Gilbert and Stoneman: Researching Social Life, 4th edition
Terms in this set (145)
a general term for the overall report or description given by an interviewee during a research interview. An account may include a variety of different forms of talk and represents the interviewee's perceptions, understanding and experiences of the issue(s) being researched.
an approach to conducting social research which aims to improve the social situation under study while simultaneously generating knowledge about it. The focus is on changing a social situation or practice as part of the research process rather than simply gathering data and generating findings which may or may not be implemented subsequently. It is a cyclical process, moving between stages of enquiry, intervention and evaluation.
the capacity of individuals to act independently and autonomously, and to make their own choices and decisions.
an enduring tendency to perceive a situation or a person in a particular way. Attitudes may have cognitive (resulting from beliefs and ideas), affective (resulting from values and emotions) and behavioural (resulting from previous action) components. Attitudes are unobservable except through their presumed effects on behaviour.
the tendency for people responding to a panel survey to drop out through death or illness, emigration or refusal to continue to be involved.
coined by Strauss and Corbin (1990), this refers to the second stage of the coding process, in which the relationships between categories and subcategories are carefully mapped through the use of a detailed paradigm.
in the everyday sense, a biography is a literary work in which an author gives an account of the life of a person, usually someone of note; such people also write their own autobiographies. Both are useful to the sociologist, who needs to be aware that the authors may have had a variety of non-sociological reasons for writing them. Diaries are in a sense biographical, but are written at the time rather than in retrospect. Biographies created by or for the sociologist or ethnographer are usually termed life histories.
short for weblog: an online diary or journal.
a method of generating ideas in which members of a group are encouraged to contribute suggestions free of criticism from other group members. Once sufficient ideas have been generated, they are categorised and may be ranked for effectiveness or value.
Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software is an umbrella term referring to a broad range of software packages designed to facilitate the analysis of qualitative data, including text, graphics, audio and video. They are powerful project management tools allowing the organisation of data (according to known characteristics), ideas (according to user-defined codes) and interpretations (noted by the user in written annotations and memos). Patterns and relationships can be identified by retrieving parts of the data set according to the presence and absence of codes in the data, among, for example, different subsets of data (e.g. comparing male and female respondents).
the unit of analysis. A case can be an individual, or a group of individuals, such as a family. Or a case could be a school, a country or even an event, such as a police incident.
an internet forum where people communicate in real time with one another.
a survey question that can be answered by selecting from a set of previously specified answers. For example, the question, 'Did you vote in the last election?' is a closed question if the possible answers are only 'Yes', 'No' or 'I do not remember'. See also open question.
a document that lists the dictionary information about all the variables in a data file. In a quantitative survey, this usually includes the original question text, the SPSS variable names if appropriate, and the value labels for each coded response. A code book may also contain information about derived variables and notes given to interviewers or coders when preparing the data file. In a qualitative study, the code book usually consists of a 1-3-word label and definition for each code developed, any qualifications or exceptions and an example.
the process by which numbers are ascribed to responses to a survey questionnaire in preparation for computer analysis. For example, to the question 'Are you male or female?', male may be coded with the number 1 and female with the number 2. In a qualitative study, coding is the process by which segments of text are labelled with code words or phrases. These codes can be predefined or developed during the coding process.
a cohort survey is one where repeated observations are made of its sample members, all of whom belong to the same age group.
a term for a mixed method design where one method takes precedence over the other, as opposed to an integrated design where all methods or data sets contribute equally to answering the research questions.
a term for the relationship between two or more different methods in a mixed method research design where each method contributes a different way of knowing about the subject and thus complements the knowledge generated by the other methods.
a term used in a theory or theories.
a visual tool to assist researchers when considering logical and creative relationships and associations between different concepts.
an estimate of a population parameter (e.g. the proportion of people who are out of work because of sickness) expressed as a range, e.g. 10.3-10.7 (sometimes written as 10.5 ± 0.2). A 95 per cent confidence interval means that it is estimated that if many random samples were drawn and measured, there is a 95 per cent probability that the population parameter would fall within the interval. The width of the confidence interval gives an indication of the standard error of the measurement: the smaller the interval, the lower the standard error.
the probability that a confidence interval will include the true population value. The 95 per cent confidence level is the most commonly used.
