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The Process of Social Research

Second Edition

Jeffrey C. Dixon, Royce A. Singleton, Jr., and Bruce C. Straits

Publication Date - July 2018

ISBN: 9780190876654

528 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $124.99

An accessible, student-friendly, contemporary methods text that focuses on the process of social research


Featuring a conversational, engaging, and student-friendly writing style, The Process of Social Research, Second Edition, introduces students to the fundamentals of research. It places a unique emphasis on process with flowcharts in every chapter that provide step-by-step guides for conducting social research and evaluating the research of others. Authors Jeffrey C. Dixon, Royce A. Singleton, Jr., and Bruce C. Straits use relatable, everyday examples and carefully selected research examples to make the book accessible to undergraduates. Comprehensive and up-to-date without attempting to be encyclopedic in its coverage, The Process of Social Research provides a balance between qualitative and quantitative research, taking a more integrated approach to describing the relationship between theory and research.

New to this Edition

  • Updated examples of research, including three recent studies on Facebook
  • New boxes on big data and the 2016 election polls
  • A reorganized chapter on measurement, which now includes discussions of indexes and scales
  • A substantially revised chapter on multiple methods, which focuses on mixed methods research
  • Revised and updated exercises that analyze GSS data

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey C. Dixon is Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

Royce A. Singleton, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross.

Bruce C. Straits is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


"The Process of Social Research is among the best textbooks for teaching students how to conduct research. The authors have done an excellent job of making the content both interesting and inviting to aspiring sociologists, and showing how the research process unfolds."--Ginny Garcia-Alexander, Portland State University

"The authors have done a wonderful job laying out a logical approach to research design. I love the balance and dialogue between quantitative and qualitative methods. I appreciate that it covers both approaches and explicitly encourages students to employ more than one method."--Virginia Adams O'Connell, Moravian College

"What is unique about this text is that the authors bring in real, contemporary researchers. They do a great job of incorporating relevant research by quoting a wide variety of studies, using everyday, interesting examples."--Linda Bzhetaj, Oakland University

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1. Introduction: Why Care About Research Methods?
    The Process of Social Research
    Four Facebook Studies
    --An Experiment
    --A Survey
    --A Field Research Study
    --An Analysis of Existing Data
    --Reading Social Research 1.1: Critical Evaluation of Facebook Studies

    Chapter 2. Science and Social Research: From Theory to Data and Back
    The Characteristics and Process of Science
    --Verifiable Data
    --Systematic Observation and Analysis
    --Logical Reasoning

    Logics of Inquiry
    --Does Contact Change Stereotypes? An Answer from Deductive Inquiry
    --How Does Class Matter? An Answer from Inductive Inquiry
    --Combining the Logics of Inquiry
    --From a Psychological Theory of Suicide to
    a Sociological One
    Evaluating Science: Possibilities, Cautions, and Limits
    --Tentative Knowledge
    --The Ideal and Reality of the Scientific Process
    --The Sociohistorical Aspect of Science
    --The Human Element of Science
    --Reading Social Research 2.1: Verify This!
    --Check You Understanding 2.2: Identifying and Evaluating Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

    Chapter 3. The Ethics and Politics of Research: Doing What's "Right"
    Overview: Ethics
    Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Research Participants
    --Potential Harm
    --Informed Consent
    --Invasion of Privacy
    Federal and Professional Ethical Guidelines
    --Evaluating Potential Harm
    --Informed Consent Procedures
    --Deception Ground Rules
    Protection: Anonymity and Confidentiality
    The Process of Ethical Decision-Making
    --Review Federal Regulations and Professional Ethics Codes
    --Identify and Address Areas of Ethical Concern
    --Prepare and Submit Application for IRB Approval
    --Collect Data and Secure Participants' Rights
    Politics and Social Research
    --Topic Selection, Political Ideology, and Research Funding
    --Data Analysis and Interpretation and Political Ideology
    --Dissemination of Research Findings: Science, Politics, and Public Policy
    The Intersection of Ethics and Politics in Social Research
    --A Case Study: Research on Same-Sex Parenting
    --Conflict of Interest
    --Social Responsibility
    --Reading Social Research 3.1: Privacy Invasion in the Public Identification of Participants
    --Check Your Understanding 3.2: Ethics Practice Questions
    --Doing Social Research: 3.3: Web Resources on Research Ethics

