusing spouse' having been

labeled as "an abuser"' abuses more often'



i increase abuse because abusers feel stigmatized by being arrested and thus are more likely h act like criminals? Or will arrest reduce abusd only if the abusers feel they have been
rcarcd fairly by the legal authorities? By suggesting such questions, social theory makes us
mere sensitive to the possibilities and so helps us to design better research and draw out ft implications of our results. Before, during, and after a research investigation, we need to teep thinking theoreticallY.


kplanatory Research
The process of conducting research designed to test explanations for social phenomena fuvolves moving from theory to data and then back to theory- This process can be characterized with a research circle (Exhibit 3.8).

Deductive Research
general theoretical premise and then tested with data that have been collected for this purpose.

As Exhibit 3.8 shows, in deductive researc\a specif,tc expectation is deduced from

We call the specific expectation deduced from the more general theory a hypothesis. It is the hypothesis that researchers actually test, not the complete theory itself. A hypothesis proposes a relationship between two or more yariables---characteristics or properties that can vary.






Variation in one variable is proposed to predict, influence, or cause variation in the other variable. The proposed influence is the independent variable; its effect or consequence is the dependent variable. After the researchers formulate one or more hypotheses and develop research procedures, they collect data with which to test the hypothesis.
Hypothesis A tentative sta(ement abodt empirical reality, involving between two or more variables.


Example of a hypothesis.' The higher the poverty rate in a community, the higher the percentage of community residents who are homeless.


A characteristic or property that can vary (take on different values or


Example of a variable: The degree of honesty in verbal statements' Independent vurinble A variable that is hypothesized to cause, or lead to, vaflation in another variable. Example of an independent variable.' Poverty rate.
Depend.ent variable A variable that is hypothesized under the influence oi, anothtr variable.

to vary depending on, or

Example of a dependent va,riable: Percentage of community residents who are


Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social Research 73

The greater the use dlnternet, the greater the strength

ddistant family li:s.

IF Intemet use is greater, THEN the strength of distant family ties is


Ihe risk of
poperty theft
decreases as

IF income is higher, THEN the risk of property theft is






IF years of
decrease, THEN

decrease, income

income decreases.


IF income increases, THEN political


with IF

income. Property crime is higher in urban areas


areas are urban,

THEN property
crime is higher
-compared to crime in suburban

in suburban

or rural areas.

or rural areas.

Hypotheses can be worded in several different ways, and identifying the independent and

lilendent variables is sometimes difficult. When in doubt, try to rephrase the hypothesis as i ff-then" statement: 'f the independent variable increases (or decreases), then the depen-


variable increases (or decreases)." Exhibit 3.9 presents several hypotheses with their L&pendent and dependent variables and their "if-then" equivalents. Exhibit 3.9 demonstrates another feature of hypotheses: direction of association. When
Esearchers hypothesize that one variable increases as the other variable increases, the direcfu of association is positive (Hypotheses 1 and 4). When one variable decreases as the other wiable decreases, the direction of association is also positive (Hyryrthesis 3). But when one wiable increases as the other decreases, or vice versa, the direction of association is nega6rr, or inverse (Hypothesis 2). Hypothesis 5 is a special case, in which the independent raiable is qualitative: It cannot be said to increase or decrease. In this case, the concept of &ection of association does not apply, and the hypothesis simply'states that one category of 6e independent variable is associated with higher values on the dependent variable.


Both explanatory and evaluative studies are types of deductive research. The original Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment was an evaluative study, because Sherman and Berk (1984) sought to explain what sorl of response by the authorities might keep a
spouse abuser from repeating the offense. The researchers deduced from deterrence theory the expectation that amest would deter domestic violence. They then collected data to test this


In both explanatory and evaluative research, the statement ofexpectations for the findings and the design of the research to test these expectations strengthen the confidence we can place in the test. The deductive researcher shows her hand or states her expectations in advance and then designs a fair test of those expectations. Then, "the chips fall where they may"-in other words, the researcher accepts the resulting data as a more or less objective picture of reality.

