SO308 Prin of Social Research

for S2T 2011

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PS/SO 308 Principles of Social Research


S2T 2011 DL


Payne, Kevin J.


Assistant Professor & Program Coordinator of Sociology


Ph.D. -- University of Missouri-Columbia

Office Location

416F Mabee Learning Center ("The Underground")

Office Hours

TR  8:00-10:00 or by appointment

Daytime Phone



Web Page

Semester Dates

Monday, 14 March -- Sunday, 08 May, 2011

Class Days


Class Time



Introductory social science class (i.e., SO141, PS101, CJ100, or SW205) and SO307 (Statistics) — MA120 allowed for students under 2006 and previous catalogs.

Credit Hours


Babbie, E. R. (2007). The Practice of Social Research, 11th ed. Thomson Learning-Wadsworth.
(Bundled by MBS with the SAGrader Methods Course Pack from IdeaWorks.)

Textbooks can be purchased through the MBS bookstore

Additional Resources:
SAGrader Methods Course Pack from IdeaWorks (bundled with textbook by MBS).

Additional Readings as necessary.

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
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Course Description:
SO 308 Principles of Social Research: An application of the scientific method to social science with the focus on hypothesis formulation, research design, data collection and data analysis. Replication of research studies or completion of a research problem, or both. 3:0:3 Prerequisite: SO307

Educational Philosophy:
For the remainder of this term, this class is your job.  And my job is to help you succeed at your job.  Learning is work, but it can be the most enjoyable and rewarding of jobs if we let it.  Online learning requires a high degree of motivation and commitment, and we must all be involved for a successful class.  To succeed in this class, you should do what you would to succeed at any job: take your job seriously, work hard, enjoy your work, do your own work, come to work when you’re expected and on time, come to work prepared, ask questions when you are unsure of your job, be a good colleague by helping others to do their jobs well and acknowledging others’ contributions to your work, and demonstrate your mastery of the job through learning the necessary tools and using them consistently, well, and creatively.

And what is your job in this class?  At the most basic, it is to know and understand the facts, issues, perspectives, methods of inquiry, and applications we will study.  But it is also much more than that.  These are simply the “tools of the trade,” and you must then use them in your work.  Real learning is not rote memorization or parroting back the answer you think I will approve.  Real learning is an effortful and interactive process that keeps you engaged with the material, your student colleagues, outside sources, and me.  Real learning requires you to think rigorously, empirically, critically, and creatively.  It demands evidence of your work as you learn to communicate you mastery properly, clearly, directly, and actively to a variety of well-defined audiences.  It requires that you impart your own contributions by analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, applying, and otherwise using it.  And it clearly demonstrates your effort and growth.  I will grade you on your evidenced contributions to our job.

I often employ the “Socratic Method” and play “Devil’s Advocate” in class discussions, taking contrary positions and pushing you to explore your positions with a variety of questions.  I will ask tough questions, and I expect the same from you.  I expect you to be able to defend your assertions with sound reason and appropriate evidence.  Social science is not opinion.  In fact, it is often about getting over what you thought you knew.  You should be prepared to evidence a positively critical stance toward yourself and positions to which you adhere, other students’ perspectives, the readings, and even toward me.  But critical thinking does not imply intractability or contrarianism.  If you agree with something, you should be able to explain why, and you should still be open to the limitations of any perspective.  If you disagree, you should also be able to explain why, and be prepared to offer and defend what you feel to be a better alternative.  Sociology classes often explore emotionally charged topics that generate a great deal of controversy.  It is good to remember that others have thought deeply and conscientiously on these matters and reached conclusions with which you will differ.  We can respectfully disagree with one another and refrain from personal attacks, but we can and should hold one another to the highest standards of reason and scientific evidence.

Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses, and any one method of assessment with advantage some and disadvantage others.  Therefore, I attempt to incorporate several different sources for grades in order to measure different forms of learning and aptitude (as per Gardner,1983 & 1993, for example).  Typically, this means that a class will include several grading opportunities selected from essays, projects, discussion, participation and quizzes or tests.