Congruence (test of)
a method of validating ethnographic data. The idea is that in any natural setting there are norms or rules of action in which members are competent. Understanding is achieved when the observer learns the rules and can provide others with instructions on how to pass in the same setting.
a perspective that views all knowledge as constructed, and not necessarily reflecting any external realities. In this view, knowledge depends on convention, human perception and social experience.
a method by which textual or visual documents are analysed to produce quantitative data. A sample of documents is chosen and aspects of these are systematically coded into different categories, producing variables, which can then be presented using figures, charts, graphs or tables, or can be analysed with statistical techniques.
founded by Harvey Sacks and his colleagues, Gail Jefferson and Emanuel Schegloff, conversation analysis is a formal, qualitative method for the analysis of naturally occurring communication that treats talk as a sequentially organised (that is, highly patterned) form of social action.
a measure of the strength and direction of a relationship between two variables. The most widely used coefficient is the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, appropriate for use when the two variables are both measured at the interval level of measurement.
a table displaying the joint distribution of two or more variables. Sometimes called a contingency table, it is a table in which each cell shows the number of cases or respondents having a particular combination of characteristics.
a method of reasoning in which the conclusion is necessitated by, or reached from, previously known premises. If the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. For example, a conclusion might be reached by deduction from the combination of a theory and some facts about a specific case.
stands for 'design effect'. It defines the factor by which features of a sample design such as clustering, stratification and weighting increase or reduce the variance of a survey estimate, relative to what the variance would be under a simple random sample design.
statistics that are used to describe or summarise the characteristics of a sample.
in mixed method research, the use of one method to develop a different method used subsequently in the project. Results from the first method allow researchers to improve or enhance the second method.
in mixed methods, this is a position that brings together ideas that are in conflict with, or in contradiction to, each other in order to generate new ways of thinking about the topic.
a term used to describe the persistent division and social inequality between those who do and those who do not have access to modern information and communication technologies.
in disciplines that study communication and interaction, discourse is used generically to refer to forms of communication, such as verbal interaction and written language.
in critical discourse analysis and Foucauldian discourse analysis, the term 'discourses' has a specialised meaning, referring to conventional vocabularies and forms of expression that perpetuate and legitimate ideological or political orthodoxies.
a form of discourse analysis that focuses on the way in which people construct versions of psychological concepts such as memory, attitudes and beliefs and how these are used and displayed in social situations.
is used either in the restricted sense of something that is written or in the wider sense of any human production that is thought to convey meaning. Written documents range from a shopping list to an Act of the legislature. Visual documents include works of art, photographs (from newspapers, family albums, museums or images produced for research purposes), media texts (television shows, documentaries and news broadcasts, movies) and many other forms of visual material. Documents may be classified as personal or official, and if official they may be private (an internal business memo) or public (government statistics). Accessibility can range from open, through various degrees of restriction, to those which are closed to a researcher. Semiotic studies regard a document as anything that is seen to convey meaning: official documents, political debates and speeches, media reports, pictorial and exhibition materials, advertisements, tourist guides, interviews, diaries and oral histories.
a perspective on the theory of knowledge that assumes that there is an objective external reality and that this should be the privileged source of understanding the social world.
the theory of knowledge, that is, theory about what is true and how we come to believe that knowledge is true.
the observation of an organisation, small society or social setting and its analytical description. Ethnographic researchers gather data by living and working in the setting, seeking to immerse themselves in the participants' activities, while keeping careful record of what they experience.
is interested in how social order is achieved, but unlike structural functionalism, sees this as something which is routinely accomplished in everyday life by a host of 'methods', which are both taken for granted and yet, when properly studied, are revealed as extraordinarily skilful.
