Foundations of Social Science

Dr. Andrew Austin

 

Tentative Study Guide for Exam One

 

Version 1.0

 

What are types of native human inquiry, for example tradition and authority? What are problems with these types of ways of knowing the world? What are sources of human error, for example overgeneralization and reification? For example, drawing conclusions from limited observations is the error of overgeneralization, while ignoring those cases that do not fit our predetermined pattern of thinking/opinion is the error of selective observation.  What other errors are human beings apt to make? What did Orwell mean by doublethink?

 

What are the foundations of social science? What is logic and rationalism?  What is observation and empiricism? What is theory? A hypothesis is a specified testable expectation about empirical reality that follows from a more general proposition. How is this different from an axiom or postulate? What is a concept? Scientists study patterns of things and events. What do scientists call these patterns? Scientists study collections of things. What do scientists call these collections? What do we mean when we say science is a variable language? A variable is a special kind of concept comprised of a set of attributes. What are the different types of variables? What is the difference between a variable and a constant?

 

An exhaustive study of the inner workings of a particular L.A. street gang is an example of the idiographic method. What are other examples? What is the difference between the idiographic and nomothetic method? What are examples of the nomothetic method? When the logic of data analysis moves from the particular/concrete to the general/abstract, where a researcher constructs a theory by observing aspects of social life and searching for patterns that may point to universal principles, we call this the inductive method.  What are examples of the inductive method?  What is the procedure of the deductive method? What is the wheel of science?

 

What is Plato's cave?  Why is this significant?  What is ontology?  What is epistemology? Why is the difference between these two philosophical concepts important for understanding science, theory construction, and methodology? What are the different ways of organizing social scientific knowledge? I am here asking you about the various divisions of knowledge I identified in class, for example the division by emphasis or division by scope. 

 

Who is Thomas Kuhn and what is a paradigm? What is the difference between a paradigm (or a school of thought) and a theory?  What do we mean when we say paradigms shift and why does this happen?  What do we mean when we say that social sciences have competing paradigms? What are the three schools of social science thought covered in class and what are their main features? Who was Emile Durkheim and what did he do for social science?

 

Who is Jonathan Turner and how does he differentiate between science, ideology, and other forms of knowledge?  Who is Sandra Harding and what is “strong objectivity”? What is her argument concerning the neutrality and the depoliticization of science?  What is epistemological relativism versus sociological relativism? According to Diesing, the internalist view of social science argues that social science is an autonomous institution with its own values of objectivity and neutrality.  From this point of view, political influences come from outside the institution.  How is this different from the externalist view?  What is the institutional power and position view? Technocratic science is that type of science that Diesing claims benefits corporations, the state, and the military.  What is the other type of science Diesing identifies?  What would it take to make this possible? Consider the problem of the politics of torture in the field of psychology.

 

According to Babbie, the use of deception in social science research, although not automatically ruled out, is always to be carefully considered. If deception is used, what must follow?  What are other ethical concerns?  What is the Institutional Review Board? Know about the process generally. What happened at Nuremberg?  What are examples of abuses of science discussed in class? What were the Milgram authority studies and what were some problems? What about Zimbardo’s study? Humphries? Babbie says that a researcher observes confidentiality when the identity of the participant is known to her/him but kept secret from the public.  How is this different from anonymity? Do ethical standards refer only to physical harm or to both physical and mental (and emotional) harm? Consider the politics of torture and ethics in the field of psychology.

 

What is the general flow in research design covered in class (see the chart in the textbook)? Note the importance of theory. How does theory determined conceptualization and operationalization? How do theory, conceptualization, and operationalization shape the choice of method? How do these in turn shape the population and sampling strategy? What are the different purposes of research design? The empirical case/unit a researcher observes and measures is the unit of analysis. What is the unit of observation?  It is always the same as the unit of analysis?  If not, what would an exception look like? What are some of the problems of reasoning associated with confusing units of analysis? Consider the Chicago project discussed in the class.  What is the different between cross-sectional and longitudinal research? What are the different types of longitudinal research?  

 

What is the term that specifies a concept in a manner that renders it measurable? What is the term that specifies what we mean when we use a particular term?  What is the difference between conceptualization and operationalization? What are the different levels of measurement? What are the differences between them? What have we achieved when our measure measures what it is designed to measure?  What is the difference between reliability and validity? What is the type of validity based on the ability of a researcher to predict the behavior of the dependent variable?  What are other types of validity?

 

What is the term that specifies a concept in a manner that renders it measurable? What is the term that specifies what we mean when we use a particular term?  What is the difference between conceptualization and operationalization? What have we achieved when our measure measures what it is designed to measure?  What is the difference between reliability and validity? What is the type of validity based on the ability of a researcher to predict the behavior of the dependent variable?  What are other types of validity? What are the different levels of measurement? What are the differences between them?

 

What do we call variables that have no obvious single indicator? What are the different types of composite measures?  What is the type of composite measure that assigns values based on patterns of responses and assumes that some measures of a concept indicate more of that concept than other measures?  What are other types of scales? What is the difference between indices and scales, according to Babbie?  Why do we use indices and scales? Which types of scales ask respondents to choose between two opposite positions using qualifiers to bridge the distance between the two opposites? What is the basic method of factor analysis?  Why do we use factor analysis?

 

Know the types of probability and nonprobability sampling strategies. What is the chief difference between descriptive and inferential statistics?  Parameter is to population what statistic is to what? What is the basic principle behind probability sampling? What is the list of elements from which a probability sample is drawn?  What are the other terms associated with populations and samples? What is the difference between a parameter and a statistic?