The social sciences are messy and full of contention and debate.  I will not attempt to “clean it up” for you.  Instead, I will encourage you to develop the tools necessary to arrive at and defend your own perspectives through the careful application of appropriate reasons and evidence.  We will cover a great deal of material in this course.  I will relate as much relevant “state of the field” information that I can.  But social and demographic facts tend to change over the years and new research is always changing our understanding of self and society.  Social scientists often do not agree and it is more honest to present the material as such.  It also forces you to wrestle with the material and develop your own positions.  And that, I think, is the most important objective of this course: to present you with good data, influential theories, and effective methods through which you can better understand yourself and the changing world around you.  The social sciences are useful, no matter what you do for a living.  You have the capacity to contribute meaningfully to the very personal and public issues we study, and one goal of this class is to give you the tools and confidence necessary to become better involved in these issues that affect us all.

See my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional details.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the historical development of ethical standards in social research.
  2. Apply the principles of the scientific method to social science research. [data analysis, core assessment, final exam]
  3. Operationalize a theoretical question or practical concern as a testable hypothesis. [data analysis, core assessment]
  4. Critically analyze and evaluate a research literature and then to build new research upon the foundation it provides. [literature review, core assessment]
  5. Apply the fundamental aspects of measurement and construct variables based on those principles. [data analysis, core assessment, final exam]
  6. Identify and differentiate basic research designs and determine which is appropriate for a given research problem. [data analysis, core assessment, final exam]
  7. Identify the principles of probabilistic, nonprobabilistic, and multistage samples, and determine which is appropriate for a research problem. [data analysis, core assessment, final exam]
  8. Explain and justify the use of quantitative, qualitative, and multimethod data gathering techniques. [data analysis, core assessment, final exam]
  9. Apply the principles of ethical research. [ethics assignment, core assessment, final exam]
  10. Gather interactive and nonreactive data. [data analysis]
  11. Analyze quantitative and qualitative data. [data analysis, final exam]
  12. Collect, analyze, and critically evaluate empirical data. [data analysis]
  13. Present research results to specific audiences. [data analysis, ethics assignment, core assessment]
Class Assessment:
See detailed instructions and rubrics for all assignments in the SO308 course shell at

Core Assessment (200 points = 20%)
Research Proposal: The Core Assessment for this class requires you to write a detailed proposal for research you could conduct.  You will not actually do this research (though it might form the basis for a senior research project or some research relevant to your job), but your proposal should be a “blueprint” detailed enough that you could hand to others and guide them through its successful completion.  The research proposal will consist of four sections:
1.    Problem Statement: (max. 1500 words) an overview of the topic your research will investigate.  It introduces and justifies your research question, key variables, their hypothesized relations, and your guiding theoretical perspective.  It explains how your planned research is unambiguous in its goals and methods, concerned with a significant issue that will add to the store of human knowledge, theoretically justifiable and testable, practical and feasible to implement, ethical and respectful of human rights, and builds on existing knowledge in the field.
2.    Literature Review: (max. 1500 words) a critical summary of existing research your project will build upon.  Your review will evaluate at least five other relevant research projects from original sources in reputable, peer-reviewed journals.  The lit review discusses previous research, as it influences the proposed project.  It evaluates the methodological, theoretical, or substantive strengths or weaknesses of those studies and explains how they shape your research plans.
3.    Ethics & Conduct of Research: (max. 1500 words) summarizes potential ethical dilemmas, political consequences, and practical challenges associated with designing, conducting, implementing, and disseminating your research.  It explains where your research process might go wrong and the safeguards you will put into place to minimize those risks.
4.    Design & Procedures: (max. 2000 words) describes and justifies your plans for measurement, sampling, design, analysis, and interpretation of results.  It explains which data you would collect, when you would collect it, and what you would do with it to make sense of your topic and shed new light on your research question — and how and why.  This section is a set of “how to” instructions for actually turning your “good idea” into a real plan for scientifically answering your original question.
Your research proposal is a carefully constructed argument for why your question should be answered and how a valid and reliable answer might be obtained.  It should be a meticulous set of instructions for generating an answer according to the rules of scientific method, and it should make the case to interested parties for how such an answer can be achieved.
[You may submit unlimited drafts of your proposal through the online SAGrader system for detailed feedback.]