frfr mr

Domestic Violence and the Research Circle

The Sherman and Berk (1984) study of domestic violence provides our first example of how the research circle works. In an attempt to determine ways to prevent the recurrence of spouse abuse, the researchers repeatedly linked theory and data, developing both hypotheses and empirical generalizat ions. The first phase of Sherman and Berk's study was designed to test a hypothesis. According to deter:rence theory, punishment will reduce recidivism, or the propensity to commit further crimes. From this theory, Sherman and Berk deduced a specific hypothesis: "Ar:rest for spouse abuse reduces the risk of repeat offenses." In this hypothesis, arrest is the independent variable, and the risk ofrepeat offenses is the dependent variable (it is hypothesized to depend on arrest). Of course, in another study, amest-rnight be the dependent variable in relation to some other independent variable. For example, in the hypothesis "The greater the rate of layoffs in a community, the higher the frequency of arrest," the dependent variable is frequency of arrest. Only within the context of a hypothesis, or a relationship between variables, does it make sense to refer to one variable as dependent and the other as independent. Sherman and Berk tested their hypothesis by setting up an experiment in which the police responded to complaints of spouse abuse in one of three ways: arresting the offendeq separating the spouses without making an arrest, or simply warning the offender. When the researchers examined their data (police records for the persons in their experiment), they found that of those arrested lbr assaulting their spouse, only l37o repeated the offense, compared to a267o recidivism rate for those who were separated from their spouse by the police without any arrest. This pattern in the data, or empirical generalization, was consistent with the hypothesis that the researchers deduced from deterrence theory. The theory thus received support from the experiment (see Exhibit 3.10). Because of their doubts about the generalizability of their results, Sherman, Berk, and other researchers began to journey around the research circle again, with funding from the National Institute of Justice for replications (repetitions) of the experiment in six more cities. These replications used the same basic research approach but with some improvements. The random assignment process was tightened up in most of the cities so that police officers would be less likely to replace the assigned treatment with a treatment of their own choice. In addition, data were collected about repeat violence against other victims as well as against the


xpsds- to se nt* imyail after arrest d B!, $e dme rd ilf,s apP6rt0r- la t mmh'anhtr- Inissri ir*lems aEry llm*la+he poffi hbofl Srman and [rsf,er fte uigirdl dEr rhan lflbGf I l*o qr*im- IE k as fre restd hllon-up dM m mmd fre rescdr Seifi l99ll


,nfrrttre M ln cmm* mH h rrsed rodelrdl ilry t0 ttrint 0ilfrh;





eEo dtrrclryt -1-t l- Itr dertnircl

Chapter 3

Ihe process and problems of SocialResearch




\ o^o1
Measures for 330 domestic assault cases

: Data

from Sherman & Berk 19g4:26i

whether professional counseling helped and whether the length of time spent after arrest mattered at all. By the time resurts were reported from five of the cities in the new study, a problem of the cities_omaha, Nebraska; Charlotte, Norrh Carotina; and LT..o"T:11":i lT,:: wisconsin-researchers '.ffiwaukee, were finding rong-term increases

iliBinal complainant' Some of the replications also examined different aspects of the arrest to see



'rhida-the 'ffi[,|::::,Tj,:::^:I predicted deterent liiyororalo. effecrs seemed be^occi,.ring rsrr""r#l"r;;ti;;y; -eman and his colleagues had now traversed to the research Jr"l" t*i"" in an attempt to rsrer the original research question, fust in Minneapolis and then in

ir;;;;;;;r;i#;; i,r*"0", and Dade counry,

six other cities.


i k

JHlow-up data from seleral cities to try to explain arr" ait"r"p"ri r"*ur, thereby starting mund the research circre once again (Berk et ar. r992;pate &Hamirton r99z;Sherman
Smith I992).

Butthan leading to more confidence in deterrence theory the research results were calling into question. Deterrence theory now seemed inadequate to explain empiricar rearity, at as the researchers had measured this reality. So the researche.s began to rcanalyze the

lnductive Research
data, which are 6en used to develop (induce) a general explanation (a theory) to account fbr the data. one Tay to think of this process is in terms of the research circle: Rather than starting

In contrast to deductive research, inductive research begins with specific

at the top of the circle with a theory the inductive researcher starts at the bottom of the circle with data aod then develops the theory. Another way to think of this process is represented in Exhibit i'I1' In deductive research, reasoning from specific premises resultsin a conctusion that a



1: 2:


unemployed spouse abusers recidivate. Joe is an unemployed spouse abuser.

Evidence 1: Evidence 2: Evidence 3: Conclusion:


will recidivate,

loe, an unemployed spouse abuse4 recidivated. Harold, an unemployed spouse abuser, recidivated.


George, an unemployed spouse abuse4 recidivated. unemployed. spouse abusers recidivate.

