Social research begins with a question, hypothesis, inquiry, or idea about something that involves people. A key question in sociology is “what to people do”, or “what do groups of people do?”. So, in each environment where people exist there is some social phenomenon or behavior that affects the people. Your task is to walk your neighborhood and think about and consider some social question or idea that interests you.
Secondly, this course is interdisciplinary, so it requires you to blend your professional experience or college major into the task. I want you to think about something in your professional field, engineering, computer science, marketing, nursing, human services, biological science, or whatever it might be, that gets you out of the lab and college environment to take your professional field “into the field”. Indeed, this course is a fieldwork practicum in some ways in that you must find a way to apply what you have learned in your fields into the real world in the neighborhood.
Third, and most important, The social research question must consider something important to serve and understand people. For instance, if you are an architecture student, how does the sidewalk design help or hurt the disabled who try to enter a building? Or, if you are a health administration major, how do certain people who might not be able to afford drug rehabilitation service and detox, obtain those services without health insurance? Or, if you are a hospitality major, how does a restaurant in the neighborhood appeal to the ethnic cultures that surround it, when the ethnic complexity of the street is shifting and changing?
You see, there is a social question to research in all our fields and your task in this first unit is to design one. It is a mix of quantitative and qualitative data.
Now, onto what you must do. A. Quantitative. You must think about something to count. You will learn about various quantitative methods such as surveys, frequency, geographic mapping and neighborhood count mapping, demographic data, and archival historical data. What will you count? B. Qualitative. You must think about something to observe. What do you see, becomes a core question, not what do you think you see? Consider various options such as how people behave on the Subway, or the conversations of different people in a public space such as a park, or religious behaviors in a place of worship (yes, even your professional field can be applied in places of worship!).
This process will begin with a neighborhood walk, a map, and a short description. From there, over the next weeks you will construct the research question. You will incorporate the most appropriate research methodologies for your project. You will ensure it is in your neighborhood. And you will ensure that it incorporates your professional field.
Your first readings are to review these power points below and we will expand on them and introduce you to other readings along the way. See you in class!
This powerpoint introduces the topic and takes us through key issues in social research. It shows some of the various way we can work to understand something about people.
This powerpoint focuses on different research methodologies.