If we’re all sociologists, why do social research?

(Because, on average, we’re not very good obser vers)

The Science of Sociology

How do we come to “know” things?
Tradition Authority Personal Inquiry Direct Experience and Obser vation

Errors in Obser vation
Inaccurate obser vations Overgeneralization Selective obser vation Illogical Reasoning

Looking for Reality
Two Criteria: Logical support - must make sense Empirical support - must not contradict actual obser vation.

The components of scientific research
Theory - deals with logic. Data collection - deals with obser vation. Data Analysis - deals with the comparison of what is logically expected with what is actually obser ved.

What do social scientists obser ve?
Patterns in social life (social regularities) People with a lot of education tend to earn more than people with less Men tend to die of stress-related diseases more frequently than women

What do social scientists obser ve?
Deviations from patterns in social life (social irregularities) Girls who participate in youth sports defy the pattern of gender-based income inequality Some countries with low per capita GDP have the highest reported rates of personal happiness

Obser vation Steps
Ask a question (hypothesize) Define concepts (conceptualize) Conceptualization...
Is the process of specifying what we mean when we use particular terms; produces an agreed upon meaning for a concept for the purposes of research. Describes the indicators we'll use to measure the concept and the different aspects of the concept.

What factors influence pedestrian safety in large cities?

Pop. Density of 20 largest U.S. Cities

Density Rank
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

NY, NY San Francisco, CA Chicago, IL Boston, MA Philadelphia, PA Washington, DC Baltimore, MD Los Angeles, CA Detroit, MI Milwaukee, WI San Jose, CA San Diego, CA Columbus, OH Houston, TX Dallas, TX San Antonio, TX Memphis, TN Phoenix, AZ Indianapolis, IN Jacksonville, FL

population (thousands)
7,323 724 2,784 574 1,586 607 736 3,485 1,028 628 782 1,111 633 1,631 1,007 936 610 983 731 635

Land area (sq. miles)
309 47 227 48 135 61 81 469 139 96 171 324 191 540 342 333 256 420 362 759

Density (pop/sq.mi.)
23,700 15,500 12,300 11,900 11,700 9,900 9,100 7,400 7,400 6,500 4,600 3,400 3,300 3,000 2,900 2,800 2,400 2,300 2,000 800

Obser vation Steps
Operationalization (deciding how to obser ve/measure what we’re interested in)
if “pedestrian safety” is the risk of death to people moving on foot from one point to another, then we can measure it by using victim descriptions in police fatality reports and calculating pedestrian deaths/100,000 in population if a “large city” is any city with a population >1,000,000; we can measure this by using official census data

More operationalization
if socioeconomic status is a person’s social class, we can measure it using income data if age is the # yrs a person has been alive... if race/ethnicity is a person’s selfidentified ancestry, we can measure it by asking people to choose from specific racial/ethnic categories if population density is the # of people per sq. mi.; we can use pop. and area data

Variables and Attributes
SES Age race/ethnicity pop. density (in thousands/sq.mi.)

low, medium, high <16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-64, >64
American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White (Hispanic/Latino or not)

<6, 6-10, 11-15, >15

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