Sociology 345: Research in the Social Sciences

In this course we learned how to analyze academic literature and synthesize research to create a literature review. We also conducted our own class wide research with qualitative and quantitative components.

Sociology 346: Applied Statistics 

In this course we learned how to interpret quantitative data and code using R Studios and SPSS. There was also a handwritten component in which we learned how to manually do statistical processes like T-Tests, Regression Models, ANOVA’s and more.

Research Method Writing

Of the three writing samples above, two are from Sociology 345 and the third is from Sociology 346. All three demonstrate my use of the sociological research process. The first two examples were related in that the literature review was directly related to the research done for the final research paper. My ability to write in a more “scholarly,” tone was improved through doing the literature review. Having had to read multiple research papers it helped me develop my academic voice to use in my own research. Through these writings I better understood how to research with a purpose, having my variables (dependent and independent) in mind during both phases of research. The third sample of writing is a quantitative findings section that displays my understanding of statistical research. My initial quantitative findings in the final paper for Soc 345 are not nearly as detailed and do not contain the levels of statistical analysis present in the Soc 346 Quantitative findings. This demonstrates my expanded knowledge of research methods over the course of the year having taken these courses one after another. The first example of a “Quantitative Analysis,” in the second sample, more so reflects the knowledge I gained on survey writing, and how to initially gather the data. At that time, I would not have had the knowledge base to write a true “Quantitative Findings” section that includes statistical analysis. I was able to put it all together in Sociology 346 when I was able to combine my understanding of academic research writing with my new found statistical analysis skills. 

What I Have Learned About Social Research

Through taking Research in the Social Sciences, and Applied Statistics in the social sciences, I was able to develop an understanding for how research is conducted in my discipline. To break down my experience I will start with the literature review process. I first had to develop a research question that guided me in a thorough review of published literature within my discipline. To begin collecting data, a good organizational process is to start with an annotated bibliography. By creating annotations of each of the research papers I read, I was able to start identifying which studies would be most useful to identify the current understanding of my chosen topic within my discipline. The first section of the literature review involves identifying the purpose of the research, in which I must explain the reason the research studies were conducted. This section serves to explain the research question I am trying to compile data for. Once this is clear the analysis begins, wherein the current status of the research topic is discussed. Ideally at this point, some gaps can be identified in the literature. It is my job as a researcher to decide if these gaps are areas that do in fact require further research. So let’s say we identify a gap that we think prompts the need for further study and a new addition to the ongoing academic conversation of this topic. This is where our personal research begins. 

Once a direction has been decided for the research, a new research question must be developed in which we identify our dependent and independent variables. One research method I became proficient in through my studies is survey design. Surveys are a great way to operationalize variables to gather data to support a hypothesis. It is important to be incredibly clear and ethical when drafting survey questions to encourage compliance and reliable data. Once data is collected, the coding begins. When collecting quantitative data, depending on the type of question the result will be nominal/ordinal variables, or interval/ratio variables. With this data collected and organized, as a researcher we can test our data to identify if the independent variable truly did impact the dependent variable in a way that demonstrates a legitimate finding. Oftentimes we relied on independent samples T tests and looked at P values to determine whether there was a correlation in our data. For qualitative data, the researcher must codify responses to open ended questions or interviews (or other sources), based upon relevant themes. It is very important in the research methods section to very carefully and precisely explain the process of survey gathering and statistical analysis. In order for research to be legitimized and accepted in the discipline, the methods must be clear and concise to show how data was collected and interpreted.

Interpreting data to identify whether or not you have answered your research question cannot be done without first identifying any limitations in the study. This allows for other researchers to identify gaps and continue the ongoing research process. One overarching concept I have come to understand about all academic research is that it is a continuous and never ending process. It is non uncommon for disciplines to have entire paradigm shifts due to the newest findings of current research

How Do these Skills Translate to a Career?

The job I used in my industry reflection was in the world of sales and marketing, however that does not mean that the skills of research methodology would not be useful in the field. Many companies rely on social research to help better understand the consumers they are marketing to. Social research has always and will continue to guide advertising. Advertising research is highly important to identify if the return on investment for the ad justifies continuing to advertise in a certain manner. Social and scientific research inform companies like McDonald’s who use a specific shade of red to stimulate hunger. The ability to analyze data is an extremely marketable skill and would raise my value to any company I apply to work for. I typically imagine myself working in sales because I enjoy presentation and communication. I was raised by two actor parents, one of which has worked in advertising and sales for decades. I imagine myself being good at that type of work, but I acknowledge the value in utilizing the skills I have developed in research methodology to find a career that allows me to do both. Conducting qualitative research can be a very interpersonal experience that I think would suit my skills and desires well.