I ffi,



supported, while


inductive research, the identification of similar empirical

patterns results in a generalization about some social process. Inductive reasoning enters into deductive research when we find unexpected patterns in the data we have collected for testing a hypothesis. We may call these patterns serendipitous findings or anomalous findings. Whether we begin by doing inductive research or add an inductive element later, the result of the inductive process can be new insights and provocative questions. But the adequacy of an explanation formulated after the fact is necessarily less certain than an explanation presented prior to the collection of data. Every phenomenon can always be explained in some way. Inductive explanations are thus more trustworthy if they are tested subsequently with deductive research'


\ \

An Inductive Approach to Explaining Domestic Violence. The domestic violence research

took an inductive turn when Sherman and the other researchers began trying to make sense of the differing patterns in the data collected in the different cities. Could systematic differences in the samples or in the implementation of arrest policies explain the differing outcomes? Or was the problem an inadequacy in the theoretical basis of their research? Was deterrence theory really the best way to explain the patterns in the data they were collecting? As you learned in my review of the Pate and Hamilton (1992) study, the researchers had found that individuals who were married and employed were deterred from repeat offenses by arrest, but individuals who were unmarried and unemployed were actually more likely to commit repeat offenses if they were arrested. What could explain this empirical pattern? The researchers turned to control theory, which predicts that having a "stake in conformity"



freo,r1. sgaUol tt

fu !r!

This last indncft ricier picture of, t hcle come closr I ns that their



* mrurt- So ma1'be ml
llEnts: the-v also
rinlence. The rcd& is more costl]' to r n'oman. judges wil rBerk et al. 1993t

(resulting from inclusion in social networks at work or in the community) decreases a person's likelihood of committing crimes (Toby 1957). The implication is that people who are employed and married are more likely to be deterred by the threat of arrest than those without such stakes in conformity. And this is indeed what the data revealed. Now, the researchers had traversed the research circle almost three times, a process perhaps better described as a spiral (see Exhibit 3.12).The first two times, the researchers had traversed the research circle in a deductive, hypothesis-testing way. They started with theory and then deduced and tested hypotheses. The third time they were more inductive: They started with empirical generalizations from the data they had already obtained and then tumed to a new theory to account for the unexpected patterns in the data. At this point, they believed

Exploratory Rer
Qualitative rs observing said a explanation for*E

Chapter 3

The Process and Problems



Research 77

h deterrence theory made correct predictiong; given certain conditions, and that &nother ttry, control theory might specify what these conditions were.
This last inductive step in their research made for a more complex but also gdnceptually picture of the impact of arrest on domestic violence. The researchers seemed to hve come closer to understanding how to inhibit domestic violence. But they cautioned rs that their initial question-the research problem-was still not completely answered. Employment status and marital status do not solely measure the strength of social attach[cnts; they also are related to how much people earn and the social standing of victims in ourt. So maybe social ties are not really what make arrest an effective deterrent to domestic vftrlence. The real deterrent may be cost-benefit calculations ("If I have a higher income. jail b more costly to me") or perceptions about the abtions of authorities C'If I am a married woman, judges will treat my complaint more seriously"). Additional research was needed (Berk et al.1992).


Exploratory Research
Qualitative research is often exploratory and, hence, inductive: The researchers begin by observing social interaction or interviewing social actors in depth and then developing an explanation for what has been found. The researchers often ask questions like "What is going


on here?" "How do people interpret these experiences?" or "Why do people do what they do?" Rather than testing a hypothesis, the researchers are trying to make sense of some social phenomenon. They may even put off formulating a research question until after they begin to collect data-the idea is to let the question emerge from the situation itself (Brewer & Hunter 1989:54-58).

[h mrcd p @ilfrGr fild, IhEIE ilrr 6rigoruf rr

Victim Responses to Police lntervention

Lauren Bennett, Lisa Goodman, and Mary Ann Dutton (1999) used this approach to investigate one of the problems that emerge when police arrest domestic batterers: The victims often decide not to press charges. Bennett, Goodman, & Dutton (1999) did not set out to test hypotheses with qualitative interviews (there was another, hypothesis-testing component in their research), but sought, inductively, to "add the voice of the victim to the discussion" and present "themes that emerged from [the] interviews" (p.162). Research assistants interviewed 49 victims of domestic violence in one court; Bennett also worked in the same court as a victim advocate. The researchers were able to cull from their qualitative data four reasons why victims became reluctant to press charges. Some were confused by the court procedures, others were frustrated by the delay, some were paralyzedby fear of retribution, and others did not want to send the batterer to jail. One victim interviewed by Bennett felt that she "was doing time instead of the defendant"; another expressed her fear by saying that she would like "to keep him out of jail if that's what it takes to keep-my kids safe" (Bennett, Goodman, & Dutton 1999:768--169).

il[f hcrsma?i dlqershddud C rtrarEe. lq, (

mT{ilnirr*ad hd-rtdt cfErocat

strl*E{ot :n*e of q;

frrc LEnd rhf, 111q516[l''il

Uds eocse5i

rcELefu de!