in mixed method research, the use of different methods for different components of the study. Researchers purposefully use different methods to explore a larger number of research questions.
a statistical data reduction technique used to explain variability among observed variables in terms of fewer unobserved variables called factors. The observed variables are modelled as linear combinations of the factors and an error term.
the strategy of trying to disprove a theory. Because even a very large number of confirming examples cannot definitely prove that a theory is correct, but a single counter-instance can prove that a theory is incorrect, it is argued that falsification is the appropriate strategy for researchers to use.
a perspective that sees society as unjust and seeks to challenge patriarchy. The basis of exploitation is seen to lie in gender relations. Feminist theory is closely linked to political movements.
a description of events observed during fieldwork in a social setting and recorded at the time of observation or shortly thereafter.
a group interview or discussion. It consists of a group of individuals, usually numbering between six and ten people, who meet together to express their views about a particular topic defined by the researcher. Generally, a focus group lasts one and half to two hours and is tape-recorded. The tape-recording can be transcribed for the purpose of analysis.
an interview conducted on a topic or topics, in which the questioning is prompted by an interview guide, but the interviewer is free to alter the wording and the order of questions to suit the interaction.
a person who controls access to a research setting, for example a manager in an organisation.
a type of reasoning shown by group members who try to minimise disagreement and conflict by not adequately testing, analysing and evaluating their ideas.
a connection between two pages on the World Wide Web. Clicking on a hyperlink on one page causes the linked page to be displayed.
a candidate for an explanation, which needs to be tested to see whether it is true or false. Hypotheses can consist of concepts linked by relationships. Causal hypotheses are ones that propose a causal link between two or more concepts.
a method of measuring a concept by gathering and analysing empirical data.
a method of reasoning that derives generalisations by seeking the common aspects of a number of specific cases.
statistics that are used to infer the characteristics of a population from a sample.
the consent given by a respondent or informant to participation in data collection, when that consent is made in full knowledge of the implications of his or her involvement.
in mixed method research, the use of a second method to explore results from a first method, especially when the first method has produced puzzles or uncertain or inconsistent findings.
a form of internet communication which allows people to chat privately via text in real time.
a term for a mixed method design where all methods or data sets contribute equally to answering the research questions, as opposed to a combined method design where one method takes precedence over the others. Integration may occur at different stages of the research process.
a network of computer networks that can communicate with one another via a common protocol.
an approach that places emphasis on empirically establishing the meanings that people use to make sense of the world. It assumes the possibility of multiple realities and is often linked with qualitative research.
a list of the areas to be covered in a focused interview.
a concept from semiotics, referring to the language itself (its grammar, its system of binary oppositions and its meanings). Langue cannot be observed; it can only be deduced. It stands in contrast to parole.
Levels of analysis
a term to describe the different degrees of aggregation of data. A macro-level of analysis examines phenomena at the level of society or groups and micro-level examines phenomena at the level of individual action or meaning.
a method of collecting attitudinal data using a survey questionnaire. The respondent is presented with a statement and asked to agree or disagree with the statement by choosing one of the items: strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree or strongly agree.
a text written to catalogue and assess the current state of research and knowledge on a research question or subject.
a general term covering any research design that involves making two or more observations over time.
a theory that envisages society as being structured around what it calls a mode of production. It focuses, in particular, on the capitalist mode of production, which is seen as fundamentally exploitative and unjust. Marxist theory thus places conflict centre-stage and sees its own role as helping to challenge existing arrangements.
a theory about why an indicator is a reliable and valid measure of a concept.
an analysis of the findings of several previous studies on the same topic. Because it is based on data from all the studies, the power and reliability of a meta-analysis can be much greater than that of any of the individual studies it draws on.
the study of research methods; often wrongly used to mean the research methods used in a project.
