You are on page 1of 8

Instructor: Stephen Sills

Section: 22125
Location: SS308
Class Times: Tuesday 6:05-8:55 PM
Office Hours: SS309 T 4:00 to 6:00
Required Text: Babbie, Earl (2002)
The Basics of Social Research 2nd Edition

SOC 391 Social Research

Catalog Course Description:

Methods of sociological research, including the fundamental assumptions
underlying research and some practical experience in research design, data
collection techniques, and data analysis. Prerequisites: both SOC 101 (or
301) and 390 or only instructor approval.

Important Websites
Class Website:
Class Schedule:
Extra Credit:
Current Grades:
Links to Babbie’s student resources: Sociology Student Resources

Other Useful Sociology Links:

Allyn & Bacon's Sociology Links Home Page
WCSU List: Sociology Internet Resources
USI Sociology Department-Social Research and Statistical Links
Trinity College Methods & Statistics Resources
Research Methods Knowledge Base
Basic methods of social sciences
Research Methods Resources on the WWW

Goals and Objectives:

This course is intended to be a practical survey of research methods.
Instruction will take the form of a seminar with a minimum of lecture and
an emphasis on discussion and experience. As a class we will be working
on a research project.

Evaluating what you understand will happen in individual research
assignments, exams and your group project. There are 1000 pts available.
Grades are will be calculated as the sum of:
• Homework 10% (100 pts)
• Individual Assignments 30% (300 pts)
• Group Project 30% (300 pts)
• Midterm Exam 15% (150 pts)
• Final Exam 15% (150 pts)
• Extra Credit +5% (50pts)
• Extra Credit +5% (50 pts)

The final course grades will be determined by the following scale:

• 895-1000 points = A (90%-100%)
• 795-894 points = B (80%-89%)
• 695-794 points = C (70%-79%)
• 595-694 points = D (60%-69%)
• 000-594 points = F (0%-59%)

As this class is structured more as a seminar than a lecture based course,
students will be required to discuss the reading materials. Therefore,
keeping up with the reading materials is a must. Students are expected to
complete assigned homework before class. Homework grades will be
recorded on four (random) occasions throughout the semester and graded
for a total of 25 pts each (a total of 100 pts or 10% of your grade).
Homework is to be completed online by website access at the Babbie
Website or by following the links under the given assignment for the day
on the course schedule. Complete the online chapter quizzes and submit by
e-mail to . Be sure to include your name and e-mail

Individual Assignments:
Complete each of the following individual assignments by their scheduled
due dates (see course schedule). These assignments are designed to
supplement the text and lectures and train you for the tasks of the group

NIH Certificate for Human Subjects Research (50 pts.)- To complete

the computer-based training provided by the NIH, you must register to take
the on-line course ( ). Complete the training and
respond to the short questionnaires that follow. There are five modules in
all so you may want to plan ahead, this may take some time. Once
registered you may return to the site over several sittings to complete the
course. Once successfully answering the quiz questions at the end of each
module, you will be given on option to print a certificate of completion.
Print two copies of the certificate; keep one for your records and bring the
second to class on September 10th. (Note – I may include a question or two
from the training on your first exam).

Literature Review Assignment (50 pts.)– Using only academic (peer

reviewed) online or print journals find 3 articles on public space, public
parks, public lands, crime and parks, demographic aspects of park usage,
privatization, renovating public spaces, commercialism and public space,
etc. Be creative with your search terms! Read the articles with special
attention to the methods and findings. Submit a copy of the article along
with a one page synopsis of the article (thus you will have 3 pages of
original text to submit). Be sure to detail the methods employed in the
article as well as a general overview of the findings. Turn in your articles
(photocopies ok) and typed report (on paper and a diskette with your name
on it. Note the interview team will be incorporating your interviews into
their project. Be diligent!
Nonparticipant Observer Assignment (50 pts.) - Sign up for one of the
times available to observe activities in Tempe Beach Park. See Dr.
Varenne's Field Issues and read the lecture notes on scratch notes, rewritten
field notes, and proper (final) field notes. Start here: Dr. Varenne's Scratch
Notes and follow Dr. Varenne’s examples. Spend a 30 min. period in some
area of the park (walk around and pick a good spot where you can see
people engaged in activities). Pay careful attention to the demographic and
social characteristics of the park’s patrons. Give as many details as you can
on the number of individuals and groups (families, friends, churches, etc).
Document approximate ages, ethnicities, sex, and description of appearance
(focus on status markers). Describe the activities that patrons are engaged
in. Finally, draw a map of the area indicating in general the areas that
people occupy. Transform your scratch notes into proper field notes.
Submit two copies (photocopies ok) of your scratch notes (handwritten),
field notes with personal observations/comments (typed and on diskette),
and hand drawn map.

Interview Assignment (50 pts.)- Find a willing Tempe Beach Park patron.
This will take a bit of nerve on your part. Find someone unknown to you,
who is willing to talk with you for 30 mins. (you must go to the park to do
this). Follow the directions found on the interview handout: INTERVIEW
ASSIGNMENT. Turn in your transcripts and report typed and on a diskette
with your name on it. Note the interview team will be incorporating your
interviews into their project. Be diligent!

Survey Assignment (50 pts.) - Reread Ch 9 and then develop a hypothesis

on some social aspect of urban park usage (specifically Tempe Beach Park)
that may be addressed in ten survey questions. Write your survey question
following the advice in Ch 9 and the following websites on writing survey

Turn in your hypothesis and questions (typed and on a diskette with your
name on it). Note that the Survey Team will be incorporating your
questions into their project.

