17 January 2007

Sociological Research, Analytical Methodology

G93.2330 (formerly G93.2331)

Spring 2007

Robert Max Jackson


This course introduces the analytical and research methods of sociology.   The course focuses on: 1), the relationship between sociological theory and research; and 2), methodological issues, such as causality, identification of mechanisms, the logic of argument, objectivity, reliability and validity, problems of measurement, representation, conceptualization, inference, and sampling.  The course seeks to illuminate: (1) how to choose a sociological research project that is worthwhile and practical; (2) how to choose and use methods adequate for a research project; (3) how to evaluate the research, evidence, and arguments offered in support of theoretical claims.


We will run all class meetings as discussions. Every student must come prepared to every class and participate.  Each week, a written task analysis will be due.  A term paper in the form of a full research proposal will be due at the end of the semester.

The class will be organized around issues of research development and design.  We will use a good, standard textbook by Neuman that provides a reasonable overview of the knowledge commonly expected in a basic graduate methodology class in our discipline.  We will also read a variety of other materials that aimed at important issues not sufficiently explored in this or comparable textbooks. 

Written assignments will include short papers every week.  On occasion these will be group efforts of 2-3 students, otherwise individual efforts.  In the weekly writing tasks, students will attempt to solve research design issues related to the week's readings.  In the second half of the semester, these weekly efforts will also be aimed at the research proposal that is the culminating work for the class.  All assignments must be handed in on time. I will not give incompletes.

The class discussions will be organized around the weekly writing assignments.  Generally, the weekly pieces will be circulated among all class members through the class discussion list before the class meets, and students will be assigned as commentators for others' papers.  These papers are expected to take into account the assigned readings of the week, but the papers rather than the readings will be the focus of our discussions.

Books Recommended for Purchase:

Laurence W. Neuman Social Research Methods: Qualitative and
Quantitative Approaches
6 ed.
Allyn & Bacon
Howard S. Becker Tricks of the Trade : How to Think about Your
Research While You're Doing It
Arthur L. Stinchcombe Constructing Social Theories Chicago
Arthur L. Stinchcombe Logic of Social Research Chicago

Course Outline and Readings

(Note: Some materials are available over the internet.  Click on the appropriate link within the syllabus to reach them.)

I. Introduction.

Neumann: Ch 1 (Science and Research), look over other main books

II. Causality 1 - What are different kinds of causes, mechanisms, and the like?

●●●  Neumann: Chs 3 & 4 (Theory and Research & Meanings of Methodology)
●●●  Little, Daniel. 1991. Varieties of Social Explanation: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Social Science. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Pp. 1-87.

III. Causality 2 - How do we research causes?  Actors, Conditions, Processes, Structures & the role of "counterfactuals".

●●●  Stinchcombe, Constructing Social Theories:  “The Logic of Scientific Inference.” Pp. 15-37
●●●   Menzies, Peter, "Counterfactual Theories of Causation", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
●●●   Fearon, J. 1991. "Counterfactuals and Hypothesis Testing in Political Science." World Politics, 43: 169-195.
●●    Stinchcombe,  Logic of Social Research:  Chs. 1 & 2
●●    Lebow, Richard Ned. 2000. "What's So Different About a Counterfactual?" World Politics
●●    Christopher Winship & Micheal Sobel, “Causal Inference in Sociological Studies,” in Handbook of Data Analysis, Melissa Hardy and Alan Bryman (eds.), Sage Publications, 2004, p. 481-503.
●●    Christopher Winship; Stephen L. Morgan. "The Estimation of Causal Effects from Observational Data." Annual Review of Sociology  Vol. 25 (1999), pp. 659-706
●●    Margaret Mooney Marini; Burton Singer. "Causality in the Social Sciences." Sociological Methodology, Vol. 18. (1988), pp. 347-409.

IV.   Starting to plot one's own work.

●●● Howard S. Becker,  Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You're Doing It
  ●●   Becker, Howard S. 1953. “Becoming a Marihuana User.” American Journal of Sociology 59(3): 235-242.

V. Measurement (incl reliability, validity, questionnaires).  Kinds of Data, their virtues and shortcomings (including Qualitative vs. Quantitative 1) & Characteristics, degrees, counts (type found, where on continuum something lies, how many are there).

●●●  Neumann: Chs. 7, 10, 13  ("Qualitative and Quantitative Measurement",  "Survey Research", "Field Research")

●●●  Stinchcombe,  Logic of Social Research:  Chs. TBA

●●●  Zeisel, Hans. 1982. "Disagreement over the Evaluation of a Controlled Experiment.” American Journal of Sociology 88(2): 378-396. (Article and following commentary.);   Peter H. Rossi; Richard A. Berk; Kenneth J. Lenihan. "Saying it Wrong with Figures: A Comment on Zeisel" The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 88, No. 2. (Sep., 1982), pp. 390-393.;  Hans Zeisel.  "Hans Zeisel Concludes the Debate."  The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 88, No. 2. (Sep., 1982), pp. 394-396.

●●●  Lieberson, Stanley. 1992. “Einstein, Renoir, and Greeley: Some Thoughts about Evidence in Sociology.” American Sociological Review 57(1): 1-15.   