Robert Merton's (1968) term for theory that can be operationalised in research to facilitate understanding of particular phenomena, avoiding the pitfalls of either collecting and analysing data without reference to theory (empiricism) or using theories that are too general to be of empirical value.
values are assigned as missing values when the researcher wishes to exclude those values from statistical analysis. For instance, some respondents may have refused to answer a question about their age. In quantitative analysis, every response must be given a code, so this 'no response' might be coded with the number 999. However, this code should not be treated as a valid age response. If it were, the average age for the sample would be incorrect.
someone who leads and guides a focus group discussion; also called a facilitator.
data presented in a variety of formats including sound, animation, video and graphics.
a term widely used in social theory and social research to describe either: (a) a tale or story; or (b) a form of talk or writing that aims to tell a story and that may be structured according to classical ideas of plot.
narrative analysis of interview data is concerned with understanding how and why people talk about their lives as a story or a series of stories. This includes issues of identity and the interaction between the narrator and audience(s).
a 'bell-shaped' probability distribution that is symmetrical around its mean. It has the useful feature that 68 per cent of values drawn from a normal distribution are within 1 standard deviation of its mean, 95 per cent of values are within 1.96 standard deviations of its mean and 99 per cent of values fall within 2.58 standard deviations of its mean.
the study of the categories of existence and of the existence of particular kinds of objects, such as numbers or social types.
the first stage of the coding of qualitative data, during which data is broken down, line by line, into as many concepts as possible and these concepts are gradually reduced into broader categories.
a survey question where the respondent is permitted to answer using their own words. Often, the answer is written in a box on the schedule, either by the interviewer or the respondent. For example, 'What are the names of your children?' is an open question.
a study design that involves making repeated observations on its sample members. Typically, a panel survey will follow a representative sample of its target population over a period of months or years.
Thomas Kuhn (1962) used the term to describe frameworks for understanding the world that are powerful, self-contained and radically distinct. Since each paradigm contains its own criteria of evaluation, it is not possible to make judgements about the relative value of findings in different paradigms.
a concept from semiotics referring to speech or utterances (either spoken words or written ones). It is from observing parole that langue can be deduced.
Participatory action research (PAR)
a form of action research, PAR combines generating knowledge about a social situation by collecting data about it with changing or acting on that situation. The conventional division between the researcher and the researched is challenged so that those directly involved in the social situation have an active role in some aspects of the research process.
a visual method in which individual respondents are interviewed about images (often photographs) shown to them. The images can be historical or contemporary, and they can be images that already exist or images created for the interview either by the researcher or by the participants. Photo elicitation can also be used with focus groups. 'Film elicitation' is the term applied when interviews or focus groups are conducted with respect to moving images (e.g. television clips, Hollywood movies or ethnographic films).
the collection of all the people living in a defined geographical area or belonging to a category such as asylum seekers. Usually, in order to find out about a population, one selects a sample, studies the sample and then infers from the sample to the population.
a collection of meta-theoretical assumptions that are held in common by a group of researchers. A position is similar to a paradigm, but is not as strongly bounded. There are more positions than paradigms.
an approach that places emphasis on establishing cause-and-effect relationships empirically and sees the role of theory as generating generalised explanations of the social world. It assumes that there is a single measurable reality.
in mixed methods, a pragmatic approach sets aside paradigm or position differences between the methods used; practical considerations are given priority in the research process.
the transformation of academic or purely theoretical knowledge into applied practice or the practice of acting on observed conditions in order to change them. It is a key aspect of participatory action research, which seeks to achieve critically informed and committed action through the direct involvement of the people who experience an unsatisfactory social situation.
an approach used in interviews to encourage respondents to give their views indirectly.
subjects or participants are selected for inclusion in a study on the basis of a particular characteristic or identified variable. It is particularly useful when the population under study is either unique or shares very specific characteristics, for example individuals with a chronic illness aged 50-65 or parents of children with a learning difficulty. Purposive sampling is a popular method of selecting participants in qualitative research, where the focus is on gaining insight and understanding by hearing from representatives from a target population.
