128 posts categorized "Statistics and Methods"

May 18, 2020

The Challenges of Doing Research while Social Distancing

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

A group of my colleagues have started a support group for qualitative researchers, called “Ethnographers in Exile.” After spending a year securing a field site and getting Institutional Review Board approval to do an ethnography in an emergency room, one colleague found that his research could not go forward under the current circumstances, with no timeline for his project to begin any time soon.

Ethnography involves immersing one’s self in the lived experience of the group that you are studying and being present to observe interactions and ask questions that might come up in the course of our participants’ day-to-day lives. Ethnographers observe the tempo of interactions, what happens when seemingly nothing is happening, and ultimately try and learn what it is like to be a member of a particular group.

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March 30, 2020

How to Speak Sociologese

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

At the Everyday Sociology Blog, we pride ourselves on avoiding academic jargon whenever possible and clearly defining concepts whenever we do use words that might not be familiar to most readers.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are some words and phrases that should be used very specifically while speaking and writing sociologically, and in the social sciences more generally. The list below is not exhaustive, but a reminder that we should use our words carefully to clearly communicate sociological concepts and findings. Think about the following examples when reading and writing:

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March 16, 2020

Behind the Research: Understanding Panel Studies

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Pew Research Center recently released a study about online dating. They found that about thirty percent of U.S. adults have used an online dating site or app, and that just over one in ten have used one in the past year. About 12 percent of respondents reported being in a serious relationship or marrying someone that they met online.

When most of us read about or hear about studies like these we don’t think much about how the findings are generated. Who are included in the study, and how do researchers find them?

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February 17, 2020

Theories and Hypotheses

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

What’s the difference is between a theory and a hypothesis? Which one is absolutely necessary for research, while the other is common, but not a requirement?

I’ll give you a hint: if you are a sociology major, you might have to take a class called Sociological Theory. You probably don’t have to take a class called Sociological Hypothesis (if you do, I’d like to hear more about it in the comments below, because I have never heard of such a class before).

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October 09, 2019

The 2020 Census: Help Wanted

author photoBy Colby King

If you study sociology you’ve very likely worked with data from one of the several surveys administered by the US Census Bureau. And while it is not 2020 yet, you might have already seen Census Bureau workers in your neighborhoods, as they have begun to check addresses ahead of next year’s count.

The US Census Bureau and its surveys are important to the discipline of sociology, and this fall I have been encouraging my students to consider applying for a job with the US Census Bureau. While field jobs and career positions with the US Census Bureau are always something sociology students might consider as long-term possibilities, the Bureau is currently recruiting thousands of people for several different temporary jobs in preparation for the 2020 Decennial Census. These temporary jobs include not just census takers, but also clerical positions, as well as a few supervisory and outreach positions. You can apply for all of the 2020 Census jobs through one online application form, which is available here.

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September 20, 2019

Climate Change and Statistical Inference

author photoBy Dan Lainer-Vos

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Southern California

Have you had the experience of discussing climate change only to be interrupted by a wise chuckle from a person who suggests that our planet has known natural fluctuations in the past and that, therefore, it is possible that the spate of record-breaking temperatures of past decades reflects naturally occurring fluctuation?

The climate-change denier, in such instance, presents him or herself as a hard-nosed skeptic while suggesting that the climate researcher community is hysterical. To an extent, this interaction is the story of climate change debate over the last twenty years—a long drawn out argument that is fed by the very fact that science, including climate science, is built on probabilistic models where absolute certainty is simply not part of the game. Is there a way out this pickle? Thinking about statistical inference, and especially the types of errors that statisticians are concerned with, can shed new light on this debate.

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July 01, 2019

Why Social Science Research Matters

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

If you are a student in one of the social sciences, you most likely have taken a course in research methods. You probably learned a lot about the different ways that social scientists conduct their studies, how they analyze their data, and hopefully some of the ethical considerations that researchers should take.

Many of you might be thinking that once you finish the course, you are done with needing to know about research methods if you are not planning on being a social scientist. But many of the core principles you learn about in your research class are vital to know about as a critical thinker and an active citizen.

Here are the main lessons you should take with you—no matter your desired profession or future educational goals:

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June 03, 2019

What is Sociological Research?

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

We do research all the time, or at least we use the word research regularly. Trying to figure out where to stay on a vacation? “Research” it online! Choosing a restaurant? Do some “research” by asking your friends about their favorite places in the area. Hoping to learn more about a movie before shelling out money for tickets? “Research” reviews and see what other people think.

You can probably tell from my use of quotations that looking something up online is not the same thing as doing sociological research. This should go without saying, but on several occasions I have seen students genuinely confuse a Google search with doing social science research.

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May 28, 2019

Comparative Historical Research: The Intersection between Sociology and History

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

We’ve written a lot on this blog about the intersection between biography and history, C. Wright Mills’ now classic explanation of the sociological imagination. But beyond individuals’ connections with history, sociologists sometimes venture into the historical study of social phenomena and events in order to identify shifts over time and what social forces may be the cause of change. This is called comparative historical research.

Sociologists who conduct comparative historical research often use methods that overlap with historians’ research, such as using census data and other archived records, historical news clippings, oral histories, written correspondence and other sources of data. When sociologists use historical data, we are often trying to explain macro-level changes in society and have the benefit of time to analyze the causes and consequences.

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April 29, 2019

Connecting the Dots: Linking Theory with Research

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As I wrote about previously, one of the main things to consider when making sure that your research topic is sociological is its connection with sociological theory. How does your study—or idea for a study—reflect or inform a theoretical perspective within the discipline?

First, let’s remind ourselves about what the difference is between a hypothesis and a theory. A hypothesis is a specific, testable “educated guess” about the relationship between two or more variables, while a theory is a system of ideas, often based on previous studies.

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