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Methods of Finding Out

by Phil Bartle, PhD

Introduction to the Module (Hub)

The techniques and reasoning for discovering sociological facts and relationships

Whenever a social scientist makes a statement about society, what should be in our minds is the important question, “How do you know?”  This is the topic of epistemology.

Although much social research has been conducted, the reported observations, and importantly, the reported relations between variables, must be scientific: replicable, testable, and able to be confirmed.

Whenever you read some report of research that has been conducted, it would be valuable for you to have had some of your own research experience so that you can more critically read the report.

You should know firsthand the pitfalls of research, its weaknesses, and how to interpret what you see.

Relationships between two variables is a good example.

Perhaps there are two variables, and increase in one coincides with an increase in the other, while a fall in the first coincides with a fall in the second.

If that is the information you have, there is no way you can be sure that one variable causes the other, or vice versa, or that they have a common causal variable or that the apparent relationship is not purely spurious.

This module looks at some of the methods used in social science research. It is aimed at the beginning sociologist and the module is unlike most of the standard modules in this site (with different documents for different purposes and different viewers).

See also: gsociology.icaap.org/methods/


Complementary Modules: Participatory Appraisal, Community Research, Sociological Research.


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Last update: 2013.01.09

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