Conflicts Among High School Students

Calvin Morrill and his colleagues (2000) also used exploratory research methods for their study of youth violence. Rather than a quantitatively oriented study in which they would "narrowly construct youth experience with peer conflict," they proposed a "youth-centered study of conflict" that "puts youths' voices and orientations toward conflict at the center of concern" (Morrill et al. 2000:524). Monill et al. (2000) decided to conduct a "narrative survy," in which students in ninthgrade English classes at one high school were asked to write a story about a time they experienced a conflict with another student. Five specific exploratory research questions guided their analysis:

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3. How do young people represent various means for handling peer conflict? 4. How is violence portrayed in their narratives? 5. How are adults situated in youth conflict narratives? (Monill et al. 2000:531)
Each of these examples illustrates how the research questions that serve as starting points for qualitative data analyses do not simply emerge from the setting studied but are shaped by the investigator. As Harry Wolcott (1995) explains,



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Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social Research 79

lcseach questionl is not embedded within the lives of those whom we study,

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waiting to be discovered. Quite the opposite: We instigate the problems we invesThre is no point in simply sitting by, passively waiting to see what a setting is m'tell' us or hoping a problem will "emerge." (p. 156)

for guiding qualitative data ffi h6s on the importance of the research question as a tool The research question process. analytic the of nature iterative the obscure m rnootA not data collection and of processes the throughout multiply or expand, h-g", narro%
developed inductively from qualitative research can feel authentic because have tried to see the UlLne kard what people have to say "in their own words" and we will be richer and research qualitative from derived Explanations seeit." they are likely to be but they research, quantitative in are often they fuely textured than people studied in this the that assume cannot We area. a limited from fL*", cases -ae to ours to similar explanations develop will researchers other that like others or a test of a set up initially do not we Because or heard. observed sse of what was and along come cannot researcher another rules, specific to some is according


the same test.

learned in Chapter 1 that some social research is purely descriptive. Such research fu rct involve connecting theory and data, but it is still a part of the research circle-it t-E- with data and proceeds only to the stage of making empirical generalizations based on lhdata (refer to Exhibit 3.8,P.12). mlid description is important in its own right-in fact, it is a necessary component of all hsigations. Much important research for the government and public and private otganiza,f:r is primarily descriptive: How many poor people live in this community? Is the health of rrcdaeiy improving? How frequently do convicted criminals return to crime? Simply put, research process and an essential 6pd, description of data is the cornerstone of the scientific world. qor"ot for understanding the social Gooa aescriptive research can also stimulate more ambitious deductive and inductive rmch. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment was motivated, in part, by a growLg body of descriptive research indicating that spouse abuse is very common: 572,000 cases d-women victimiied by a violent paflner each year; 1.5 million women (and 500,000 men) qiring medical attention each year due to a domestic assault (Buzawa & Buzawa [g96:l-3). You may recall from Chapter 1 that much of the research on the Internet and social detions also has been descriptive; however, by identifying the prevalence of Internet use and rment levels of social isolation, this research has helped to establish priorities for both public

;. k

@icy and additional





for social


research ethics and procedures

is not complete until it includes an understanding for the protection of human subjects. Every scientific


investigation, whether in the natural or social sciences, has an ethical dimension to it. First and foremost, the scientific concern with validity requires that scientists be open in disclosing their methods and honest in presenting the findings. Scientists also have to consider the uses to which their findings will be put. Social scientists have many additional concerns about how their research affects PeoPle.


aesr policies

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Honesty and OPenness

Research distorted by political or personal pressures to find particular outcomes or to achieve the most marketable results is unlikely to be carried out in an honest and open fash-

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ion; however, distinguishing between unintentional error and deliberate fraud can be very difficult. For example, a 1963 report of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Problems of the Aged and Aging concluded that a study of elderly persons' health needs, publicized by the American Medical Association, was a "supposedly objective, scientific, academic study" that was really a "pseudo-scientific half-effort" (Cail 196'7 18-79). The researchers were accused of having an upper-class bias in the design of their sample and of using some questions that
underestimated elders'health needs. Yet the researchers were convinced that they had adhered to scientific guidelines. It is not ciear in this case, nor in many others, whether the research was designed to favor



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particular findings or to adapt to unavoidable constraints. Error, committed without any intent io defraud, is inevitable. Social scientists who do not do their best to minimize error skirt the boundaries of fraud, but the discovery oferrors in a study should not, in itself, be taken as an indication of dishonestY. Openness about research procedures and results goes hand in hand with honesty in research design. Openness is also essential ifresearchers are to learn from the work ofothersIn spite ofthis need for openness, some researchers may hesitate to disclose their procedures or risults to prevent others from building on their ideas and taking some of the credit. You rnay have heard of the long legal battle between a U.S. researcher and a French researcher about how credit for discovering the AIDS virus should be allocated. Although such public disputes are unusual, concerns with priority of discovery are common. Scientists are like other people in their desire to be first. Enforcing standards ofhonesty and encouraging openness about research are the best solutions to these problems'

