Sociology as any other science has the following basic components of knowledge distinguished: (1) the knowledge proper and (2) means of getting the knowledge. In the given context we will view not the subjects of the scientific activity - scientists, but only the results of their activity.
The first component - the knowledge proper - includes the knowledge of knowledge (methodological knowledge) and the knowledge of the subject. Methodological knowledge includes the outlook and methodological principles: the knowledge of the subject of sociology; knowledge of the methods, their development and application; knowledge of sociological knowledge, its forms, structure and functions. The knowledge of the subject comprises specially built classifications or typologies, conceptual or mathematical models, hypothesis and theories, statistical data.
The second component - means of getting the knowledge - comprises separate methods and sociological researches. Methods in sociology are the means of getting and systemizing of scientific knowledge about sociological reality. They include principles of organization of cognitive activity, regulative norms or rules, integrity of ways and methods of action, scheme or plan of actions.
Ways of research (research) are built in a certain consequence on the basis of regulative principles. The sequence of the ways and methods is called a procedure. Procedure is an integral part of any method.
Methods of research mean realization of the set of ways and their procedure. It means relation of one or several methods and certain procedures to the research and its conceptual apparatus, choice or development of methodological instruments (a set of methods), methodological strategy (consequence of methods and certain procedures application). Methodical instruments, methodical strategy or methods can be original, applied only in one research or standard, possible to be applied in several researches.
It should be mentioned that in different researches one and the same method is specifically transformed depending on its place and role in the research, depending on the interrelationship with the other methods. Methods of research also include technique of research. Technique of research is realization of method on the level of the simplest operations that are perfect in fulfillment. It can be represented by an integrity sequence of ways of work with the object of research (technique of data collection), with data of the research (technique of data analysis), with instruments of research (technique of questionnaire composition).
Sociological research can be defined as a system of logical consequent methodological and organizational-technical procedures that are related to each other by means of single aim - to get liable knowledge (data) about studied phenomena or process, about tendencies and contradictions of their development to be able to use these knowledge (data) in the practice of governing of different spheres of social vital activity.
Sociological research is a scientific process of development of new sociological knowledge on the basis of theoretical or empirical data; it is one of the types of cognitive activity of sociologist.
Depending on the level of knowledge sociological researches are divided into theoretical and empirical. The problem of relation of theoretical and empirical aspect in scientific cognition includes two aspects -functional and genetic.
Functional aspect is related to the ratio of developed theoretical apparatus of the science and its empirical basis. Viewing of the question in such an aspect supposes the existence of linking elements between the apparatus of theory and data of observation and experiment, finding out ways of empirical checking of theoretical dogmas, etc. It possible when theoretical level of scientific knowledge is already formed and we are talking about grounding of its relation to empirical level. The relation of theoretical aspect to empirical aspect is the most important motive factor of the further development of the very theoretical apparatus of the science. Theoretical level of the science is presented as an element of developing structure.
Genetic aspect of the problem of relation of theoretical and empirical knowledge in the science reflects formation of theoretical apparatus, scientific theory, transition from empirical stage of the science to its theoretical one.
Sociological knowledge is characterized by two functions: function of explanation of social reality and function of social reality change. Division of sociology into theoretical and empirical one is related to the levels of knowledge (theoretical and empirical) in sociology; division of sociology into fundamental and applied is related to orientation of sociology at its own scientific or practical tasks.
Empiric research can be held in the measures of fundamental and applied sociology. If the aim of such a research is to create a theory it refers to fundamental sociology according to the type of its orientation. If the aim of the research is to develop practical recommendations it refers to applied sociology. The research being empiric according ţ the level of received knowledge can be applied according to the character of the given task, which concludes in reality transformation. The same can be said in reference to theoretical researches (according to the level of knowledge).
Applied researches do not comprise a special level. They are the very same theoretical and empiric researches (according to the level of knowledge) but with applied orientation. Empiric sociological researches are different from traditional research activity in organizational structure and character of research tasks. Including elements of theoretical knowledge that are necessary for primary analysis of studied social object and generalization of received data, sociological research demands the ability to solve a large quantity of organizational problems and supposes professional skills in specific research methods of receiving of primary sociological information (questionnaire, interview), mathematical methods of its development and analysis.
