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Research Design. Main Tasks of Research Design. Specifying what you want to find out: this involves explaining the concepts you are interested in and how they will be measured (explication and meaning analysis).
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Main Tasks of Research Design • Specifying what you want to find out: this involves explaining the concepts you are interested in and how they will be measured (explication and meaning analysis). • Determining the best way to do it: this involves determining whom or what you will explore, describe, or explain (unit of analysis); what time dimension is appropriate for your observations; and how you are going to do it (method).
Design Depends on Goals • What is the purpose of the research? • What shall we observe, among whom, for what purpose, and in what time frame? • Exploration • Often where inquiry begins • Informal methods, feasibility testing • Description • Detail the features of elements under review • E.g., U.S. Census • Explanation • Usually the aim of social scientists • Relating variables to account for process
Unit of Observation & Analysis • Unit of observation • What we look at to make observation • E.g., People in a survey, articles in content analysis • Unit of analysis • What we are interested in studying • Usually same as unit of analysis; sometimes different: E.g., Are “traditional” marriages more successful? Unit of observation: husbands, wives Unit of analysis: marriage type (couple)
Types of Units of Analysis • Individuals • Groups • Organizations • Social Interactions • Social Artifacts • However, bear in mind this is only one typology. • E.g., Lofland’s: practices, episodes, encounters, roles, relationships, groups, organizations, settlements, social worlds, lifestyles, and subcultures. • - What is important is the logic of units of analysis.
Types of Units of Analysis • Individuals • Groups • Organizations • Social Interactions • Social Artifacts - However, bear in mind this is only one typology. E.g., Lofland’s: practices, episodes, encounters, roles, relationships, groups, organizations, settlements, social worlds, lifestyles, and subcultures. - What is important is the logic of units of analysis.
Units of Analysis: Individuals • Most common unit of analysis in social science/mass communication research • Seek to explain differences between individuals and relationships among individual differences • Variables and Relationships: • E.g., Income, Age, Gender, Education • E.g., Associated with differences in tolerance
Units of Analysis: Social Groups • Examples: • Households, families, neighborhoods, gangs • Seek to explain differences between groups and relationships among those differences • Variables: • Households: income, media use (Nielsen) • Marriages: types, communication patterns • Neighborhoods: crime rates, income stratification
Units of Analysis: Organizations • Examples: • Corporations, Universities, Governments • Groups with formal organizational structures • Seek to explain differences between formal social organizations and the relationships among organizational differences • Variables: • E.g., Corporations: employees, benefits, productivity
Units of Analysis: Social Interactions • Examples: • Kisses, Arguments, Email exchanges, discussion styles • Social interaction are usually the product of interplay between individuals. • Studies seek to explain different types of social interactions (ex. discussion as unit of analysis), the types of people engaging in certain interactions (ex. Individual as the unit of analysis) • Variables: • Number of arguments, argumentative people
Units of Analysis: Social Artifacts • Examples: • TV programs, newspaper articles, documents • Social artifacts are any product of social beings or their behaviors. • Studies seek to explain differences between social artifacts, the artifacts produced by different source, and the relationships among these factors • Variables: • Level of violence, number of sources used
Faulty Reasoning & Units of Analysis • Problems of drawing conclusions across units of analysis: • Ecological fallacy • Reductionism
Ecological Fallacy • Observed characteristic of group leads to: • Inference about individual members • Similar to Prejudice • Individual judgments based on beliefs about group • E.g., Precinct voting records are unit of observation concerning support for democratic candidates • Majority Black precincts vote democratic • You can not assume that Blacks uniformly vote democratic • Whites within precincts may be responsible for pattern
Reductionism • Reducing complex phenomenon in a way that privileges particular units of analysis over others • E.g., Crime is a function of individual characteristics • What about social structures? • Economists: Economic reductionism • Psychologists: Psychological reductionism • Sociologists: Sociological reductionism • Dominant paradigms often limit views
Time Dimension & Research Design • Time and issues of causation • Static designs: • Cross-sectional study • Longitudinal designs: • Trend studies • Cohort studies • Panel studies
Cross-sectional Studies • Static snapshot • Slice of population at one point in time • E.g., An opinion poll • Inherent limitations: • Inability to capture change over time • Making causal inferences is dangerous
Cross-sectional studies Top Global Concerns for 2003% who list item among top 3 personal concerns Source: Roper Reports Worldwide 2003 Study of 30,000 consumers age 13 to 65 in 30 countries
Longitudinal Designs • Multiple observations across time • Tracking changes across time • Maybe in response to stimulus that occurs between observations • Testing for changes resulting from some intervening factor or event • Pretest-Posttest design in experimentation
Longitudinal Designs: Trends • Measures change in population over time • Sequential cross-sections of the population • E.g., Changes over time in: • Public knowledge levels • Voter turnout rates • Presidential approval ratings • Inherent limitations: • Starting point • Inability to capture individual change over time
Longitudinal Designs: Cohort Studies • Tracking changes in a group as they age • E.g., People born in 1940 sampled every 10 years • Measure change across the aging process • E.g., Do people become more conservative? • Cannot answer this question with a cross-sectional design because differences in age may be due to cohort or lifecycle differences.
Longitudinal designs: panel studies • Goes a step further: • Interviewing the same people more than once • Captures change in individuals over time • E.g., NES (cross-sectional and panel) • How do people react over time? • E.g, Public health/info campaigns • The respondent mortality problem • Are those who drop out different?
Longitudinal designs: panel studies Statement: “Most people are honest” On a six point scale ranging from definitely disagree to definitely agree. Source: Life Style Study – conducted by Market Facts on behalf of DDB-Chicago and Dhavan V. Shah Wave 1 Feb. 1999 N= 3,348 Wave 2 June 2000 N= 1,886 Wave 3 Nov. 2000 N= 1,282 Wave 4 July 2001 N= 964
Longitudinal designs: comparisons Cross-sectional study 2000 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 Trend study 1990 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 2000 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 Cohort study Panel study 1990 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 1990 21-30 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 2000 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 71-80 2010 41-50 51-60 61-70 71-80 81-90 2000 31-40 41-50 51-60 61-70 71-80 2010 41-50* 51-60* 61-70* 71-80* 81-90*