    Chapter 4. Research Designs: It Depends on the Question
    Initial Steps in the Research Process
    --Select Research Topic
    --Review the Literature/Consider Theory
    --Formulate Research Question
    --Prepare Research Design
    Designing Research to Answer Quantitative Questions
    --Select a Research Strategy
    --Identify and Select Units of Analysis
    --Measure Variables
    --Gather Data and Analyze Relationships Among Variables
    Designing Research to Answer Qualitative Questions
    --Select Research Strategy
    --Select Field Setting, Social Group, and/or Archival Records
    Access and Establish Relationships
    --Decide Whom to Observe or Interview or What to Read
    --Gather and Analyze Data
    --Doing Social Research 4.1: How to Search the Literature
    --Reading Social Research 4.2: The Ecological Fallacy
    --Checking Your Understanding 4.3: Quantitative Research Questions, Units of Analysis, and Variables
    --Reading Social Research 4.4: How to Interpret Correlations and Tests of Statistical Significance

    Chapter 5. Measurement: Linking Theory to Research
    Overview: The Measurement Process
    Conceptualization and Operationalization
    Variations in Operational Definitions: Data Sources
    --Manipulated Versus Measured Operations
    --Sources of Measured Operational
    Variations in Operational Definitions: Levels of Measurement
    --Nominal Measurement
    --Ordinal Measurement
    --Interval Measurement
    --Ratio Measurement
    Select and Apply Operational Definitions to Produce Data
    Assess the Quality of Operational Definitions
    --Forms of Reliability Assessment
    --Forms of Validity Assessment
    The Feedback Loop: From Data Back to Concepts and Measurement
    --Doing Social Research 5.1: Improving Measurement with Composite Measures
    --Checking Your Understanding 5.2: Inferring Level of Measurement From Operational Definitions
    --Reading Social Research 5.3: Indexes, Scales, and Scaling Techniques
    --Reading Social Research 5.4: Measurement Error and the Social Desirability Effect

    Chapter 6. Sampling: Case Selection as a Basis for Inference
    Overview: The Sampling Process
    Principles of Probability Sampling
    --Probability and Random Selection
    --Probability Distribution and Sampling Error
    --Sampling Distributions
    --Statistical Inference
    Steps in Probability Sampling
    --Define Target Population
    --Construct Sampling Frame
    --Devise Sampling Design
    --Determine Sample Size
    --Draw Sample
    Nonprobability Sampling
    --Overview of Nonprobability Sampling
    --Steps in Nonprobability Sampling
    --Making Inferences from Nonprobability Samples

    --Doing Social Research 6.1: How to Select Things Randomly
    --Checking Your Understanding 6.2: The Principles of Probability Sampling as Applied to the 2016 Pre-election
    --Reading Social Research 6.3: Assessing Nonresponse Bias and Overall Sample Quality

    Chapter 7. Experiments: What Causes What?
    Introductory Example: Misconduct in Criminal Prosecution
    The Logic of Experimentation
    Variations on the Experimental Method
    --Variations in Experimental Design
    --Variations in Experimental Context

    The Process of Conducting Experiments
    --Participant Recruitment and Informed Consent
    --Experimental Manipulation and Random Assignment
    --Manipulation Checks
    --Measurement of the Dependent Variable

    --Strengths and Weaknesses of Experiments
    --Internal Validity
    --External Validity
    --Reactive Measurement Effects
    --Content Restrictions

    --Checking Your Understanding 7.1: The Difference Between Random Sampling and Random Assignment
    --Doing Social Research 7.2: Informed Consent Form for an Experiment
    --Reading Social Research 7.3: Thinking Critically About Research Designs and Threats to Internal Validity

    Chapter 8. Surveys: Questioning and Sampling
    Introductory Example: The Constructing the Family Survey
    General Features of Survey Research
    --Large-Scale Probability Sampling
    --Structured Interviews of Questionnaires
    --Quantitative Data Analysis

    Variations in Survey Designs and Modes
    --Survey Research Designs
    --Data-Collection Modes

    The Process of Planning and Conducting a Survey
    --Choosing Mode of Data Collection
    --Construct and Pretest Questionnaire
    --Choose Sampling
    Frame/Design and Select Sample
    --Recruit Sample and Collect Data
    --Code and Edit Data

    Strengths and Weaknesses of Surveys
    --Generalization to Populations
    --Establishing Causal Relationships
    --Measurement Issues
    --Reading Social Research 8.1: Open-Ended Versus Closed-Ended Questions in Survey Research
    --Doing Social Research 8.2: Writing Survey Questions
    --Doing Social Research 8.3: Informed Consent Statement in the Constructing the Family Survey

    Chapter 9. Field Research and In-Depth Interviews: Systematic People Watching and Listening
    Introductory Field Research Example: Mexican New York
    Introductory In-Depth Interview Example: Mexican Americans Across Generations
    General Features of Qualitative Research
    --Supplementary Archival and Other Data
    --Nonprobability Sampling
    --Qualitative Data Analysis