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The Uses of Science

Scientists must also consider the uses to which their research is put. Although many scientists believe that personal values should be left outside the laboratory, some feel that it is proper for scientists, in their role as citizens, to attempt to influence the way their research is used. Social scientists who identiff with a more "cntical" tradition question the possibility of setting our values aside and instead urge researchers to use research to achieve goals that they believe are worthy. The Sherman and Berk research provides an interesting cautionary tale about the uses of science. Sherman and Berk explicitly cautioned police departments not to adopt mandatory arrest policies based solely on their findings in Minneapolis (Sherman 1993), but Sherman publicized the research results in the mass media (Binder & Meeker 1993; Lempert 1989). Sorne social scientists were very critical of this decision. In parl, the question was whether

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Chapter 3

The Process and Problems of Social



on partial information was preferable to waiting until the information was more Although we now know that the original finding of a deterrent effect of arrest did in each replication, Sherman (1992) later suggested that implementing mandatory plicies might have prevented some subsequent cases of spouse abuse (pp. 150-153). ; in the Omaha follow-up study, arrest warrants reduced repeat offenses among &tsers who had already left the scene when police arrived. Horrvever, this Omaha ras not publicized, so it could not be used to improve police policies. So how.much is warranted and at what point in the research should it occur? irl scientists who conduct research on behalf of specific organizations may face addidifficulties when the organization, instead of the researcher, controls the final report publicity it receives. If organizational leaders decide that particular research results the researcher's desire to have findings used appropriately and reported fully with contractual obligations. Researchers can often anticipate such dilemmas tn and resolve them when the contract for research is negotiated:or simply decline a research opportunity altogether. But often, such problems come up only after a has been drafted, or the problems are ignored by a researcher who needs to have ajob ds to maintain particular personal relationships. These possibilities cannot be avoided but because of them, it is always important to acknowledge the source of research in reports and to consider carefully the sources of funding for research reports




on People

'r fumal procedures for the protection of human subjects in research grew out of some ,libly publicized abuses of human subjects. A defining event occurred in 1946, when the
Uhrmberg War Crime Trials exposed horrific medical experiments conducted by Nazi docand others in the name of "scienee." In another example, many Americans were shocked learn in the 1970s that researchers funded by the U.S. Public Health Service had infected lffi low-income African-American men with syphilis in the 1930s without their knowledge d then studied the "natural" course of the illness. Many participants.were not informed of frir illness and denied treatment antll 1972, even though a cure (pgriicillin) was developed



Egregious violations of human rights like these resulted, in the United States, in the crcation of a National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Eehavioral Research. The Commission's 1979 "Belmont Report" (Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 1979) established three basic ethical principles:

t Beneficence: Minimizing possible harms and maximizing benefits; o .Iustice: Distributing benefits and risks of research fairly.

Respectfor persons: Treating persons as autonomous agents and protecting those with diminished autonomy;

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration Ihen ffanslated these principles into specific regulations that were adopted in 1991 as the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects. This policy has shaped the course of social science research ever since its inception, and you will have to take it into account as


you design your own research investigations. Professional associations, university review boards, and ethics committees in other organizations also set standards for the treatment of
human subjects, although these standards are all designed to comply with the federal policy.

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This section introduces these regulations.

Federal regulations require that every institution that seeks federal funding for biomedical or behavioral research on human subjects have an institutional review board (IRB) that reviews research proposals. IRBs at universities and other agencies apply ethics standards that are set by federal regulations but can be expanded or specified by the IRB itself (Sieber 1992:,5, 10). To promote adequate review of ethical issues, the regulations require that IRBs include members with diverse backgrounds. The Office for Protection from Research Risks in the National Institutes of Health monitors IRBs, with the exception of research involving drugs (which is the responsibility of the Federal Food and Drug Administration). The American Sociological Association (ASA), like other professional social science organizations, has adopted, for practicing sociologists, ethics guidelines that are more specific than the federal regulations. Professional organizations may also review complaints of unethical practices when asked. The Code of Ethics of the American Sociological Association (1997) is summarized on the ASA Web site; the complete text of the Code is also available at this site. The Code's standards concerning the treatment of human subjects include federal regulations and ethics guidelines emphasized by most professional social science organizations: Research should cause no harm to subjects. a Participation in research should be voluntary, and therefore subjects must give their informed consent to participate in the research. a Researchers should fully disclose their identity. a Anonymity or confidentiality must be maintained for individual research participants unless it is voluntarily and explicitly waived. o Benefits from a research proiect should outweigh any foreseeable risks.

