Doing good social science research requires training your brain to think like a researcher. For this you must start with real observations, to mentally connect the dots and thus identify hidden concepts and patterns. Later, these patterns must be synthesized in laws and theories that apply to other contexts beyond the domain of initial observations. Research involves constantly moving back and forth from an empirical plane where observations lead to a theoretical plane where these observations are abstracted into generalizable laws and theories.
Concepts, Constructs and Variables in Social Sciences
Explanations require development of generalizable concepts or properties or characteristics associated with objects, events, or people. Although objects are not concepts, their characteristics or can be seen as concepts. Concepts can also have progressive levels of abstraction. Some concepts such as a person's weight are somewhat precise and objective, while other concepts such as personality can be more abstract and difficult to visualize.
A construction is then an abstract concept that is specifically chosen (or "created") to explain a given phenomenon. A construction can be a simple concept or a combination of a set of related concepts. The distinction between constructions and concepts is made clearer in multidimensional constructions, where the higher-order abstraction is called a construction and the lower-order abstractions are called concepts. However, this distinction tends to blur in the case of one-dimensional constructions.
A term frequently associated with construction is a variable. Etymologically speaking, a variable is a quantity that can vary, in contrast to the constants that do not vary. However, in scientific research, a variable is a measurable representation of an abstract construction. As abstract entities, constructions are not directly measurable, and therefore, we must look for measures and that is where we make use of variables.
Proposals and Hypotheses
Theoretical constructions are related to each other in a nomological network. Each of these relationships is called a proposition. In seeking explanations for a given phenomenon or behavior, it is not appropriate to just identify key concepts and constructs underlying the objective phenomenon or behavior. We must also identify and establish patterns of relationships between these constructions. Such patterns of relationships are called propositions. A proposition is a tentative and conjectural relationship between constructions that is established in a declarative way. The proposals are generally derived from logic (deduction) or empirical observations (induction).
Types of Research in Social Sciences
There are four main types of social research: qualitative and quantitative research, primary and secondary research.
Qualitative research is defined as a method of collecting data through open discussion and conversation. There are five main methods of qualitative research: ethnographic research, focus groups, individual online interviews, content analysis, and case study research. Participants are generally not taken out of their ecosystem for qualitative data collection to gather real-time information that helps build trust. Researchers rely on multiple methods to collect qualitative data for complex problems.
Quantitative research is an extremely informative source of data collection conducted through media such as surveys, surveys, and questionnaires. The collected data can be analyzed to conclude statistical or numerical results. There are four different methods of quantitative research: survey research, correlational research, causal-comparative research, and experimental research. This research is carried out on a sample that is representative of the target market, generally using closed questions and the data is presented in tables, charts, graphs, etc.
Primary research is carried out by the researchers themselves. There is a list of questions that a researcher intends to ask and that should be customized according to the target market. These questions are sent to the respondents through surveys, surveys or questionnaires so that their analysis is convenient for the researcher. Since the data is collected first hand, it is highly accurate according to the research requirements.
Secondary research is a method where information has already been collected by research organizations or marketers. Newspapers, online communities, reports, audiovisual evidence, etc. they are included in the secondary data category. After identifying the research topic and research sources, a researcher can collect existing information available from the listed sources. They can then combine all the information to compare it and analyze it to draw conclusions.
Research Methods in Social Sciences
A survey is conducted by sending a set of predetermined questions to a sample of individuals. This will lead to a collection of information and comments from people belonging to various origins, ethnicities, age groups, etc. Surveys can be conducted through online and offline means. Due to the improvement in technology media and its reach, online media has flourished and there is an increase in the number of people who rely on online survey software to conduct periodic surveys and polls. There are several types of social research surveys: longitudinal, cross-sectional, correlational research. Longitudinal and cross-sectional social research surveys are observational methods, while Correlational is a non-experimental research method. Longitudinal social research surveys are conducted with the same sample over time, while cross-sectional surveys are conducted with different samples.
Researchers use experimental research to observe the change in one variable over another, that is, to establish the cause and effects of a variable. In experiments, there is a theory that needs to be proven or disproved by careful observation and analysis. An efficient experiment will succeed in building a cause and effect relationship while testing, rejecting, or refuting a theory. Researchers prefer laboratory and field experiments.
The technique of obtaining feedback and comments by asking selected questions face-to-face, over the phone, or online is called interview research. There are formal and informal interviews: formal interviews are those that the researcher organizes with open and closed structured questions and format, while informal interviews are the ones that have the most conversations with participants and are extremely flexible in gathering as much information as possible.
In observational research, an investigator is expected to participate in the daily lives of all participants to understand their routine, their decision-making skills, their ability to handle pressure, and their general likes and dislikes. These factors and carefully recorded observations are made to decide factors such as whether a change in the law will affect their lifestyle or whether a new characteristic will be accepted by individuals.
Computational Social Sciences
Computational social science refers to the academic sub-disciplines related to computational approaches in the social sciences. This means that computers are used to model, simulate, and analyze social phenomena. The fields include computational economics, computational sociology, cliodynamics, culture, and automated content analysis, both in social and traditional media. It focuses on investigating social and behavioral relationships and interactions through social simulation, modeling, network analysis, and media analysis. Let's note that there are two related terminologies: social science computing (CCS) and computational social science (CSC). In the literature, CSC refers to the field of social sciences that uses computational approaches in the study of social phenomena. On the other hand, CCS is the field in which computational methodologies are created to help in the explanations of social phenomena.
The Revolution of Computational Social Sciences
The computational social sciences revolutionize the fundamental branches of the scientific method: empirical research, especially through big data, by analyzing the fingerprint left through our online social activities; and scientific theory, specifically through the construction of computer simulation models through social simulation. It is a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to social surveys that focuses on information processing using advanced information technology. Computational tasks include analysis of social media, social geographic systems, social media content, and traditional media content.
Databases in Computational Social Networks
It is important to highlight that the work in computational social sciences increasingly depends on the availability of large databases, currently built and maintained by a series of interdisciplinary projects. Among them are:
Global History Databank, which systematically collects cutting-edge reports on the political and social organization of human groups and how societies have evolved over time in a licensed database. GHD is also affiliated with the Evolution Institute, a nonprofit group of experts who "uses evolutionary science to solve real-world problems."
D-PLACE - The Database of Places, Languages, Culture and Environment, which provides data on more than 1,400 human social formations.
CHIA: The Collaborative Information for Historical Analysis is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort. Organized by the University of Pittsburgh to archive historical information and link data, as well as academic / research institutions from around the world
Clio-Infra: a database of measures of economic performance and other aspects of social welfare in one sample Global Companies from 1800 to the present
Google Ngram Viewer: an online search engine that records the frequencies of groups of search strings delimited by commas. It uses an annual count of n-grams found in the largest body of human knowledge online, the Google Books corpus. Analysis of large numbers of historical newspapers and book content was launched in 2017, while other studies on similar data showed how periodic structures can be automatically discovered in historical newspapers. A similar analysis was carried out on social networks, again revealing strongly periodic structures.
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