Rational choice theory
seeks to explain social behaviour by assuming that the individual is a strategic and calculating actor who makes choices according to rational criteria.
the position that social reality has an existence independent of people's conception or perception of it.
an assumption that researchers make, sometimes implicitly, that visual documents such as art works or media texts mirror, or tell us something about, society.
an approach to social research that aims to question not only the claims about what is true that others make, but also holds up for examination one's own research methods and findings. The approach assumes that the meaning of all research claims are constructed in a dialogue between researchers, the researched and the users of research, and rejects the idea that there is an objective reality to which research can refer.
reflexivity can refer to the structural property of being part of something or to the cognitive property of awareness. A reflexive sociology recognises the significance of the fact that it is itself part of the social world that it seeks to describe and explain.
Reflexivity a style of research that makes clear the researcher's own beliefs and objectives. It considers how the researcher is part of the research process and how he or she contributes to the construction of meaning on the topic under study. Reflexive research is often said to 'look back on itself'.
a connection between objects, entities or concepts, for example social relationships between people, causal relationships between events and theoretical relationships between variables. A relationship may be causal, that is, representing a causal linkage, or associational, meaning that the entities co-vary, but without one being the cause of another.
data are reliable when repeated measurements of the same item are consistent.
a term used in conversation analysis to describe talk that displays mechanisms through which certain 'troubles' in interaction are dealt with.
a method of assessing personality or beliefs, consisting of two stages. In the first, a respondent is asked to list a number (usually between 7 and 15) of people in their life, such as their mother, father, best friend, admired male. The respondent is then asked to place the nominated people into groups of three and to invent a descriptive term or 'construct' that distinguishes one of the three from the other two. It is assumed that the constructs are the units with which people ascribe meaning to their experience.
an image or model of what is perceived about the external, objective world.
the purposes for which the research is being carried out (to describe, to understand, to explain, etc.).
the overarching question that defines the scope, scale and conduct of a research project. The research question focuses research design and methods towards the provision of evidenced answers.
the intra-class correlation coefficient. In a survey context, it provides information about the degree of homogeneity on a survey variable within a cluster, relative to the population as a whole.
a subset of the members of a population. Usually, the population is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration of all the members in the population impractical or very expensive. Statistics collected from a sample can be used to make inferences to the population. The process of selecting a sample is referred to as sampling. Sample members may be selected randomly, to yield a random sample, or in some other systematic way to obtain, for example, a purposive, quota, or snowball sample.
a list intended to include every member of a population. A sampling frame can be used to select a random sample. Examples of sampling frames are the Postal Address File, and the register of a school.
a way of ordering or measuring respondents according to their responses to a survey or using other information. For example, people may be measured on a scale of political opinion from left to right, on a scale of happiness according to their answers to opinion statements, and on a scale of prejudice from unprejudiced to very prejudiced.
a list of questions, arranged in order that an interviewer must adhere to precisely, both in the exact question wording and in the order of questioning (compare with an interview guide).
software provided by a website that allows users to locate web pages that interest them by searching using key words, for example Google and Alta Vista.
the analysis of data for a purpose other than that for which they were collected. Normally, this also means that the analyst and data collector are different people or agencies.
the final stage in the process of developing theory from qualitative data. It involves elaboration of the most significant categories identified in the coding process and identification of a central category, which should form the basis for the theory.
the study of signs and sign systems. A sign is seen as a combination of signifier (the marks on paper or a sound) and the signified (the concept with which it is associated). Social life is regarded as permeated by such systems or structures, and their study can reveal underlying ideology or what is termed mythology. At a formal level, it can show how sign systems work, but it needs to draw on other sociological ideas to connect those workings to the wider social world.
a type of interview in which the interviewer asks questions in the same way but may alter their sequencing and may probe for more information.
a process of continually checking data against interpretations. The process is begun before data collection has been completed, and yields a provisional analysis. This analysis may be used to guide further data collection.
a term for a research design using two or more methods in which one method depends on, and follows on from, the other. This is the opposite of a parallel study where two or more methods, addressing the same research questions, are used independently to collect and analyse data.
in semiotics, a sign is composed of the signifier and the signified.
in semiotics, the concept or object that appears in the mind when one hears or reads a word (the signifier).
in semiotics, the form that a sign takes, for example the letters that spell out a written word or the phonemes that compose its sound.
