Doing research, key concepts

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280 Terms

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constructivism

Methodology based on questioning belief in an external reality; emphasizes the importance of exploring the way in which different stakeholders in a social setting construct their beliefs.

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positivism

The belief, shared by most scientists, that there is a reality that exists quite apart from our own perception of it, that it can be understood through observation, and that it follows general laws

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3

Social research question

A question about the social world that is answered through the collection and analysis of firsthand, verifiable, empirical data.

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Integrated literature review

A review of prior research on a particular research question that summarizes findings, critiques methods, and presents conclusions.

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Systematic literature review:

A literature review that "uses a specific and reproducible method to identify, select, and appraise studies that are relevant to a particular question"

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Theory

A logically interrelated set of propositions about empirical reality.

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Deductive research

The type of research in which a specific expectation is deduced from a general premise and is then tested

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Research circle

A diagram of the elements of the research process, including theories, hypotheses, data collection, and data analysis.

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Hypothesis

A tentative statement about empirical reality, involving a relationship between two or more variables

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Variable

A characteristic or property that can vary (take on different values or attributes).

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Independent variable

A variable that is hypothesized to cause, or lead to, variation in another variable.

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Dependent variable

A variable that is hypothesized to vary depending on, or under the influence of, another variable.

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Direction of association

A pattern in a relationship between two variables—the values of variables tend to change consistently in relation to change on the other variable; can be either positive or negative

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Replications

Repetitions of a study using the same research methods to answer the same research question.

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Empirical generalization

A statement that describes patterns found in data.

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Inductive research

The type of research in which general conclusions are drawn from specific data.

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Anomalous findings

Unexpected patterns in data.

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Serendipitous findings

Unexpected patterns in data that stimulate new explanations, insights, or theoretical approaches.

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Cross-sectional research design

study in which data are collected at only one point in time.

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Longitudinal research design

A study in which data are collected that can be ordered in time; also defined as research in which data are collected at two or more points in time.

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Repeated cross-sectional design (trend study)

A type of longitudinal study in which data are collected at two or more points in time from different samples of the same population.

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Fixed-sample panel design (panel study)

A type of longitudinal study in which data are collected from the same individuals—the panel—at two or more points in time. In another type of panel design, panel members who leave are replaced with new members.

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Subject fatigue

Problems caused by panel members growing weary of repeated interviews and dropping out of a study or becoming so used to answering the standard questions in the survey that they start giving stock or thoughtless answers.

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Event-based design (cohort study):

A type of longitudinal study in which data are collected at two or more points in time from individuals in a cohort.

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Cohort

Individuals or groups with a common starting point. Examples include a college's class of 1997, people who graduated from high school in the 1980s, General Motors employees who started work between the years 1990 and 2000, and people who were born in the late 1940s or the 1950s (the baby boom generation).

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Validity

When statements or conclusions about empirical reality are correct

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Measurement validity

When a measure measures what we think it measures

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Generalizability

When a conclusion holds true for the population, group, setting, or event that we say it does, given the conditions that we specify.

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Causal validity (internal validity

When a conclusion that A leads to or results in B is correct.

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Authenticity

When the understanding of a social process or social setting is one that reflects fairly the various perspectives of participants in that setting

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Sample generalizability

When a conclusion based on a sample, or subset, of a larger population holds true for that population.

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Population

The entire set of individuals or other entities to which study findings are to be generalized.

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Sample

A subset of a population that is used to study the population as a whole.

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Elements

The individual members of the population whose characteristics are to be measured.

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Sampling frame

A list of all elements or other units containing the elements in a population.

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Sampling units

Units listed at each stage of a multistage sampling design

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Sampling error

Any difference between the characteristics of a sample and the characteristics of a population; the larger the sampling error, the less representative the sample.

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Target population

A set of elements larger than or different from the population sampled and to which the researcher would like to generalize study findings.

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Representative sample

A sample that "looks like" the population from which it was selected in all respects potentially relevant to the study. The distribution of characteristics among the elements of a representative sample is the same as the distribution of those characteristics among the total population. In an unrepresentative sample, some characteristics are overrepresented or underrepresented.

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40

Census

Research in which information is obtained through responses from or information about all available members of an entire population.

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Probability sampling method

A sampling method that relies on a random, or chance, selection method so that the probability of selection of population elements is known

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Nonprobability sampling method:

A sampling method in which the probability of selection of population elements is unknown.

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Probability of selection

The likelihood that an element will be selected from the population for inclusion in the sample. In a census of all elements of a population, the probability that any particular element will be selected is 1.0. If half the elements in the population are sampled on the basis of chance (say, by tossing a coin), the probability of selection for each element is one half, or .5. As the size of the sample as a proportion of the population decreases, so does the probability of selection.

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Nonrespondents

People or other entities who do not participate in a study although they are selected for the sample.

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Systematic bias

Overrepresentation or underrepresentation of some population characteristics in a sample resulting from the method used to select the sample; a sample shaped by systematic sampling error is a biased sample.

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Random sampling

Sampling that relies on a random, or chance, selection method so that every element of the sampling frame has a known probability of being selected

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Simple random sampling

Sampling in which every sample element is selected only on the basis of chance, through a random process.

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Random number table

A table containing lists of numbers that are ordered solely on the basis of chance; it is used for drawing a random sample.

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Random digit dialing

The random dialing of numbers within designated phone prefixes by a machine, which creates a random sample for phone surveys.

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Systematic random sampling

Sampling in which sample elements are selected from a list or from sequential files, with every nth element being selected after the first element is selected randomly within the first interval

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Sampling interval

The number of cases from one sampled case to another in a systematic random sample.

