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: 219