Methods of Social Research

SOC 302
Willamette University
Spring 2003
David H. Kessel


Class Time: MWF 9:10-10:10
Classroom: Eaton 211
Office: 213 Smullin Hall
Office Telephone: 370-6915
Home Phone: 541-736-0204
Office Hours: MWF 10:30-11:30
EMail Addresses:

Willamette University Homepage
TSS Directory


Course Objectives

Course Description

General Issues and Policies

Grading Scale

Grading Standards

Required Readings

Online Reader

Schedule of Topics/Readings/Dates


Assignment Instructions

Analysis Paper Topics

Due Dates

Total Points in Course

Social Research Discussion Board

Discussion Board Instructions


The aim of this course is to introduce students to qualitative and quantitative research methods. Topics to be covered include research design, conceptualization and measurement, methods of gathering information, sampling, ethics, and data analysis. The relationship between theory and research will also be considered. Students will be involved in exercises and projects intended to familiarize them with the different methods of conducting research.


Disability Services

If you have a disability of some sort, I encourage you to contact the Disability & Learning Services in Baxter Hall. The phone numbers are (503) 370-6471 / (503) 375-5383 (TT).

Their mission statement is as follows:
"The mission of the Disability & Learning Services office is to facilitate reasonable accommodations for those students with a qualifying disability or temporary medical condition and to provide academic assistance on an individual basis to any undergraduate or graduate student who requests it."

E-Mail Account

You are required to have an active E-Mail account for this class. There will be times I will want to contact you individually or as a class. I know that each of you has a account. However, if you prefer to use another one, that's fine with me...but please include your NAME because not all usernames identify the individual.

*****Then, before the end of this week, please email me at*****

The email can simply be a blank message or you can say whatever you want. I want to compile a class mailing list and it's much easier to do that via a received email message...Thanks.

Computer/Internet Use

You will be asked to use the Internet fairly extensively in this course...for general purposes, particular assignments, and to become familiar with my website, The Sociology Shop (TSS). If you need assistance using a computer or surfing the Internet, there is plenty of help available at Willamette University, online tutorials, and me. Don't hesitate to ask for help.

Assignment Format

You will be required to TYPE your assignments...extremely dire emergencies will be considered, however.

Required Reading

You will have articles from the Lomand reader, from the Online Reader, and other materials online, handed out, or on reserve...coordinated with the chapters in the Babbie textbook.

What does this mean? What do I expect in terms of "required readings?" Part of reading required materials is to come to class prepared to comment on or question what you have read.

Although not required as an official assignment, I expect that for each required reading you will come to class with questions/comments/insights/critiques about the what you have read...and be ready to share these with the class. There will be times that I may randomly call on someone to share their ideas...and although you won't be downgraded for not being prepared, being unprepared before others is no fun, right? Right, David.



A..........94-100 (Excellent)
A-.........90-93 (Good/Excellent)

B+........87-89 (Very Good)
B..........83-86 (Good)
B-.........80-82 (Fair/Good)

C+........77-79 (Fair)
C..........73-76 (Fair/Basic)
C-.........70-72 (Basic)

D+........66-69 (Poor/Basic)
D..........60-65 (Poor)

F..........??-59 (Needs More)


For the most part we will be following the sequence of chapters and subjects in the Babbie textbook...with particular issues and topics integrated into this sequence. The following schedule and coverage dates is a "best guess" at this point, but at least it gives you a general idea of where we're going. We may spend a longer time on some chapters and a shorter time on others...this will emerge as we progress.

B = Babbie
L = Lomand
O = Online Reader

I. Introduction
-----Syllabus---Print and (O)
-----Selected Sociological Concepts (O)
-----Critical Thought (Epistemology)(O)

II. Inquiry: Issues of Science and Methodology

A. Issues of Science
-----Philosophy of Social Science (B1)
-----Paradigms and Theory (B2)O
-----Causation (B3)O

B. Issues of Methodology
-----Ethics and Politics (B18)
-----Conceptualization/Operationalization/Measurement (B5)
-----Indexes and Scales (B6)

