Skip to content

Case Study Research Method Sociology 101





Lesson 2 - CHAPTER 2 – Social Research


Study Assignment:Read Chapter 2 – Sociology by Jon M. Shepard


After careful study of this chapter, you will be able to:


  • Identify major nonscientific sources of knowledge; then explain why science is a superior source of knowledge.
  • Discuss cause and effect concepts and apply the concept of causation to the logic of science.
  • Differentiate the major quantitative research methods used by sociologists.
  • Describe the major qualitative research methods used by sociologists
  • Explain the steps sociologists use to guide their research.
  • Describe the role of ethics in research.
  • State the importance of reliability, validity, and replication in social research.


Below are highlights from Chapter 2:


1.                  Four major nonscientific sources of knowledge are intuition, common sense, authority, and tradition.Nonscientific sources of knowledge often provide false or misleading information.(see page 39)

A.                 Intuition is quick and ready insight that is not based on rational thought.Example – the decision against dating a particular person because “it feels wrong” is a decision based on intuition.

B.                 Common sense refers to opinions that are widely held because they seem so obviously correct.The problem with common sense ideas is that they are often wrong.(see page 39).

C.                 Authority is someone who is supposed to have special knowledge that we do not have.A king believed to be ruling by divine right is an example of an authority.Reliance on authority is often appropriate.See page 39).

D.                 Tradition.Despite evidence to the contrary, it is traditional to believe that an only child will be self-centered and socially inept.In fact, most Americans still wish to have two or more children to avoid these alleged personality traits.


2.                  Science as a source of knowledge:

A.                 Objectivity – The principle or rule stating that scientist are expect to prevent their personal biases from influencing the interpretation of their results.Can scientists really be objective?Sometimes (see page 40)

B.                 Verifiability – a principle or rule of science by which any given piece of research can be duplicated by other scientists.


3.                  Causation and the Logic of Science:


A.                 What is causation?The idea that events occur in a predictable, nonrandom way and that one event leads to another.

B.                 What is a variable?A variable is a characteristic such as age, education, or social class that is subject to change.It occurs in different varying degrees.(see page 41 - 42.)

C.                 What is correlation?Correlation exists when a change in one variable is associated with a change (either positively or negatively) in the other.


4.                  Experiment – An experiment takes place in a laboratory in an attempt to eliminate all possible contaminating influences (see page 43 & 44).


5.Quantitative Research Methods:


A.                 Survey Research – This is when people are asked to answer a series of questions.This research method is the most widely used method among sociologists.It is ideal for studying large numbers of people.


B.Precollected Data.


5.                  Qualitative Research Methods

A.                 Field Research – A research approach for studying aspects of social life that cannot be measured quantitatively and that are best understood within a natural setting.

B.                 Case study –The most popular approach to field research is the Case Study - a thorough investigation of a single group, incident, or community (page 48).


6.                  Participant observation – a researcher becomes a member of the group being studied.(Page 49).


7.                  Subjective Approach – studies an aspect of human social behavior by ascertaining the interpretations of the participants themselves.A prominent example of the subjective approach is ethnomethodology, a development in microsociolgy that attempts to uncover taken-for-granted social routines.


8.                  Ethnomethodology is the study of processes people develop and use in understanding the routine behavior expected of themselves and other in everyday life.(page 52)


9.                  A model for doing research:

a.       Identify the problem

b.      Reviewing the literature

c.       Formulating hypotheses

d.      Developing a Research Design

e.       Collecting Data

f.        Analyzing Data

g.       Stating Findings and Conclusions

h.       Using the Research Model


Realistically, do sociologists follow these steps?Yes, to some degree.


10.              Ethics in Social Research:The formal code of ethics for sociologists covers a variety of important areas beyond research, including relationships with students, employees and employers.In broad terms, the code of ethics is concerned with maximizing the benefits of sociology to society and minimizing the harm that sociological work might create.Of importance in the present context are the research-related aspects of code.Do ethical concerns make research harder?Yes, but it is the researcher’s responsibility to decide when a particular action crosses an ethical line – a decision not always easy to make, because moral lines are often blurred (Page 56).


11.              Reliability – a measurement technique must yield consistent results on repeated applications.


12.              Validity – exists when a measurement technique actually measures what it is designed to measure.


13.              Replication – The duplication of the same study to ascertain its accuracy is closely linked to both reliability and validity in that reliability and validity problems unknown to original research are likely to be revealed as subsequent social scientist repeat the research.It is partially through replication that scientific knowledge accumulates and changes over time.(page 58)


Action Assignments – Answer the following questions.Each response must be at least 100 words.


No. 1:Differentiate the major quantitative research methods used by sociologists.


No. 2:Explain the steps sociologists use to guide their research.


No. 3:State the importance of reliability, validity, and replication in social research.



The first step is to select a research topic. Sociologists have different ways of choosing a topic. Many sociologists choose a topic based on a theoretical interest they may have. It could be because funding is already available or they follow their own curiosity about a particular topic. Sometimes a growing social problem has been brought to their attention by the media or other sociologists (Henslin, 2014). Step two in the research model is to define the problem, to determine what is to be learned from the research. To develop a good question that is researchable, the question should focus on a certain area or problem (Henslin, 2014). The more specific the better. The third step is to review the literature to find out what has already been published on the chosen topic, and identify any gaps in knowledge (Henslin, 2014). Reading literature on the topic may help to stir up ideas about what has not been answered. This step takes time to complete thoroughly. A thorough literature review is necessary to determine the new study’s possible contribution. The fourth step is to formulate an hypothesis. An hypothesis is a statement on what you expect to find based on the theory (Henslin, 2014). You must set operational definitions, which is “precise ways to measure concepts” in the hypothesis (Henslin, 2014). Sociological research examines the relationship between variables, or whether an independent variable affects a dependent variable. The fifth step is to choose a research method. Sociologists use many different designs and methods to study society and social behavior. Sociological research methods include the case study, survey, observational, correlational, experimental, and cross ‐ cultural methods, as well