Correct sociological research demands not only mastering of specific sum of knowledge and skills but also large professional experience. According to the character of received knowledge researches are divided into methodological (knowledge about knowledge) and non-methodological (knowledge about subject). Methodological knowledge is the result of methodological research, i.e. knowledge not aboui the subject of sociology but the means of study of this subject (methods and procedures). Methodological researches refer to any level of knowledge and are held in the fields of both fundamental and applied sociology.
There are not only scientific or applied researches in sociology but also mixed ones that solve not only scientific but also practical tasks. Regardless of the fact whether the research is held on theoretical or empirical levels of knowledge or on both of them, is it only scientific or applied one, as a rule it includes solving of methodological problems.
It is necessary to mention that any sociological research consists of three basic stages, which of them can present an independent research.
First stage - methodological one - is related to the development of the program of research on the basis of existing knowledge and methods or newly forming especially for this research knowledge and methods. Questions referring to application of general scientific methods or methods can be solved at this stage. Theoretical and empiric knowledge fulfils methodological function on this stage.
Second stage - empiric one - is related to receiving of empiric knowledge. First of all it is a field research, work at the object, collection of sociological information, its analysis. This work can be resulted in empiric knowledge (statistical data, classification) that will enable not only to create theoretical knowledge on its basis but also to formulate practical recommendations.
Third stage - theoretical one - is related to the receiving of theoretical knowledge, creation, for instance, of typology, formation and development of sociological theories. It is quite possible to have just one theoretical research grounded on the use of already existing empirical knowledge without holding of special empiric research for formation of practical recommendations.
It is necessary to distinguish sociological and social researches. Sociological researches are totally dedicated to the study of laws and regularities of functioning and development of different social communities, character and ways of interrelation of people, their common activity. Social researches on the contrary to sociological ones study forms of social laws and regularities display and their mechanisms, concrete forms and conditions of social interaction - economical, political, demographic, etc., i.e. they study social aspect - people's interaction in the conditions of the specific subject (economy, politics, population). Social researches are complex ones and are held on the edge of sciences, i.e. they are socio-economical, socio-political, socio-psychological and other researches.
Concrete kind of sociological research is always defined by the character of the given tasks and aims. According to this character there are three kinds of sociological research: investigating, descriptive and analytical.
Investigating research that is often called pilot research solves tasks that are rather restricted in their content. It embodies as a rule small integrities and is based on simplifies and compressed instruments. Given type of research is used as a rule for primary investigation of a certain process or phenomenon. The need in such a stage occurs when the problem is noi studied well enough or is not studied at all. For instance this type of research is applied for receiving of additional information about subject and object, for correction of hypothesis and tasks, instruments and measures of investigated integrity in deep research and for revelation of difficulties that can appear in the further work. Investigating research is a supplier of operative data.
Descriptive research is a more complicated type of sociological analysis that enables to form reliably integral idea of the studied phenomenon or process, its structural elements. Realization and registration of such information help to have better understanding of the situation, to ground deeper and to rationally define means, forms and methods of governing social processes. Given type of research is held according to complete specifically developed program on the basis of methodically approbated instruments. Its methodological equipment enables to group and classify elements according to these or that characteristics that are defined as essential in the context of studied problem. Descriptive research is applied when a comparatively large group of people with different characteristics performs functions of the object of research. They can be stuff of a large firm or enterprise where people of different professions and age categories work. They have different job seniority, level of education, marital status, etc. In such situations defining of relatively homogenous groups makes it possible to make their evaluation, comparison of interesting characteristics and to find out absence or presence of links between them.
Analytical sociological research has the deepest study of phenomenon as its aim. It has not only to describe the structure but also to find out defining qualitative and quantitative parameters. That is why this method is of great scientific and practical importance While descriptive research we find out whether there is a relation between characteristics of the studied phenomenon, during the analytical research we find out whether the relation that v/as noticed previously has casual character. For instance, if in the first case we notice the relation between satisfaction of the content of labor and its efficiency, in the second case we view whether the content of labor is the main reason, i.e. factor, that influences level of labor efficiency.
As far as the reality disables us to call any "pure" factor defining features of labor activity because almost in every analytical research a set of factors is studied, factors that are main and secondary, elc. are distinguished.
It is necessary to remember that preparation to analytical research demands great time, accurate program and instruments. This is the significant feature of analytical research. It differs from the mentioned above types of research in difficulty, content of its preparatory stage and stage of primary information collection, approach ţ analysis, generalization and explanation of received results.