III. Inquiry: Methods and Analysis of Data
--------(BAppendix C)(LAppendix A)O

A. Design --------(B4) (L25)

B. Methods
-----Experiments (B8) (L13) (O)
-----Sampling (B7)
-----Surveys/Interviews (B9) (L2)O
-----Participant Observations (B10) (O)
-----Unobtrusive Methods (B11) (L8)
-----Evaluation Research (B12) (L21)

C. Analysis of Data
-----Qualitative Data (B13)
-----Quantitative Data (B14)
-----Quantitative Data (B15)
-----Elaboration Model (B16)
-----Social Statistics (B17)

IV. Conclusion

A. Class Presentations

B. Summary/Concluding Thoughts
-----The Uses of Social Research (B19) (O)


The Practice of Social Research, 9th Edition, by Earl Babbie

Social Science Research, 3rd Edition, by Turner C. Lamond

Online Reader



Analysis Papers
Five (5) papers worth 20 points each...on a variety of topics and projects. Analysis Papers

Discussion Board
Three (3) postings required worth 20 points each...based on "Prompts" from Instructor.

Learning Journal
Semester-long journal worth 100 points.

Mid-Term Exam
Take-Home Essay exam worth 100 points. EXAM IS HERE

Discretionary Assignment
Two assignments worth 50 pts each = total of 100 points.

Class Presentation
Short class presentation worth 40 points...Summary of "Learning Journal."

Final Exam
Take-home Essay Exam worth 100 points...covering material since the Mid-Term


Analysis Papers Topics HERE
Minimum Length is 2 pages typed (double-spaced) and Maximum is 4 pages

Learning Journal Instructions are HERE

Discretionary Assignment Instructions are HERE

Class Presentation Instructions are HERE

Class Presentation Guidelines and Instructions

You will be required to give a short...5-6 minutes...class presentation covering your Learning Journal. It is worth 40 points. This will happen the last full week of class.

Since the LJ is “research” into your thinking and what you’ve learned during the course, the CP will be a summarization of what your LJ contains...a kind of “evaluation research” of what you’ve done all semester long.

Clearly, you will not have sufficient time to cover everything you’ve written in your LJ. So, the CP will need to cover selected ideas as well as an overall statement of your conclusions and results.

You will need to submit a written copy of what your CP covers...due the last day of class.

Questions about the CP should either be asked in class or posted on the Discussion Board


1/29.............AP #1 Due

2/05.............DB #1 Due BY

2/12.............AP #2 Due

2/19.............DB #2 Due BY

3/03.............AP #3 Due

3/03.............Pass out Mid-Term

3/10.............Mid-Term Due

3/14.............DB #3 Due BY

3/21.............AP #4 Due

4/04.............DA-I Due

4/16.............NO CLASS

4/21.............DA-II Due


5/02.............Pass Out Final Exam

5/05.............LJ/written CP Due

5/09.............Final & AP #5 Due (between 8-11 AM)


Analysis Papers (100 pts)
Discussion Board (60 pts)
Learning Journal (100 pts)
Mid-Term Exam (100 pts)
Discretionary Assignment (100 pts)
Class Presentation (40 pts)
Final Exam (100 pts)



Analysis Paper #1

Often times "social research" seems very remote to us as's something that "experts" do or simply procedures and ideas which seem hard to grasp and do. Yet, all the methods and ways of analyzing the data generated by them...are to some degree things we already do as regular people in our everyday lives.

As we begin this course in Social Research Methods, consider each of the following methods or analyzes in terms of the "thing" or activity "behind" it...that which we already do. (You may need to take a quick look at the textbook to get the general idea of what each entails...but for the most part I think you'll already know.)

Explain each of them by demythologizing the activity each represents. And...which of these activities do you like the best...or like to do...or excel at?

Field Research
Participant Observation
Content Analysis
Evaluation Research
Physical Traces
Qualitative Analysis

Analysis Paper #2

On pp. 78-79 of Babbie there is a blue-shaded box entitled "Correlation and Causality" by Charles Bonney. He addresses the relationship between these two a particular aspect of the larger issue of "Necessary and Sufficient Causes" which Babbie discusses directly below on the same pages. Furthermore, the following quote is from sociologist Keith Roberts...from his sociology of religion textbook:

"A correlation is a regular, recurrent association between variables. Such recurrent assocations may be due to a causal relationship (one variable causes the other), but not all correlations are causal ones. Noncausal correlations may be due to pure coincidence or to the fact that both variables are related to a 3rd variable which has caused both."