    Variations in Qualitative Research Methods
    --Degrees of Participation and Observation
    --Over Versus Covert Observation
    --Interview Structure
    --Individual Versus Group Interviews

    The Process of Conducting Field Research
    --Select Setting/Group
    --Gain Access
    --Establish Roles and Relationships
    --Decide What to Observe/Whom to Interview
    --Gather and Analyze Data
    --Leave the Field
    --Write the Report

    The Process of Conducting In-Depth Interviews
    --Select and Recruit Interviewees
    --Develop Interview Guide
    --Gather Data
    --Analyze Data

    Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research
    --Naturalistic Approach
    --Subjective and Contextual Understanding
    --Flexible Research Design
    --Reliability and Validity

    --Checking Your Understanding 9.1: The "Nacirema" and Reflexivity
    --Reading Social Research 9.2: Getting an Insider's View of Students by Passing as One
    --Doing Social Research 9.3: Preparing for an In-Depth Interview

    Chapter 10. Existing Data Analysis: Using Data from Secondhand Sources
    Sources and Examples of Existing Data
    --Public Documents and Official Records
    --Private Documents
    --Mass Media
    --Physical, Nonverbal Evidence
    --Social Science Data Archives

    Analysis of Existing Statistical Data
    --Existing Statistics Example: The Impact of MTV's 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing
    --The Process of Analyzing Existing Statistics

    Content Analysis
    --Content Analysis Example: Journalistic Accounts of the Iraq War
    --The Process of Content Analysis

    Comparative Historical Analysis
    --An Example of Comparative Historical Analysis: The Emergence of Mass Imprisonment
    --The Process of Comparative Historical Analysis

    Strengths and Limitations of Existing Data Analysis
    --Studying Social Structure, History, and Social Change
    --Nonreactive Measurement
    --Cost Efficiency
    --Data Limitations

    --Reading Social Research 10.1: The Big Data Revolution
    --Checking Your Understanding 10.2: Identifying Units of Analysis
    --Doing Social Research 10.3: Analyzing
    the Content of Cell Phone Use

    Chapter 11. Multiple Methods: Two or More Approaches Are Better than One
    A Comparison of Four Basic Approaches to Social Research
    Examples of Mixed Methods Research
    --Effect of Abuse on Marriage and Cohabitation
    --What Employers Say Versus What They Do
    --Explaining Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market
    --Unpredictability and Unequal Control of Work Schedules and Time

    Purposes of Mixed Methods Research

    Mixed Methods Research Designs
    --Sequential Design
    --Concurrent Design
    --Component Design
    --Integrated Design

    --Doing Social Research 11.1: Limitations and Guidelines for Doing Mixed Methods Research

    Chapter 12. Quantitative Data Analysis: Using Statistics for Description and Inference
    Introductory Example of Survey Data Analysis: Drinking and Grades
    Introductory Overview: The Process of Quantitative Analysis
    Prepare Data for Computerized Analysis: Data Processing
    --Entering the Data

    Inspect and Modify Data
    --Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    --Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables

    Carry Out Preliminary Hypothesis Testing
    --Nominal- and Ordinal-Scale Variables
    --Interval- and Ratio-Scale Variables

    Conduct Multivariate Testing
    --Elaboration of Contingency Tables
    --Multiple Regression

    --Doing Social Research 12.1: Codebook Documentation
    --Checking Your
    Understanding 12.2: The Meaning of Statistical Significance and Strength of Association
    --Reading Social Research 12.3: The Impact of Statistical Assumptions in Quantitative Data Analysis

    Chapter 13. Qualitative Data Analysis: Searching for Meaning
    Introductory Example: Homelessness in Austin, Texas
    Overview: A Process of Analyzing Qualitative Data
    Prepare Data
    --Transform the Data to Readable Text
    --Check for and Resolve Errors
    --Manage the Data

    Identify Concepts, Patterns, and Relationships
    --Data Displays

    Draw and Evaluate Conclusions
    Variations in Qualitative Data Analysis
    --Grounded Theory Methods
    --Narrative Analysis
    --Conversation Analysis

    --Doing Social Research 13.1: Coding Textual Data
    --Reading Social Research 13.2: From Displays Back to Data

    Chapter 14. Reading and Writing in Social Research: It's All About Communication
    Read, Take Notes, and Write Research Proposal
    --Locate Relevant Research Literature
    --Read and Evaluate Prior Research
    --Formulate Research Question
    --Design Research and Prepare Proposal

    Write Research Report
    --Outline and Prepare to Write
    --Write First Draft
    --Revision and Other Writing Considerations

    --Reading Social Research 14.1: Questions to Ask in Evaluating a Research Report
    --Doing Social Research 14.2: ASA Guidelines for In-Text Citations and References


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