Data Analysis Project (350 points total = 35%)
Each class member will participate in five common types of data collection and contribute to the final data set.  You will use the final data set as the basis for your data report.  Each of these data concern the general topic of prejudice and discrimination.  This topic was chosen for three reasons: (1.) it remains a topic of vital importance in all our lives, (2.) it was an historically important area of research for the development of social psychology as a field, and (3.) it illustrates the immediate importance for applied social psychological research.
1.  Experiment (40 points): participate in the experiment, administer that experiment to three other participants, and record and submit those data to your instructor in the form provided.  Write up a  brief (400 to 500 word) reflection on your findings and the experience of both taking and administering the experiment.
2.  Survey (40 points): participate in the survey, administer that survey to nine other participants, and record and submit those data to your instructor in the form provided.  Write up a  brief (400 to 500 word) reflection on your findings and the experience of both taking and administering the survey.
3.  Field Observation (40 points): select two different public locations where members of at least two groups interact with one another.  Each observation should last about 30 minutes and you should take copious notes. Write up and submit your detailed field notes in the form provided.  Then write up a  brief (400 to 500 word) reflection on your findings and the experience of conducting your field observations.
4.  Interview (40 points): administer the interview schedule to one person.  Your interview should take about 30 minutes to an hour.  Write up and submit your detailed interview notes in the form provided.  Then write up a  brief (400 to 500 word) reflection on your findings and the experience of conducting your interview.
5.  Artifact Content Analysis (40 points): select two cultural artifacts that you believe evidence prejudicial attitudes or discriminatory practices.  Scan or photograph the artifact (or copy the link, if it is a web page) and embed this in your data submission.  Write up and submit your detailed content analysis in the form provided.  Then write up a  brief (400 to 500 word) reflection on your findings and the experience of conducting your content analyses.
Report (150 points): each student will receive a subset of all the data collected by SO308 students.  You will receive samples from each of the five different data sources.  You must select three of the five data sources for your analysis in the following manner: (1.) one of either the experiment or the survey; (2.) one of the field observations, interview notes, or cultural artifacts; and (3.) any one of the remaining three data sources.  So, for example, you could choose the experiments, observations, and artifacts; or the experiments, surveys, and interviews; but not the interviews, observations, and artifacts.  There must be at least one quantitative and one qualitative data source in your analysis.  Which sources you choose will be dictated by your interests, the question you wish to examine, and your comfort with each type of data.  Once your have selected your data sources, you will find that there is still far too much to cover in this brief report.  Therefore, you will have to further focus your essay on one or two hypotheses or questions.  The best way to do this is to study your selected data sources to find similarities you can group as themes or variables.  Once you have done this, you are ready to dive into your analysis.  Your essay must be between 2500 and 3000 words (about 8 to 12 pages, plus any references) and must consist of the following parts:
(1.)  Description: Your first goal in each project is to identify patterns in the data, propose possible explanations that help you understand the patterns, and to justify your analyses and interpretations through reference to specific empirical evidence and logical arguments.  (See your brief guide to critical thinking handout for more details on how this is done.)Discuss only those aspects of the data or the data collection process that set up the issues you have chosen as the focus of your essay.  You do not have to discuss all of the data, every variable, or the entire data collection process — just pick those that are most relevant to the points you wish to make.  This is a short essay, so you must remain tightly focused.  Compare and contrast what is similar and different about you learn of your topic through all three data sources.
(2.)  Analysis: Your second objective is to attempt to make sense of your observations by analyzing them.  You do this through imputing underlying reasons, motivations, and relationships — always justifying your assertions with carefully collected data and thoroughly developed reason or logic.  In other words, you will construct a small theory to explain and interpret your data, and maybe even help predict future behaviors.  Be sure that all of your assertions can be justified through sound reason and empirical evidence gathered only from your assigned data sources and no others.  Use specific techniques for data analysis discussed in this class as your tools.  You cannot use every method, so choose wisely.
(3.)  Critique:  You must next critique the process by acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of your data and your methods.  A continual question in social and behavioral research is whether the data we have collected are valid and reliable or just an “artifact” accidentally created by the way in which we gathered our data.  For example, in those assignments based on survey or interview data, you may wonder whether the wording or ordering of the questions has caused subjects to refrain from revealing their true feelings.  What could be done so that if someone were to gather more of this data in the future they could be more confident of it?  Discuss how future investigations may be improved based on our experiences collecting and studying the data.
(4.)  Implications:  Finally, you should discuss how your findings might be applied to help us understand a real problem or issue better or more completely.  What sorts of policies or actions would your findings suggest?  What sort of personal decisions would result?  How would this better understanding change the world if is was generally understood?  Also, what are the dangers of overgeneralizing from these data?

