SOCULPO

Lecture 2
CONCEPTS, VARIABLES AND
MEASUREMENT
Concept – a mental construct that
represents some part of the world,
inevitably a simplified form.
e.g. society, family, economy.
Variable – a concept whose value
changes from case to case. E.g. social
class (upper, middle, lower)
Measurement – the process of
determining the value of a variable in
a specific case
CONCEPTS, VARIABLE,
MEASUREMENT
Good research requires that sociologists
operationalize a variable, which means
specifying exactly what we are going to
measure: say, income level, years of
schooling, occupational prestige.
Validity – the precision in measuring exactly
what one intends to measure.
Reliability – the consistency of measurement.
(the process must yield the same result if
repeated time after time.
CONCEPTS, VARIABLE,
MEASUREMENT
Relationships among variables
Once measurements are made,
investigators can see how variables are
related.
Cause and effect – a relationship in which we
know that change in one variable causes a
changed in another.
Independent variable – the variable that
causes the change.
Dependent variable – the variable that
changes.
---The value of one variable depends on the
value of another.
CONCEPTS, VARIABLE,
MEASUREMENT
Correlation – a relationship by which
two or more variables change
together. In the example of juvenile
delinquency, crowding causes
misconduct, but it could also mean
that some third factor is at work
causing change in both of the
variables under observation.
Correlation
 Density of living Delinquency
rate conditions



 Income level




 Density and delinquency are correlated bec.
they go together (crowding causes
misconduct, but it could also mean that
some 3
rd
factor is at work causing change
in both of the variables.
 3
rd
variable: the kind of people who live in
crowded housing – people with less money
and few choices, the poor.
 Crowded housing and juvenile delinquency
are found together bec. both are caused by
a third factor, poverty.
CONCEPTS, VARIABLE,
MEASUREMENT
Max Weber expected that people would
select research topics according to
their personal beliefs and interests.
Knowing that people select topics that
are value-relevant, Weber cautioned
researchers to be value-free in their
investigations. The detachment is a
crucial element of science that sets its
apart from politics.
CONCEPTS, VARIABLE,
MEASUREMENT
 Weber’s argument still carries much weight
in sociology, though most sociologists
concede that we can never be completely
value-free.
 Sociologists need to remember that they,
too, are influenced by their own social
backgrounds.
 Replication is one way of limiting distortion
caused by personal values; this means
repetition of research by other
investigators.

Interpretive Sociology
 Interpretive Sociology
-- Some sociologists believe that science as it
is used to study the natural world misses a
vital part of the social world: meaning.
-- Human beings do not simply act; we
engage in meaningful action. Weber argued
that the proper focus of sociology is
interpretation – understanding the
meanings involved in everyday life.
Interpretive sociology: the study that focuses
on the meanings that people attach to their
social world.

Differences between scientific and interpretive
sociology
 Scientific
- focuses on action,
on what people do
- sees an “objective
reality” out there
- tends to favor
quantitative data or
numerical
measurements of
social behavior
 Interpretive
- focuses on the meaning
people attach to
behavior
- sees reality constructed
by people themselves
- favors qualitative data
or researchers’
perception of how
people understand
their surroundings.
Critical Sociology
This is the study of sociology that focuses
on the need for social change.
Rather than asking the question “How does
society work?” critical sociologists ask
moral and political questions:
“Should society exist in the present
form?”
As Marx said it, the point is not merely to
study the world but to change it.

Critical Sociology
 Scientific sociologists object to taking
sides; critical sociologists respond
that all research is political in either it
calls for change or it does not.
 Critical sociology is an activist
approach tying knowledge to action –
seeking not just to understand the
world but also to improve it.

Gender and Research
Sociologists in recent years have become
aware that research is affected by gender.
5 ways in which gender can shape research:
1. Androcentricity: approaching an issue
from a male perspective. For years
researchers studying occupations focused
on the paid work of men and overlooked
the housework and child care traditionally
done by women.
Gynocentricity: seeing the world from a
female perspective.
Gender and Research
2. Overgeneralizing – occurs when
researchers use data drawn from only
people of one sex to support
conclusions about “humanity” or
“society”. Gathering information
about a community from a handful of
male public officials and then drawing
conclusions about the entire
community illustrates this problem
Gender and Research
3. Gender blindness – failing to consider the
variable of gender at all. Lives of men and
women differ in countless ways.
4. Double standards – researchers must be
careful not to distort what they study by
judging men and women differently. For
example, a family researcher who labels a
couple as “man and wife” may define the
man as the “head of the household” and
treat him accordingly, while assuming that
the woman simply engages in family
“support work”
Gender and Research
5. Interference – Gender distorts a study if a
subject reacts to the sex of the researcher
and thereby interferes with the research
operation.
While studying a small community in Sicily,
Giovannini in 1992 found many men
responding to her as a woman rather than as a
researcher. Gender dynamics precluded her
from her certain activities, such as private
conversations with men, that were considered
inappropriate for single women.
Methods of Sociological Research
1. Testing a Hypothesis: The
Experiment
2. Asking Questions: Survey Research
3. In the Field: Participant Observation
4. Using Available Data: Secondary and
Historical Analysis
Methods of Sociological Research
Testing a Hypothesis
Hypothesis: an unverified statement of a
relationship between variables.
Three steps in an ideal experiment:
1. Measuring the dependent variable (the
effect)
2. Exposing the dependent variable to the
independent variable (the cause or
treatment)
3. Measuring the DV to see if the predicted
change took place.

Methods of Sociological Research
 Hawthorne Effect
-- researchers measured worker productivity
(DV)
-- they increased the lighting (IV) and
measured output the second time
-- Productivity increased, supporting the
hypothesis.
But when the research team turned the
lighting back down, productivity increased
again. WHY?
Methods of Sociological Research
 Survey Research
-- Population
-- Sample
-- Random sampling
Questionnaires and Interviews
Pretesting
Methods of Sociological Research
 Participant Observation (exploratory &
descriptive)
-- a research method by which investigators
systematically observe people while joining
their routine activities
-- allows researchers an inside look at social
life in settings ranging from nightclubs to
seminaries.
Cultural anthropologists employ this to study
communities in other societies; they term
their descriptions of unfamiliar cultures
ethnographies.
Methods of Sociological Research
 Secondary Analysis – a research method in
which the researcher uses data collected by
others.
 Most widely used are those gathered by
government agencies (NSO, NSCB, NEDA).
Using available data saves time and money;
government data are generally better than
what other well-funded researchers obtain
on their own.
But there are inherent problems: may not exist
in the form needed, meaning and accuracy,
difference of procedures in gathering data.