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As simple as these guidelines may seem, they are difficult to interpret in specific cases and harder yet to define in a way agreeable to all social scientists. For example, how should "no harm to subjects" be interpreted? Does it mean that subjects should not be at all harmed psychologically as well as physically? That they should feel no anxiety or distress whatever during the study or only after their involvement ends? Should the possibiliry of any harm, no matter how remote, deter research? Consider the question of possible harm to the subjects of a well-known prison simulation study (Haney, Banks, & Zimbardo 1973). The study was designed to investigate the impact of social position on behavior-specifically, the impact of being either a guard or a prisoner in a prison, a "total institution." The researchers selected apparently stable and mature young male volunteers and asked them to sign a contract to work for 2 weeks as a guard or a prisoner in a simulated prison. Within the first two days after the prisoners were incarcerated by the "guards" in a makeshift basement prison, the prisoners began to be passive and disorganized, while the guards became verbally and physically aggressive. Five "prisoners" were soon released for depression, uncontrollable crying, fits of rage, and, in one case, a

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Chapter 3 + The Process and Problems of Social Research 83

;gnhmomatic rash; on the sixth day, the researchers terminated the experiment. Through ahllssions in special postexperiment encounter sessions, feelings of stress among the pa(ic-

[m who played the role of prisoner seemed to be relieved; follow-up during the next year ffiaed no lasting negative effects on the participants and some benefits in the form of Uffi insight. :. fruld you ban such experiments because of the potential for harm to subjects? Does the ftt Sat the experiment yielded significant insights into the effect of a situation on human
that could be used to improve prisons-make any difference (Reynolds you believe that this benefit outweighed the foreseeable risks? Do ttfl!L133-139)? of informed consent is also more difficult to define than it first appears. requirement The must be given by persons who are competent to consent, have coninformed, consent frte fully informed about the research, and have comprehended what they voluntarily, are ffd (Reynolds 1979). The researcher's actions and body language must help to told Lrrc been consent is voluntary. Children cannot legally give consent his verbal assurance that o[lEy they must have the opportunity to give or withhold their prticipate in research, but r participate to which their legal guardians have consented (Sieber in research r3ruz, to prisoners give informed consent? Can students who are asked to participate in il!II2)- Can participants professor? in covert experiments? These situations by their Can rrearch extra care. ryirc frrlly informed consent may also reduce participation in research and, because signing onsent forms prior to participation may change p-articipants' responses, produce biased cmlts (Larson 1993:114). Experimental researchers whose research design requires some _, qpc of subject deception try to get around this problem by withholding some informatiorf Hqe the experiment begins but then debriefing subjects at the end. In the debriefing, the

q:sions (Sieber 1992:394I). However, even though debriefing can be viewed as a substire, in Some cases, for securing fully informed consent prior to the experiment, if the
subjects disclose the nature of the experiment to other participants, subsequent rsrlts may still be contaminated (Adair, Dushenko, & Lindsay 1985). For his study of homosexual behavior in public bathr\ms, Tearoom Trade, Laud &mFhreys (1970) decided that truly informed consent would be impossible to obtain. hsilead, he first served as a lookout-a "watch queen"-for men who were entering a public Lrtroom in a city park with the intention of having sex. In a number of cases, he then left the ffioom and copied the license plate numbers of the cars driven by the men. One year later, b visited the homes of the men and interviewed them as part of a larger study of social issues. lfumphreys changed his appearance so that the men did not recognize him. His conclusions, rcmingly, were benign-the men engaged in what were viewed as deviant acts were, for the nost part, married, suburban men whose families were unaware of their sexual practices. But debate has continued ever since the publication of this research about Humphreys's failure to cll the men what he was really doing in the bathroom or why he had come to their homes for fu interview. If you were to serve on your university's IRB, would you allow this research to
be conducted?


Well-intentioned researchers may also fail to foresee all the potential problems. In the pison simulation, all the participants signed consent forms, but how could they have heen fully informed in advance? The researchers themselves did not realize that the study


participants would experience so much stress so quickly, that some prisoners would have to be released for severe negatiVe reactions within the first few days, or that even those who were not severely stressed would soon be begging to be released from the mock prison. Ifthis risk was not foreseeable, was it acceptable for the researchers to presume in advance that the benefits would outweigh the risks?