●●    Stinchcombe,  Logic of Social Research:  misc

VI. Sampling, Units of Analysis, Cases--How Many? (including Qualitative vs. Quantitative 2).

●●●  Neumann: Ch. 8  ("Qualitative and Quantitative Sampling")

●●●  Howard S. Becker,  Tricks of the Trade:  Ch. 3 "Sampling"

●●●  "Sampling Methods" from Statistics Canada (the four main pages on sampling for a nice introduction)

●●●  A note on "Units of Analysis

  ●●  Elliott, C. and Ellingworth, D. (1997) "Assessing the Representativeness of the 1992 British Crime Survey: The Impact of Sampling Error and Response Biases" Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 4

  ●●  Berk, Richard. 1983. "An introduction to sample selection bias in sociological data." American
Sociological Review

VII. Experimental logic, research design, and causal analysis.

●●●  Neumann: Ch. 9  ("Experimental Research")

●●●  Gerber, Alan and Donald Green. "The Effects of Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment" The American Political Science Review, Vol. 94, No. 3. (Sep., 2000), pp. 653-663.

●●●  Pager, Devah. 2003. "The Mark of a Criminal Record". American Journal of Sociology. 108:5:937–75

●●●  Ernest Nagel.  1960. "Determinism in History."  Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 20:3:291-317. 

●●●  (review) Zeisel, Hans. 1982. "Disagreement over the Evaluation of a Controlled Experiment.” American Journal of Sociology 88(2): 378-396. (Article and following commentary.);   Peter H. Rossi; Richard A. Berk; Kenneth J. Lenihan. "Saying it Wrong with Figures: A Comment on Zeisel" The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 88, No. 2. (Sep., 1982), pp. 390-393.;  Hans Zeisel.  "Hans Zeisel Concludes the Debate."  The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 88, No. 2. (Sep., 1982), pp. 394-396.

VIII.   Putting the pieces of a research project together; what are good aspirations; why worry  about causality.

●●●  Neumann: Ch. 5 ("Literature Review ...")

●●●  Richard Hamming, "You and Your Research", Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar (7 March 1986)

●●●  Leifer, Eric. "Denying the Data: Learning from the Accomplished Sciences" Sociological Forum, Vol. 7, No. 2. (Jun., 1992), pp. 283-299.

●●●  Andrew Abbott, "The Causal Devolution."  Lecture on Causality in the Social Sciences in Honor of Herbert L. Costner Delivered at the University of Washington on April 24, 1997.

●●●  Ross M. Stolzenberg, Book Review: Time Matters: On Theory and Method (by Andrew Abbott). Sociological Methods & Research, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 420-427, February 2003

●●●  Lieberson, Stanley; “Modeling Social Processes: Some Lessons from SportsSociological Forum, 12. March 1997:11-35.

●●●  NSF "Workshop on Scientific Foundations of Qualitative Research". Report prepared by: Charles C. Ragin, Joane Nagel, Patricia White. 2004.

●●●  Robert Max Jackson (unpublished) -- "Dissertations and Dissertation Proposals in Sociology - Some Notes of Advice."

*****Notes on the Basic Content of a Research Proposal

IX.  Literature Reviews (& Critiques of Research Proposals).

    ●●  Neumann: Ch. 5 ("Literature Review ..."), review

      ● "How to Write a Literature Review" (UC Santa Cruz Library)

      ● "Review of Literature" (U Wisconsin, Madison, Writing Center)

      ●  "The Literature Review" (U Toronto)

      ●  "Conducting a Literature Review" (all pages, U Melbourne)

X.  Sources of Error.  Where do we go wrong?  How do we minimize, reveal, and overcome errors?

    ●●  Douglas Allchin.  "Error Types" Perspectives on Science 9.1 (2001):38-58 

    ●●  Gerhard Arminger; George W. Bohrnstedt. "Making It Count Even More: A Review and Critique of Stanley Lieberson's Making It Count: The Improvement of Social Theory and ResearchSociological Methodology Vol. 17 (1987), pp. 363-372

    ●●  Tourangeau, Roger. "Cognitive Aspects of Survey Measurement and Mismeasurement".  International Journal of Public Opinion Research  2003, 15, 1, spring, 3-7

    ●●  John Seidler "On Using Informants: A Technique for Collecting Quantitative Data and Controlling Measurement Error in Organization Analysis" American Sociological Review  Vol. 39, No. 6 (Dec., 1974), pp. 816-831

    ●●  C. Chet Miller; Laura B. Cardinal; William H. Glick "Retrospective Reports in Organizational Research: A Reexamination of Recent Evidence" The Academy of Management Journal  Vol. 40, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 189-204.  (Also worthwhile to look at the rejoinder:   Brian R. Golden.  "Further Remarks on Retrospective Accounts in Organizational and Strategic Management Research" The Academy of Management Journal  Vol. 40, No. 5 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1243-1252 

    ●●  Mays, Pope C. "Rigour and qualitative research". BMJ 1995; 311:109–12.

    ●●  "Measuring and Reporting Sources of Error in Surveys" 2001 US Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology
      ● Frederick Conrad and Michael Schober "Clarifying Survey Questions When Respondents Don't Know They Need Clarification" 2001 Proceedings of the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology Research Conference

    ●●  Allchin, D. 2004. "Should the Sociology of Science Be Rated X?" Science Education 88: 934-946.

    ●●  Nancy A. Mathiowetz. "Errors in Reports of Occupation" The Public Opinion Quarterly  Vol. 56, No. 3 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 352-355

XI. , XII, XIII .  Student proposal discussions.