Quantitative Analysis Assignment (50 pts.)- Frequency distribution (see

p 401 Table 14-4), Mean, Mode, Median, bivariate analysis (crosstabs), etc.
following assignment outlined on handout: QUANTITATIVE

Visual Ethnography (Bonus activity +2%) – Using a still camera (Digital

or Film) document and examine use of public space at Tempe Beach Park.
Through film observe the social characteristics of park patrons. Select a
theme based on one single social characteristic (i.e. gender, race, age,
ethnicity, sexual preference, group membership, or social class distinction).
Similar in nature to your nonparticipant observer assignment, this
assignment is simply another means of recording what you see around you.
However, photography is far more selective and intentional (and thus able
to be manipulated by you biases and preconceptions). Display your pictures
with a caption explaining your interpretation of the image (on poster board
or in a power point presentation). Good examples will be incorporated into
our final report!

There will be two exams, a midterm (150 pts) and a final exam (150 pts).
Exams will cover the information from readings, lectures, discussions, and
assignments. Attendance is imperative to success on exams! Exam format
may include true/false, multiple choice, short answer, and short essay
questions. Missed exams must be completed within one week of the missed
exam. Missed exams must be scheduled prior and taken in the SS321
during non-lecture hours. Ability to take a missed exam relies on a
documented excuse.

Group Projects:
Individual grades will be assigned by evidence of group participation (100
pts. self evaluation in one page report of your role in your group’s
assignment) and by the quality of the final group product (200 pts.). I
anticipate that everyone will receive full credit!

Literature Review and Historical Analysis Team

Your task will be to provide the literature review and historical analysis for
our final report. We know that Tempe Beach Park was “established in 1931
as a park and swimming pool and currently part of a major expansion and
renovation in conjunction with the Rio Salado project” (http://www.tempe.
gov/pkrec/parkfacil/parks/tempebeach.htm ). But, there is much more we
need to know about the history of the park. This will involve archival
research downtown, possibly talking with city officials, and in the library
researching Tempe history. Additionally this group will be responsible for
examining the contemporary social issues surrounding public space and
urban parks. Starting from the synopses of academic journal articles
provided by your peers, you will create a review of current social science
research in this area. It is expected that this group will develop a well
written (polish, polish, polish!!), well researched document (not less than
10 pages, but more likely to be around 20 pages) to be included in the front
matter of the complete class report. Read ahead to Ch 5 & Appendix A,
also see What is a Literature Review?

Observation Team
This group will be responsible for documenting what goes on in Tempe
Beach Park at various points in time throughout the week (a total of 5 hrs
of observations a week in 30 min periods). This group will generate formal
typed field notes (in addition to field notes provided from the individual
observation assignment) creating a log of observational material. You will
then code and analyze (see Ch 13, we will discuss software options). As a
team you will develop a concept map (or coding tree) to help with analysis
of the textual data. Finally, this group will generate a report on reoccurring
themes found in the observation data (aprx. 20 pages). This group will also
be responsible for creating a map of the park.

Interview Team
Your group will be responsible for interviewing 25 individuals (in addition
to those interviewed in the individual assignments). These interviews will
be taped, transcribed, then coded and analyzed (see Ch 13, we will discuss
software options). As a team you will develop a concept map (or coding
tree) to help with analysis of the textual data. Finally, this group will
generate a report on reoccurring themes found in the interview data (aprx.
30 pages including quotes from respondents).
Survey Team
This team will be responsible for writing, conducting and analyzing a
survey of park patrons. Question ideas will be submitted in individual
assignment, yet ultimately the survey design will be your responsibility.
Based on information learned from the other groups you will develop a
sampling strategy that will provide the most generalizable results possible
for this population. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to
complete and should provide a profile of the park patrons, their park usage
habits, and be used as a test of some theoretical construct developed from
information provided by the other groups. Finally, quantitative analysis will
be made of survey data and used to generate a report (complete with figures
and tables) on findings (aprx 20 pages).

Extra Credit:
You will be given the option of up to five 10 pt extra credit assignments
(50 pts total or +5% to final grade). Throughout the semester there will be
the possibility of writing 2-3 page (typed) reaction papers for outside
lectures and presentations, special TV programs, and other events that will
be announced in-class. Additionally you may complete the online activities
on the Wadsworth Student Resources pages: Internet Activities (+1%);
Infotrac Activities (+1%); or Extended Activities for each chapter (+2%).
Also, there is a Bonus Visual Ethnography Assignment for +2%.

Attendance is required. Attendance is vitally important for the
understanding of the material and participation in the group discussions. If
you are out for official reasons, sick, or absent for any other prearranged
reasons, it will be your responsibility to make-up assignments and to
collect notes from classmates or from the class website. If you are absent
for any other reason, you will not receive credit for missed assignments.
Official absences are those, which occur when you are involved in an
official activity of the college, i.e., field trips, tournaments, athletic events,
and present an official absence excuse. If you must miss a class for an
official reason, present the written excuse to me before the absence. Other
official absences include jury duty and subpoenas. Appropriate
documentation will be required. If prior arrangements have been made, you
will not be penalized.

Religious/Cultural Holidays:
You have the right to observe major religious/cultural holidays without
penalty. At least one week before the holiday, you should submit a written
statement that includes both the date of the holiday and the reason why
class attendance is impossible. Prior arrangements must be made. If prior
arrangements have been made, you will not be penalized.

If you are absent due to personal illness, or illness of a dependent, you must
provide written documentation to that effect. Acceptable documentation
includes doctor’s note (on office letterhead), hospital record, or records
from a recognized medical/healthcare agency.

Disabled Students:
Please let me know at the beginning of the semester if you have a physical
or learning disability that may need accommodations. The college will
make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented
disabilities. Students should also notify Student Services of any special

Last update: Wednesday, October 16, 2002