Also, you have a link in the Online Reader entitled "Correlation and Causality," which is a simple statement similar to Roberts' also leads you to other ideas, some relevant here...some not, about these issues.

Look over all this material and then write an analysis of this issue. For example (but not limited to just these ideas), do you find any areas of our general lives in which these two very important concepts are confused? Can the relation between correlation and cause be solved merely by statistical applications? Which logic system might be more prone to link correlation as if it were causal? Pursue this topic in any way you choose...including giving examples of correlations being wrongly passed off as causal. In short, I want to see what sense and importance these ideas have for you, as both individual humans living daily and as students of social research. Have as much fun with it as you want...ala Bonney's presentation.

Analysis Paper #3

The subject matter of this AP is "ethics and social research." Babbie Chapter 18 gives a concise overview of the issues concerning ethics or ethical conduct in research. Thus, the first thing you need to do is read that chapter, specifically, pp. 469-478. Then, in the first part of your AP, summarize the main issues...ranking them as to which YOU consider to be the most important...TO...the least important...OR...all the way to "unimportant," with a brief "why" for each one.

Starting on p. 479 Babbie then gives a brief description and comment on two of the most controversial studies ever done...Tearoom Trade (a participant observation) and Milgram's Obedience Study (an experiment). At the end of each discussion, he gives a few general questions to consider. PICK ONE of these studies and, in light of the issues you've already indicated above, analyze it as to whether you think it was ethical or not...or any combination of the two polar judgments. (NOTE: if you've picked either of these studies for the focus of your DA-I assignment...then use the other one here. If you've selected something other than either of these for your DA-I, do either of these here)

You have two other sources, one for each study, to help with perspective on them. Both are linked in the Online Reader...although I include them here as a convenience:

Obedience---Milgram Experiment
Print is small...if too small, I suggest you download the images and use your magnifier to increase the size.

Laud Humphreys and the Tearoom Sex Study


Somewhere in this paper (probably in the first section...but it could also be in the study assessment section,'s up to you) you should BRIEFLY address the issue of the definition of "ethics" or "ethical." As Babbie says, a definition of these terms is difficult and has been the subject of much debate itself. How do YOU define ethics or ethical? Is the definition as "absolute" as some would say it is...or is it more relative (situational)?

Analysis Paper #4

The subject for this analysis paper is completely can write on anything you want. However, the class came up with a few suggestions and you may want to select one of these...or some variation of them.

1. How is Social Research taught by others? A Google search, using “social research” (or some such words) as keywords, will probably come up with a slew of course pages from other sociologists around the country. Take a look at some of them...organization, content, assignments, etc....and utilizing at least three (3) sites...overview how this course is being taught.

2. Attempt a rough sketch of a research design for a topic you are interested in. Babbie (Chapter 4) can help here. This is not intended as a polished product...but rather, as a beginning attempt to design a research project.

3. Select one of the NON-REQUIRED articles in the Lomand reader and analyze/critique it. Use the numerous ideas we’ve covered to assess it...i.e. what logic is in use? i.e. ethical considerations? i.e. reported very clearly? i.e. operationalization/conceptualization? ETC.

or... 4. here’s one I thought of...maybe others could add variations to it...What kind of questions, specific ones, are we not suppose to ask each other? In other words, what kinds of questions...on a wide variety of topics...are we reluctant to ask one another, informally or in a formal survey, but which would or might be very helpful in helping us to understand aspects of social reality? Something like...hey, did you have sex last night? Or...when you pick your nose, what do you normally do with the “pickins”? Or...What are you really really thinking right now? See how many questions you can come up with...look through a Sociology textbook to stir up some topics. Hey, even construct a ‘survey’ of unrespectable questions. Are there ‘ethical’ concerns here? Is everyone so ‘bashful’ as others? Hey, anything goes here.

But...again, the nature of this AP is that it is an ‘open’ may write on any issue or set of ideas you’d like.

