Sociologists are committed to the use of the scientific
method in their research efforts. In this chapter, we
examine the basic principles of the scientific method
and study various techniques used by sociologists in
There are five basic steps in the scientific
method: defining the problem, reviewing the
literature, formulating the hypothesis,
selecting the research design and then collecting
and analyzing data, and developing the
Whenever researchers wish to study abstract
concepts, such as intelligence or prejudice,
they must develop workable operational
A hypothesis usually states a possible relationship
between two or more variables.
By using a sample, sociologists avoid having to
test everyone in a population.
According to the scientific method, research
results must possess both validity and
The two principal forms of survey research are
the interview and the questionnaire.
Observation allows sociologists to study
certain behaviors and communities that
cannot be investigated through other research
When sociologists wish to study a cause-andeffect
relationship, they may conduct an
Sociologists also make use of existing sources
as in secondary analysis and content
The Code of Ethics of the American Sociological
Association calls for objectivity and integrity
in research, respect for the subject's privacy,
Max Weber urged sociologists to practice
value neutrality in their research by ensuring
that their personal feelings do not influence
the interpretation of data.
Technology today plays an important role in
sociological research, whether it be a computer
database or information from the Internet.
Despite failure to obtain government funding,
researchers developed the National Health
and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) to better understand
the sexual practices of adults in the
Sociologists are committed to the use of the scientific method in their research efforts. In this chapter, we examine the basic principles of the scientific method and study various techniques used by sociologists in conducting research.
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:
1. Explain why the scientific method is used for research by sociologists.
2. Identify the basic steps of the scientific method.
3. Differentiate between validity and reliability.
4. Discuss the major research designs used by sociologists.
5. Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative research.
6. Explain what is meant by secondary research.
7. Discuss why the issue of ethics is important in the area of sociological research.
8. Note the ways in which technology has impacted sociological research.
9. Summarize why conflict theorists and feminists are critical of some research that claims to be objective.