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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Social Research, Characteristics and Introduction of Research Methods and its Various Types
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 by Faizan Bhatti
Tags: Research Methods
Sociological research offers the challenge of going as a “stranger” into the familiar world, often to find one’s assumptions shattered by the facts that one discovers. Research in sociology is really a form of detective work—it poses the same early puzzles and suspicions, the same moments of routine sifting through the evidence and inspired guessing, the same disappointments over false leads and facts that do not fit, and, perhaps, the same triumph when he pieces finally fall into place and an answer emerges. Research in sociology is where the real action takes place. It is in the field, far more than in the lecture room that the sociologist comes to grips with the subject.
There are two sides to the sociological enterprise: theory and research. Both are essential, and each thrives on the other. Facts without theory are utterly meaningless, for they lack a framework in which they can be understood. Theories without facts are unproved speculations of little practical use, because there is no way to cell whether they are correct. Theory and research are thus parts of a constant cycle. A theory inspires research that can be used to verify or disprove it, and the finings of research are used to confirm, reject, or modify the theory, or even to provide the basis of new theories. The process recurs endlessly, and the accumulation of sociological knowledge is the result.
Guesswork, intuition, and common sense all have an important part to play in sociological research, but on their own they cannot produce reliable evidence: that requires a reliable research methodology. A methodology is a system of rules, principles, and procedures that guides scientific investigation. The sociologist is interested in discovering what happens in the social world and why. Research methodology provides guidelines for collecting evidence about what takes place, for explaining why it takes place, and for doing so in such a way that other researchers can check the findings. It is vital that the sociologist use appropriate methodology, for an invalid method can produce only flawed results.
The methods of sociology can be applied only to questions that can be answered by reference to observable, verifiable facts. The sociologist cannot tell us what if God exists, because there is no scientific way to test the theories on the subject. But the sociologist can tell us what percentage of a population claims, to believe in God, because these facts can be established by using appropriate methods.
To explain any aspect of society or social behaviour, the sociologist must understand the relationships of cause and effect. One basic assumption of science is that all events have causes—whether the event is a ball rolling down hill, a nuclear bomb exploding, an economy improving, a political party losing support, or a student passing an examination. A second basic assumption is that under the identical circumstances, the same cause will produce the same effect. If we did not make these assumptions, the world would be utterly unpredictable and therefore unintelligible to us. The problem facing the sociologist is to sort out cause from the effect in the complexities of social life, and to determine which of several possible causes, or which combination of causes, is producing a particular effect.
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