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Maintaining confidentiality is another key ethical obligation; a statement should be included in the informed consent agreement about how each subject's privacy will be protected (Sieber 1992). Procedures such as locking records and creating special identifying codes must be created to minimize the risk of access by unauthorized persons. Howeveq statements about confidentiality should be realistic: Laws allow research records to be subpoenaed and may require reporting child abuse; a researcher may feel compelled to release information if a health- or life-threatening situation arises and participants need to be alerted. Also, the standard of confidentiality does not apply to observation in public places and information available in public records. The potential of withholding a beneficial treatment from some subjects also is cause for ethical concern. The Sherman and Berk experiment required the random assignment of subjects to treatment conditions and thus had the potential of causing harm to the victims of domestic violence whose batterers were not arrested. The justification for the study design, however, is quite persuasive: The researchers didn't know prior to the experiment which response to a domestic violence complaint would be most likely to deter future incidents (Sherman 1992).The experiment provided clear evidence about the value of arrest, so it can be argued that the benefits outweighed the risks. The extent to which ethical issues are a problem for researchers and their subjects varies dramatically with the type ofresearch design. Survey research, in particular, creates few ethical problems. In fact, researchers from Michigan's Institute for Survey Research interviewed a representative national sample of adults and found ihat 687o of those who had participated in a survey were somewhat or very interested in'participating in another; the more times respondents had been interviewed, the more willing they were to participate again. Presumably they would have felt differently if they had been treated unethically (Reynolds 1919:56-51). On the other hand, some experimental studies in the social sciences that have put people in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations have generated vociferous complaints and years of debate about ethics (Reynolds 1979; Sjoberg 1967). The evaluation of ethical issues in a research project should be based on a realistic assessment ofthe overall potential for harm and benefit to research subjects rather than an apparent inconsistency between any particular aspect of a research plan and a specific ethical guideline. For example, full disclosure of "what is really going on" in an experimental study is unnecessary if subjects are unlikely to be harmed. Nevertheless, researchers should make every effort to foresee all possible risks and to weigh the possible benefits of

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the research against these risks. They should consult with individuals with different perspectives to develop a realistic risk/benefit assessment, and they should try to maximize the benefits to, as well as minimize the risks for, subjects of the research (Sieber
1992:75-108). Ultimately, these decisions about ethical procedures are notjust up to you, as a researcher, to make. Your university's IRB sets the human subjects protection standards for your institution and may even require that you submit your research proposal to them for review.

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Chapter 3

+ The


and Problems of Social Research 85



proposal graleful for those people or groups who require you to write a formal research you constructive rF*UO as that seems), and be even more grateful for those who give mr&".t. Whether your proposal is written for a professor, a thesis committee, an otganiza-

lf6 rcking

proposal practical advice, or a government agency that funds basic research, the ltru fuce you to set out a problem statement and a research plan. So even in circumstances for feedback' ft a proposal is not reqoired, you should prepare one and present it to others fu *riting your ideas down will help you to see how they can be improved, and almost any ffinfiack will help you to refine your plans' Proposal" exercises that will Each chapter in this book inciudes "Developing a Research an overview of the rmile you through the process of proposal writing. This section presents introduction to these special end-of-chapter ;*; of proposal w.lilng that also serves as an a wrap-up discussion of the entire proposalcontains text the in ;Eises. itre tast ct aptei
process. fllqrration - in=ry research proposal should have at least five sections. The following list is adapted ful-ocke, Spirduso, & Silverman (2000:8-34):

it is that An introductory statement of the research problem, in which you clarify what you are interested in studYing.


on what has A literature review,in which you explain how your problem and plans build already been reported in the literature on this topic' of A meihodological plan, detalling just how you will respond to the particular mix opportunities and constraints you face' how you will An ethics statement, identifying human subjects issues in the research and

respond to them in an ethical fashion' and presentA itatement of limitations, reviewing weaknesses of theqroposed research ing plans for minimiZing their consequences'


will also need to include a budget


and project timeline, unless you are working



p.opori will be reviewed competitively, it must present a compelling research problem mionale for funding. Ii is not possible to oYerstate the importance of the

framework of a class Project'

If your


a hypothyou propose to study (see the first section of this chapter). If you propose to test focusto avoid want You alternatives' plausible are GdL be sure that it is one for which there ..boring hypothesis"-one that has no credible alternatives, even though it is likely fu on a m be correct (Dawes 1995:93). from a A research proposal also can be strengthened considerably by presenting results proposed the administering involved have might This ,tro1 study of ihe research question. a preliminary version of the proposed experiment conducting sample, a small to ryffiionnaire like ii& u group of students, or making observations over a limited period of time in a settingpilot the in used methods the of presentation &a proposed for a qualitative study. Careful ,strdi *d the problems that were encountered will impress anyone who reviews the proposal' to Ooo't n"gt""t procedures for the protection of human subjects. Even before you begin for requires IRB your university's procedure dn"elop youi p.oposal, you should find out what



the review of student research proposals. Follow those procedures carefully, even if they require that you submit your proposal for an IRB review. No matter what your university's specific requirements a-re, if your research involves human subjects, you will need to include in your proposal a detailed statement that describes how you will adhere to these requirements.
You have learned in this chapter how to formulate a research question, review relevant literature, consider ethical issues, and identify some possible research limitations, so you are now ready to begin proposing new research. If you plan to do so, you can use the proposal exercises at the end of each of the subsequent chapters to incorporate more systematically the research elements discussed in those chapters. By the book's end, in Chapter 15, you will have attained a much firmer grasp of the various research components. At that point, we will retum to the process of proposal writing.