Simple random sample
a sample design in which every population unit is given an equal probability of selection into the sample.
a method of recruiting a sample by initially selecting a few members and then asking them for the names of their acquaintances. The named people are recruited and are asked about their acquaintances, and so on, until enough people have been added to the sample. The advantages of a snowball sample are that no sampling frame is required and that it can be used for hidden populations such as drug users. The disadvantage is that population members who do not know other members can never be included in the sample, while those who have many friends are disproportionately likely to be recruited.
this is defined by Putnam (1995) as 'networks, norms, and trust that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives'. In other words, social capital measures the degree to which people or communities cooperate or collaborate through social networks, mutual trust or shared values to achieve a common end.
in relation to a document it is the view that what it records is not a direct transcription of social reality, but the outcome of a number of processes of collection and recording of information; processes that are governed by the conventions, norms, objectives and implicit understandings of those involved. It is the application of social constructionism - a long-standing theoretical strand in sociology and psychology.
Social networking site
an internet site that allows users to create personal profiles, link to friends and communicate with one another.
Standardised (structured) interview
a type of interview in which the interviewer asks questions with the same wording and the same order in each interview.
the description of an event or series of events in a manner that conveys meaning as well as factual information. Traditional stories or myths serve a number of purposes including entertainment, instruction and the formation of a collective world view. When research participants tell a story or a series of stories, the researcher will want to consider what purpose the story serves and why the interviewee has chosen to present their account in this way (see narrative).
this theory sees society as a single and unified entity, almost like an organism, and its component parts (the family, for example) as being functional for the maintenance of equilibrium.
a set of criteria for evaluating the adequacy of an ethnographic analysis: the time spent with a group; how close the ethnographer was to the group; the degree of variation in the activities observed; how sensitive the ethnographer has been to the language used in the setting; the degree of intimacy with members achieved by the ethnographer; and the extent to which the members agree with the ethnographer's interpretations (Bruyn, 1966).
a school of sociology which focuses on the ways in which meaning is constructed, attributed, sustained and developed in the course of everyday social interaction and communication.
associated with grounded theory, this term refers to the point at which researchers are unable to find any new or different variants of a code or concept in their data. New instances of the concept may be identified, but if these merely replicate an already identified element, rather than adding anything which is conceptually different, then the concept is said to be theoretically saturated.
either a provisional explanation, sometimes in the form of a hypothesis that can be tested; or a broad framework of concepts and ideas that provides a basis for interpreting the world.
being explicit about all aspects of the research process in order that others can evaluate methods and processes. Usually used in reference to qualitative methodology and often discussed in reference to the use of qualitative software, which provides tools enabling an audit trail of analytic procedures to be tracked.
a means of achieving validity, which has three forms:
1 Data triangulation has three subtypes
time, space and person; that is, data should be collected at a variety of times, in different locations and from a range of persons and collectivities.
2 Investigator triangulation uses multiple rather than single observers of the same object.
3 Theory triangulation consists of using more than one kind of approach to generate the categories of analysis. This is the most difficult kind of triangulation to achieve and is possibly an aspiration rather than a practical proposition.
Unstructured (focused) interview
a type of interview in which the interviewer uses a list of topics but can vary the phrasing and sequencing of questions.
a complete unit of speech in spoken language; sometimes also used in an analogous way for written text.
data are valid when they provide accurate measurements of a concept.
a range of techniques in social research that examine an area of sociological interest visually. Researchers may study existing visual materials, use images in interviews, focus groups or ethnographies, or create new visual materials that serve as data or that are created as part of a broader study.
a term used in semiotics to refer to a visual document that is 'read' (analysed) semiotically.
World Wide Web
a collection of documents, connected by hyperlinks, stored on computers connected to the internet around the world.