Analysis Paper #5

Remember those Course Objectives? Well, it's time revisit them...but now in retrospect. Yes, that's right...I want you to assess YOURSELF as to how well you did or did not meet or fulfill them. In other words, go through each one and briefly indicate (mainly to yourself, eh?) to what extent you were able to grasp and handle the idea. (Serious attempts will garner the full 20...less than serious attempts won't)


One of your assignments will be to post three (3) responses to three (3) prompts provided by me.

(starting Sunday, January 26, and continuing every Sunday evening through March 9)

There will be seven (7) prompts. You can pick any three you choose...going back and doing one you originally passed over, if you desire. However, there are three "due dates" by which you need to do each.

You will need to pick a "code name" to use when you post...a name known only to you and me. Pick something that doesn't utilize a known nickname so that anonymity can be maintained and thus, a feeling of security in terms of your identity. You will NOT be required to include an email address.

In addition to your three required posts, I encourage you to post replies to what others have said (using your Code Name) well as posting anything you want as it relates to the course (i.e. response to lectures, class comments, readings, news, etc....using either your Code Name or real name, your choice). This type of "participation" could come into play when assigning a course instances where averages are borderline between one grade and another.

Finally, please get in the habit of checking our Discussion Board...frequently. Periodically I will post messages related to class as well as providing links to informative websites and...promoting campus activities of one sort or another. Likewise, you may post similar things, as mentioned above. In short, lets use the Board...communication between people is an essential aspect of education...who knows, you just may not be the only one thinking a certain thing...others can benefit from knowing they "aren't alone."

Sociology 302
Methods of Social Research
Willamette University
Spring 2003
David H. Kessel
Mid-Term Exam

It seems to me that “where we’re at” (i.e. through “ethics and politics”---B18) makes a better “cut off” point then to include any further chapters or material on this exam. Thus, this Mid-Term will cover I, II, IIA, and IIB (“Ethics”) and Online Reader material through II.

I have seriously tried to formulate individual questions to ask on this Mid-Term, but they all seem like mere regurgitation...and “at home,” at that. So I decided to take a different approach which will facilitate analysis rather than regurgitation. What do I want you to do? I’d like you to summarize what we’ve covered so far...utilizing the Babbie chapters (1, 2, 3, & 18), lecture material, and Online Reader material. This also includes the SPE video (Quiet Rage) and they relate to “ethics,” but not the methodology itself.

Summarize? Yes, but clearly you don’t (and can’t) mention every single item in this material. But, you CAN discern the “path” we’ve been following (whether something has been mentioned in class or not). Think of it this we prepare to start into some of the “nitty-gritty” aspects of methods and research...where have we been...what has prepared us to do this? Another way...a sociological way...of putting it is...we’ve “done” a lot of individual “parts” so far. What is the synergistic “whole” that has been created out of these parts?

I hope you realize by now that Social Research is far more than learning techniques...far more than following pre-plotted routines of rules...and far more that definitions of terms. It is, in essence, an orientation to social reality (and thus, includes ourselves) short, a philosophy. So one further way of putting what I’d like you to do in this Mid-Term essay is to analyze that philosophy as contained in Babbie, Kessel, topics, issues, and the other sources you’ve been asked to read and consider.

Write your essay somewhat as a “conversation” between us...illustrating your points along the way. This is asking you to take yourself seriously, as well as the the “knower” of the knowledge itself. I have confidence in you to do this adequately...otherwise, I would have decided to just ask you to “spit back” details unencumbered by analysis...ugh!!

Length is a difficult issue...but in general I’d say a Minimum of 5 double-spaced typed pages and a Maximum of 10 would be a ballpark target.

You do NOT need to “reference” your exam in a formal way...except for any direct quotes you use. You should, of course, cite in general (i.e. B#?, “lecture”, or the online source), but don’t over do it.

I look forward to your responses. You can be as creative or uncreative as you want in terms of format and style (i.e. simply sequential...or...integrative). List and explain...or even tell me a story...almost anything “goes” here. Just keep your focus on the “whole”...don’t merely string together a bunch of “parts.”


Study together...fine...but write your own ‘group’ essay

No Extensions permitted

Hard copies email submissions

DUE: Monday, 3/10...IN CLASS

Thank-you, in advance, for your efforts.