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Selecting a worthy research question does not guarantee a worthwhile research project. The simplicity of the research circle presented in this chapter belies the complexity of the social research process. In the following chapters, I will focus on particular aspects of the research process. Chapter 4 examines the interrelated processes of conceptualization and measurement, arguably the most important part of research. Measurement validity is the foundation for the other two aspects of validity. Chapter 5 reviews the meaning of generalizability and the sampling strategies that help us to achieve this goal. Chapter 6 introduces causal validity and illustrates different methods for achieving it. Most of the remaining chapters then introduce different approaches to data collection--experiments; surveys, participant observation and intensive interviewing, evaluation research, comparative historical research, secondary data analysis and content analysis-that help us, in different ways, to achieve results that
are valid. Of course, our answers to research questions will never be complete or entirely certain. Thus, when we complete a research project, we should point out how the research could be extended and evaluate the confidence we have in our conclusions. Recall how the elaboration of knowledge about deterrence of domestic violence required sensitivity to research difficulties, careful weighing of the evidence, and identification of unanswered questions by several research teams. Ethical issues also should be considered when evaluating research proposals and completed research studies. As the preceding examples show, ethical issues in social research are no less complex than the other issues that researchers confront. And it is inexcusable to jump into research on people without any attention to ethical considerations. Owning a large social science toolkit is no guarantee of making the right decisions about which tools to use and how to use them in the investigation of particular research problems, but you are now forewarned about, and thus hopefully forearmed against, some of the problems that social scientists face in their work. I hope that you will return often to this chapter as you read the subsequent chapters, when you criticizethe research literature, and when you design your own research projects. To be conscientious, thoughtful, and responsible-this is the mandate of every social scientist. If you formulate a feasible research problem, ask the right questions in advance, try to adhere to the research guidelines, and steer clear ofthe most common difficulties, you will be well along the road to fulfilling this mandate.

Chapter 3

a The


and Probilems of Social Research 87


Institutional review board (IRB)

Research circle

Ettriveresearch Esrdentvariable


of association

edrical Ective

fideFadent variable

Serendipitous findings Social research question Theory Variable

r, .
Research questions should be feasible (within the time and resources available), socially imporand scientifically relevant..

r Building social theory is a major objective of social science research. Investigate relevant theories }bre starting social research projects, and draw out the theoretical implications of research frndings. - o The type of reasoning in most research can be described as primarily deductive or inductive.
based on deductive reasoning proceeds from general ideas, deduces specific expectations from

be ideas, and then tests the ideas with empirical data. Research based on inductive reasoning begins nilt specific data and then develops general ideas or theories to explain patterns in the data. . It mly be possible to explain unanticipated research findings after the fact, but such explanations
hrrc less credibility than those that have been tested with data collected for the purpose of the study.

o The scientific process can be represented as circular, with a path from theory to hypotheses, to lre, and then to empirical generalizations. Research investigations mq begin at different points along t research circle and traverse different portions of it. Deductiv" ."r"-bh begins at the'piint of theory
Lfuctive research begins with data but ends with theory, and descriptive research begins with data and

ds with empirical generalizations. o Replications of a study are essential to establishing

ogoing line of

its generalizability in other situations. An research stemming from a particular research question should include a series of orvlies that, collectively, traverse the research circle multiple times.

Scientific research should be conducted and reported


an honest and open lashion.

C-ontemporary ethical standards also require that social research cause no harm to subjects; that particintion be voluntary, as expressed in informed consent; that researchers fully disclose their identity; that bcnefits to subjects outweigh any foreseeable risks; and that anonymity or confidentiality be maintained fu participants unless it is voluntarily and explicitly waived.

Writing a research proposal is an important part of preparing for research.

DrscussroN QUEsrroNs
Find a research journal article that is cited in another source. Compare the cited source to what was said about it in the original article. Was the discussion of it accurate? How well did the authors of both articles summarize their work in their abstracts? What important points would you have missed
you had relied only on the abstracts?



2. Classify five

research projects you have read about, either

in previous exercises or in


courses, as primarily inductive or deductive. Did you notice any inductive components in the primarily deductive projects? How much descriptive research was involved? Did the findings have any