There are following types of sociological researches grouped according to different factors:
5. According to the character of aims and tasks of research:
6. According to the dynamics of the object of research:
7. Stages of research:
8. Orientation of research concerning its the subject and object:
(1) social groups;
(2) social institutions;
(3) social organizations;
(4) sociology of labor;
(5) sociology of education;
(6) sociology of sport;
(7) sociology of business;
(8) sociology of management, etc.
Research is the process of systematically collecting information for the purposes of testing an existing theory or generating a new one. What is the relationship between sociological theory and research? The relationship between theory and research has been referred to as a continuous cycle.
Not all sociologists conduct research in the same manner. Some researchers primarily engage in quantitative research whereas others engage in qualitative research. With quantitative research, the goal is scientific objectivity, and the focus is on data that can be measured numerically. Quantitative research typically emphasizes complex statistical techniques. With qualitative research, interpretive description (words) rather than statistics (numbers) is used to analyze underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships.
The "Conventional" Research Model. Research designs are tailored to the specific problem being investigated and the focus of the researcher. Both quantitative research and qualitative research contribute to our knowledge of society and human social interaction. We will now trace the steps in the "conventional" research process, which focuses on deduction and quantitative research. Then we will contrast them with an alternative approach that emphasizes induction and qualitative research.
1. Select and define the research problem.
2. Review previous research.
3. Formulate the hypothesis (if applicable). You may formulate a hypothesis—a statement of the expected relationship between two or more variables. A variable is any concept with measurable traits or characteristics that can change or vary from one person, time, situation, or society to another. The most fundamental relationship in a hypothesis is between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. The independent variable is presumed to be the cause of the relationship; the dependent variable is assumed to be caused by the independent variable(s).
Not all social research makes use of hypotheses. If you plan to conduct an explanatory study (showing a cause-and-effect relationship), you likely will want to formulate one or more hypotheses to test theories. If you plan to conduct a descriptive study, however, you will be less likely to do so, since you may desire only to describe social reality or provide facts.
4. Develop the research design. You must determine the unit of analysis to be used in the study. A unit of analysis is what or whom is being studied. In social science research, individuals, social groups (such as families, cities, or geographic regions), organizations (such as clubs, labor unions, or political parties), and social artifacts (such as books, paintings, or weddings) may be units of analysis.
5. Collect and analyze the data. You must decide what population will be observed or questioned and then carefully select a sample. A sample is the people who are selected from the population to be studied; the sample should accurately represent the larger population. A representaiive sample is a selection from a larger population that has the essential characteristics of the total population. For example, if you interviewed five students selected haphazardly from your sociology class, they would not be representative of your school's total student body. By contrast, if you selected five students from the total student body by a random sample, they would be closer to being representative (although a random sample of five students would be too small to yield much useful data). Validity and reliability may be problems in research. Validity is the extent to which a study or research instrument accurately measures what it is supposed to measure. A recurring issue in studies that analyze the relationship between religious beliefs and suicide is whether "church membership" is an accurate indicator of a person's religious beliefs. One person may be very religious yet not belong to a specific church; another person may be a member of a church yet not hold very deep religious beliefs. Reliability is the extent to which a study or research instrument yields consistent results when applied to different individuals at one time or to the same individuals over time. Sociologists have found that different interviewers get different answers from the people being interviewed. Once you have collected your data, it must be analyzed. Analysis is the process through which data are organized so that comparisons can be made and conclusions drawn. Sociologists use many techniques to analyze data. 6. Draw conclusions and report the findings. After analyzing the data, your first step in drawing conclusions is to return to your hypothesis or research objective to clarify how the data relate both to the hypothesis and to the larger issues being addressed. At this stage, you note the limitations of the study, such as problems with the sample, the influence of variables over which you had no control, or variables that your study was unable to measure.
Reporting the findings is the final stage. The report generally includes a review of each step taken in the research process in order to make the study available for replication — the repetition of the research in substantially the same way that it was originally conducted. Social scientists generally present their findings in papers at professional meetings and publish them in technical journals and books.
We have traced the steps in the "conventional" research process (based on deduction and quantitative research). But what steps might be taken in an alternative approach based on induction and qualitative research?