Comprehensive Final Examination (150 points = 15%)
A 100 multiple choice question final examination comprehensive of all materials from the course text book.

Discussion and Participation (25 points x 8 = 20%)
Participate in all discussions each week, on time and according to instructions, for a possible 25 points each week.

Ethics Assignment (20 points = 2%)
Complete and submit the "Ethical Decisions Worksheet" on time and according to instructions for 20 points.

Weekly Quizzes (10 points x 8 = 8%)
Complete each of the eight multiple choice quizzes on time and according to instructions for a possible 10 points each.

Total Points Possible = 1000

A >= 900
B = 800-899
C = 700-799
D = 600-699
F <= 599

See online course shell (and any attached documents) for each assignment rubric.  All assignments must be submitted through the "Dropbox" in the online course shell for grading.

Late Submission of Course Materials:
Late work is not accepted under any circumstances.  You should begin work on your assignments early enough to cope with those unforeseen circumstances that inevitably arise.  I may make accommodations for extreme circumstances, but you must discuss these with me as early as possible (beforehand, if possible, or immediately after the fact, in unforeseen circumstances).

See my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional details.

Classroom Rules of Conduct:
The class is a professional environment and should be a safe place for everyone to explore the legitimate range of possible interpretations applicable to the relevant data.  Your contributions should be respectful and substantive.  Disagreements should center on the ideas, and not the individuals.  Violations of basic decorum will not be tolerated and will result in appropriate disciplinary actions.

See my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional details.

Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

 Week Topic   Due
 1  Research Questions
 2  Design & Sampling
 3  Measurement  Survey
 4  Qualitative & Unobtrusive Research
 5 Survey & Experimental Research
 6  Concepts of Data Analysis
 7  Quantitative & Statistical Analysis
 8  Research into Practice

See online course shell for additional schedule information.

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life. Park University students and faculty members are encouraged to take advantage of the University resources available for learning about academic honesty ( or Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92
See the Park University 2010-11 Undergraduate Catalog for more details on the official university policy, and see my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional detail about my own stance.

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. from Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92-93
See the Park University 2010-11 Undergraduate Catalog for more details on the official university policy, and see my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional detail about my own stance.

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.
ONLINE NOTE: An attendance report of "P" (present) will be recorded for students who have logged in to the Online classroom at least once during each week of the term. Recording of attendance is not equivalent to participation. Participation grades will be assigned by each instructor according to the criteria in the Grading Policy section of the syllabus.

Park University 2010-2011 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95-96
The attendance policy is a minimal standard and does not constitute adequate participation.  You must be involved in your education to actually learn.  Please make time to visit the course often and early in each week.

See my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional details.

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: .

Additional Information:

See my General Rubric and Notes (2011Rubric.pdf) for additional details.

General Rubric and Notes


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Last Updated:2/28/2011 5:23:25 PM