Interesting social sciences/Methods of a sociological research

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Features of social cognition

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Social cognition has the specifics in comparison with knowledge of natural sciences. Such method as observation is used in historical sciences widely, and it is very difficult to use such method as an experiment in historical sciences. It is possible to point on a communistic experiment as an example of experiment in the history, as attempt to find a new way of progressive development for mankind. The result of this experiment was negative. Communists have found way of regress instead of a way of progress, communists have constructed tyranny and a backward social order instead of bright future. The modern historical science is based not only on the data obtained from ancient chronicles, but also on the material monuments opened by archeologists. The modern archeology reminds experimental science which provides data for generalization of theoretical science. Various devices are used within archeology, in particular, devices to determination of age of monuments.

The founder of sociology August Comte called to construct new science by sample of natural sciences that sociological researches rely on experiences and experiments, that sociological researches give forecasts and results, instead of speculative reasonings.

Sociological hypothesis

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The intuition prompts to the sociologist reason of events, then sociologist sets purpose to confirm this causal relationship by results of an empirical research. The causal relationship between two groups of the facts is a sociological hypothesis which can be designated as: [1]

Y = F (X)

Examples of my hypotheses:

  • Most of the unemployed men are psychologists.
  • Most of criminals are speakers.

These my hypotheses had received only partial confirmation as a result of my observations and polls in women's Supermax prison in town Berezniki and the Berezniki jobcenter. 40% turn out speakers, 40% turn out psychologists, 20% turn out technicians among 50 interviewed criminals in reality in women's Supermax prison in town Berezniki. 32% of people turn out by psychologists, 35% of people turn out by technicians, 32% of people turn out by speakers among 76 interviewed unemployed people in Berezniki jobcenter.

I defined of personality type of the respondent with the help of such sociological methods as:

1. visual test in the course of the unstructured interview with the criminal,

2. observation for conversation between unemployed man and inspector.

Concrete signs are formulated as questions of questionnaire, or concrete signs are registered as indicators in the document for collecting statistical information at the following stage.

For example, I had asked following questions to respondents in the course of the interview:

  • For what kind of crime are you condemned and for what term are you condemned?
  • How many do you have criminal records?

In the course of observation of conversation between unemployed man and the inspector, I tried to fix time in position of the unemployed man, a profession according to the diploma about education and the actual profession, diligence degree in job searches.

The respondent is a person to whom questionnaire questions are turned.

The questionnaire is the multiplied document containing several tens of questions.

Questions are opened and closed. Respondent has to formulate own answer in open questions. Several possible options of answer follow after the closed question, from which the respondent has to choose the option suitable for itself.

Methods of empirical sociology

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Survey sampling

Survey sampling begins with definition of target population — group of the people having any sign, I chose target populations of the women condemned for crime or the unemployed people staying on the registry in jobcenter. Then the sociologist makes sampling or selection of that part of population which sociologist will take interview. Sampling can be accidental, as at poll of women - criminals, or sampling can be quote, as at poll of the unemployed people.

Under quote sampling the quota for the unemployed people makes 21%, whose term of staying on the registry in jobcenter does not exceed 3 months. The quota for unemployed people makes 33%, whose term of staying on the registry in jobcenter was from 3 to 12 months. The quota for chronic unemployed people makes 46%, whose term of staying on the registry in jobcenter was from 12 to 18 months. I considers such big quotas for the chronic unemployed people reasonable because not the accidental, but natural reasons for unemployment are shown at the chronic unemployed people. Then it is necessary to formulate questions of questionnaire. Results of survey are subject to registration, classification and summation.

Field research

If sociologist conducts field research, then sociologist fixes acts of people in real life. For example, the sociologist fixes increase in labor productivity of workers in brigade in comparison with work without brigade. Public opinion influenced on the person in brigade, and brigadier influenced on the person in brigade with help of Individual Performance Factor. Other example of a field research is the sociometric research which allows to find out persons of leaders of school class and the structure of small groups in a class, this research is conducted with help of summation of answers on questions of questionnaire where each pupil is offered to named three friends and three enemies from a class. My covert participant observation for process of reception of unemployed people at the inspector in jobcenter is field research too.

Covert participant observation

Covert participant observation is used when people do not wish to answer on questions of the questionnaire because people do not want to look by weak and by coward. The researcher's status is not made known for the group.

Method of the historical analysis

Max Weber used this method of the historical analysis when Max Weber tried to prove that Protestant ethics contributed emergence of capitalism in Western Europe. Max Weber counted quantity of frequent appeals to enrichment, moneymaking, persistent work and business success in sermons of Protestant preachers (John Calvin, etc.) as a result of work of Max Weber in archives. Then Max Weber found out that Buddhists and Hindus called for opposite — to leaving from reality. Sociologists study such documents as population censuses, judicial protocols, entries in church books and police archives. For example, to the sociologist George Rudé wanted to find out whom were rioters during the French revolution — "heroes of France" or "a garbage of France", merchants and handicraftsmen or professional criminals? George Rudé studied protocols of interrogations of detainee people during disorders and George Rudé counted shares of criminals, on the one hand, and shares of merchants and handicraftsmen, on the other hand. It turned out that merchants and handicraftsmen made majority among the arrested people, that is "heroes of France" arranged disorders, but he doubt remained that professional criminals were able to hide out from the police better than merchants and handicraftsmen. I had to study contents of annual and quarterly reports of jobcenter in my research of unemployment with the purpose to find out kinds of risk groups, that is groups of the potential unemployed people, and shares of the offered vacancies for different personality types to find out what personality type has advantages in number of the offered vacancies in labor market.


For example, the sociologists want to find out extent of influence on a school class of information on the teacher's assessment made by last year's pupils. Sociologists gather two school classes identical on all formal indicators (the number of boys and girls, their age). Then sociologists tell to an experimental class about negative assessment of the teacher, and sociologists don't tell to a control class about this assessment. Sociologists conduct survey after 1 school lesson about whether the lesson was pleasant? Sociologists compare results of surveys of two classes.[2]

Application of sociological researches

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It is impossible to hold a referendum, that is national vote, at the slightest pretext because it costs too expensive. It is more favorable to pay sociologists for a poll which costs much cheaper. The ratings (popularity levels) of the leading politicians attract great interest of public. It is economic favourably to study the market demand for new goods in that case when it is impossible to release trial batch of goods. For example, it is possible to study demand on the new movie with help of sociological poll. It is very useful to study international problems in the territory of the former USSR. Sociological researches inside of labor collective allow to find out problems and conflict situations inside of this collective, to reveal those chiefs who are sources of the conflicts and who are not in own place.[3]

Citations and references

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  1. Neil Smelser. Sociology. New-Jersey Prentice Hall 1988. Chapter 1. Introduction to sociology.
  2. Neil Smelser. Sociology. New-Jersey Prentice Hall 1988. Chapter 1. Introduction to sociology.
  3. Neil Smelser. Sociology. New-Jersey Prentice Hall 1988. Chapter 1. Introduction to sociology.