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Periodicity

A sequence of elements (in a list to be sampled) that varies in some regular, periodic pattern

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Stratified random sampling

Sampling in which sample elements are selected separately from population strata that are identified in advance by the researcher

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Proportionate stratified sampling

Sampling method in which elements are selected from strata in exact proportion to their representation in the population

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Disproportionate stratified sampling

Sampling in which elements are selected from strata in different proportions from those that appear in the population

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Cluster sampling

Sampling in which elements are selected in two or more stages, with the first stage being the random selection of naturally occurring clusters and the last stage being the random selection of elements within clusters.

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Cluster

A naturally occurring, mixed aggregate of elements of the population.

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58

Inferential statistics

A mathematical tool for estimating how likely it is that a statistical result based on data from a random sample is representative of the population from which the sample is assumed to have been selected.

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Random sampling error (chance sampling error)

Differences between the population and the sample that are due only to chance

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Sample statistic

The value of a statistic, such as a mean, computed from sample data.

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Adaptive research design

A research design that develops as the research progresses.

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Reflexivity

Sensitivity of and adaptation by the researcher to his or her influence in the research setting.

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64

Case study

A setting or group that the analyst treats as an integrated social unit that must be studied holistically and its particularity.

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Thick description

rich description that conveys a sense of what it is like from the standpoint of the natural actors in that setting.

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66

Ethnography

The study of a culture or cultures that some group of people share, using participant observation over an extended period.

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67

Netnography

The use of ethnographic methods to study online communities; also termed cyberethnography and virtual ethnography.

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68

Participatory action research (PAR

A type of research in which the researcher involves members of the population to be studied as active participants throughout the research process, from the selection of a research focus to the reporting of research results and efforts to make changes based on the research; also termed community-based participatory research.

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69

Community-based qualitative research (CBQR):

A type of research in which the community is viewed as intellectual spaces in which the researcher engages as a learner in developing solutions to community problems.

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Positionality

The personal, educational, and professional experiences that shape a researcher's orientations

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71

Participant observation

A qualitative method for gathering data that involves developing a sustained relationship with people while they go about their normal activities.

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72

Intensive (in-depth) interviewing:

A qualitative method that involves open-ended, relatively unstructured questioning in which the interviewer seeks in-depth information about the interviewee's feelings, experiences, and perceptions.

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73

Focus groups

A qualitative method that involves unstructured group interviews in which the focus group leader actively encourages discussion among participants about the topics of interest.

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74

Field research

Research in which natural social processes are studied as they happen and left relatively undisturbed

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Field researcher

A researcher who uses qualitative methods to conduct research in the field.

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Covert observer

A role in participant observation in which the researcher does not participate in group activities and is not publicly defined as a researcher

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Complete (or overt) observer

A role in participant observation in which the researcher does not participate in group activities and is publicly defined as a researcher.

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Reactive effects (reactivity)

The changes in individual or group behavior that result from being observed or otherwise studied

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79

Participant observer (overt participant

A researcher who gathers data through participating and observing in a setting where he or she develops a sustained relationship with people while they go about their normal activities. The role as an researcher is known to participants.The term participant observer is also used more broadly to refer to a continuum of possible roles, from complete observer to complete participant.

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80

Complete (or covert) participant

A role in field research in which the researcher does not reveal his or her identity as a researcher to those who are observed while participating.

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Gatekeeper

A person in a field setting who can grant researchers access to the setting

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Key informant

An insider who is willing and able to provide a field researcher with superior access and information, including answers to questions that arise in the course of the research.

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Theoretical sampling

A sampling method recommended for field researchers by Glaser and Strauss (1967). A theoretical sample is drawn in a sequential fashion, with settings or individuals selected for study as earlier observations or interviews indicate that these settings or individuals are influential.

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84

Jottings

Brief notes written in the field about highlights of an observation period

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Field notes

Notes that describe what has been observed, heard, or otherwise experienced in a participant observation study. These notes usually are written after the observational session

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86

Grand tour question

A broad question at the start of an interview that seeks to engage the respondent in the topic of interest.

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Saturation point

The point at which subject selection is ended in intensive interviewing, when new interviews seem to yield little additional information.

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Probes

Follow-up questions meant to elicit additional information in response to a previous answer. Can be either directive or nondirective.

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Process consent

An interpretation of the ethical standard of voluntary consent that allows participants to change their decision about participating at any point by requiring that the researcher check with participants at each stage of the project about their willingness to continue in the project.

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Unobtrusive methods

Research methods in which data are collected without the knowledge or participation of the individuals or groups that generated the data.

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Unobtrusive measure

A measurement based on physical traces or other data that are collected without the knowledge or participation of the individuals or groups that generated the data.

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Secondary data analysis

The method of using preexisting data in a different way or to answer a different research question than intended by those who collected the data

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Secondary data

Previously collected data that are used in a new analysis.

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94

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR

Academic consortium that archives data sets online from major surveys and other social research and makes them available for analysis by others.

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advantages of Secondary Data Analyses

It allows analyses of social processes in otherwise inaccessible settings.

It saves time and money.

It allows the researcher to avoid data collection problems.

It facilitates comparison with other samples.

It may allow inclusion of many more variables and a more diverse sample than otherwise would be feasible.

It may allow data from multiple studies to be combined.

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96

Big Data

Massive data sets reflecting human activity that are accessible in computer-readable form, available to social scientists, and manageable with today's computers.

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97

Ngram

Frequency graphs produced by Google's database of all words printed in more than one quarter of the world's books over time (with coverage still expanding).

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98

Case-oriented research

Research that focuses attention on the nation or other unit as a whole.

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Holistic research

Research concerned with the context in which events occurred and the interrelations between different events and processes.

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Conjunctural research

Research that considers the complex combinations in which causal influences operate.

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