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Problem under study, clarify possible techniques to be used in collecting data and may avoid

Steps that ensures maximum objectivity and consistency in researching a problem. A key

Element in scientific method is planning. When sociologists wish to learn more about human

Behavior, they do not simply walk out the door, or pick up the telephone, and begin asking

Questions. There are five basic steps in scientific method that researchers follow in developing

useful research. These are:

Defining the problem,

Reviewing the literature,

Formulating the hypothesis,

Selecting the research design and then collecting and analyzing data,

Developing the conclusion.

An actual example will illustrate the workings of scientific method. In the 1980s, people


in the United States became increasingly aware of the plight of the homeless in the nation's


urban centers. In the past the homeless were primarily older white males living as alcoholics


in «skid row» areas. However, today's homeless persons tend to be younger and include growing


numbers of families without any shelter.


Defining the problem. The first step in any sociological research project is to state as clearly

as possible what you hope to investigate. In beginning their work on homelessness, a team


of sociologists headed by David Snow considered the question of who the homeless are. The


researchers learned that the mass media presented the homeless primarily as menially ill. The


sociologists developed a researchable question: «How representative is the media image of


the homeless? » After that they developed an operational definition, i.e. an explanation of the


abstract concept «mental illness». They classified homeless persons as mentally ill «if they had


contact with one or more mental health agencies and were simultaneously diagnosed by the


agency personnel as having one or more mental health problems».


Reviewing the literature. By conducting a review of the literature, researchers refine the

problem under study, clarify possible techniques to be used in collecting data and may avoid

making unnecessary mistakes. When David Snow and his colleagues began considering


mental illness among the homeless, they turned to two types of literature. First, they


reviewed «popular» magazines such as «Time», «Newsweek» and « People» and found a


consistent image of the homeless as «street people* who had previously spent some time in


mental hospitals. Second, they examined the systematic studies done in Boston and New York


which indicated that homeless persons were usually found to have a diagnosable mental illness.


But were these studies representative of the homeless? Still further review showed that, when


the researchers focused on the homeless in general, the proportions of homeless persons found to


be mentally ill were much lower.


Formulating the hypothesis. After reviewing the earlier research concerning homeless the


researchers developed a guess about the relation-ship between mental illness and homelessness.


Such a speculative state­ment about the relationship between two or more factors is called


a hypothesis. A hypothesis essentially tells us what we are looking for in our research. In order

Date: 2015-12-24; view: 394

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