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Social Science Theory and Methodology
Questions Generated for a Social Science Analysis
Significance of substantive question. This section describes the significance of a suitable substantive research question, formulated for social analysis. Categorically, the social science research topic for this paper is human psychological development. College students who have matriculated directly from high school typically exhibit behaviors indicative of their age and maturity levels that, if they endure in to adulthood, can cause difficulties in relationships, work environments, and detract from overall adjustment. In addition to providing educational opportunities for students, society expects that the college years will add to students' cognitive, behavioral, and emotional repertoire. In short, college students are expected to graduate as more mature individuals than they were as entering freshmen. This section explores the thinking behind application of the scientific method to a substantive question that addresses the psychological development of students during the college years that enables them to confront their own misperceptions. Specifically, the research question is: What cognitive strategies do college sophomores employ when confronted about their misperceptions?
Three Methodological Questions.
Research method problem #1. Consider this question and this answer pair: Q. "What research design should be used to determine? (Paired with) A. "Sample Survey: Explain what a sample survey is, and how it applies to the specific research question." This is a good example of a student's misperception about the terms "research design" and "sample survey," which stems from convoluted coursework materials. It is important to note, that in the scientific community at large, the concept of research design of a scientific study encompasses all the elements of a research study, taken together.
A research design cannot be simply a sample survey. A sample survey is a research method and is, therefore, a component of a research design which will employ the use of surveys or questionnaires as methodology. Regardless of the use in the publication used in the student's class (Perry & Perry, 2009), the term research design is used differently in the larger scientific community, and in the social science community, to wit: "Research design refers to the strategy to integrate the different components of the research project in a cohesive and coherent way. Rather than a 'cookbook' from which you choose the best recipe, it is a means to structure a research project in order to address a defined set of questions (Sydenstricker-Neto, 1997). Further reading from this source, and others in the field of social science, will provide examples of acceptable terminology and serve to illustrate that the Perry and Perry text is a definitive outlier with regard to the use of scientific terminology.
In order to substitute an accurate methodological question for the example provided above, the researcher will ask, from the literature review, what methods show promise for gathering information about the cognitive strategies that college sophomores employ when confronted with their own misperceptions. Hence, the first (research method problem) subordinate question is:
Q. What method should be used to gather data (i.e., Where will the data come from… ) about college sophomore cognitive strategies for dealing with their own misperceptions?
A. An experimental method was selected for purposes of this study to explore the cognitive strategies of college sophomores confronted with their own misperceptions.
The experimental method was selected because it has been successfully used in the field of scientific social science to examine maturity aspects cognitive process as part of the psychological development of college students.
Research method problem #2. The second (research method problem) subordinate question is:
Q. How will subjects be selected for the experiment?
A. A representative sample of college sophomores from the University of Colorado will randomly selected from students with declared liberal arts and social science majors.
The sample will be considered representative when the subject pool, from which the sample will be randomly selected, reflects the same proportion of men and women as the overall student body. Because the study is designed to specifically explore cognitive strategies in college sophomores, the subject pool shall be limited to students aged 19 to 22.
Research method problem #3. The third (research method problem) subordinate question is:
Q. How will the data be collected?
A. The data will collected through experimental observation of subjects in one-on-one sessions with doctoral students from the Behavioral Medicine Core Lab (BMCL) from a local health clinic associated with the university.
The three methodological questions were derived through consideration of the substantive question and a review of the literature. The four questions (one substantive and three methodological) represent the most current thinking in the field of social scientific analysis of the problems of human psychological development.
The Scientific Method in the Natural and Physical Sciences
Scientific method in the natural sciences. Research performed in the traditions of the scientific method follows a specific pattern: Speculate about a problem, review the literature, select a topic of inquiry, create a research design, collect and analyze data, and report findings that include a discussion of verifiability and generalization. The example research topic for the natural sciences is the impact of deforestation of Mount Kilimanjaro on weather patterns in the surrounding area (Deforestation's impact on Mt. Kilimanjaro calculated, 2011). A review of the literature about the relationship between climate change and deforestation revealed previous research indicating that deforestation reduces surface roughness which creates drag on the prevailing winds. As a result, winds blow faster over the upper slopes of Kilimanjaro causing more intense cloud formation and greater precipitation. Mountains studied in Costa Rica show clear evidence that deforestation adds to the effects of climate change, but the Costa Rican mountains are part of a range and not isolated like Kilimanjaro. A logical extension of the literature (topic of inquiry selected) is to study the weather patterns around Kilimanjaro during the spring and summer months when the dominant weather patterns come from the Indian Ocean. One hypothesis would then be: Does deforestation of Kilimanjaro worsen or mitigate large scale climate change in a 2,000 square-mile area around the mountain (Deforestation's impact on Mt. Kilimanjaro calculated, 2011)? The weather data for the Kilimanjaro deforestation study will be collected by using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrumentation to determine surface characteristics of the land area under study. The MODIS data simulates cloud formation and weather patterns over Kilimanjaro under current conditions, and permits researchers to compare weather patterns for a completely deforested area or a completely restored forest on Kilimanjaro. Further replication on other mountains will be a factor in the degree to which conclusions can be verified and generalized.
The Scientific Method in the Natural Sciences
Discussion and Summarization.
The following section includes an embedded comparison of the research methods required for the substantive (formulated) question to the scientific method as understood in the natural or physical sciences. To further clarify, discussion is also provided here for the scientific method steps listed: Speculate about a problem, review the literature, select a topic of inquiry, create a research design, collect and analyze data, and report findings that include a discussion of verifiability and generalization. The problem under consideration, which comes from a fundamental understanding of the field of adolescent and young adult developmental psychology, as well as a comprehensive literature search, is that college sophomores often exhibit immature cognitive strategies for dealing with their own mistakes, errors, and misperceptions. The selected topic of inquiry is to isolate cognitive strategies for dealing with misperceptions. An experimental research design was selected as this is a predominant methodology for studying developmental psychology in humans, and it lends itself well to the inquiry topic. A method for collecting and analyzing data was selected, consisting of one-on-one sessions with graduate students trained in clinical psychology. Findings will be shared in a peer-reviewed journal, if accepted, and the manuscript will address issues of verifiability and generalization, drawing on techniques and methods that use triangulation of data and possible options for complementarity of method.
The scientific method in the natural sciences. All research begins with a general topic of study suggested by one's professional expertise, a hunch based on personal experience, reading of the literature in the field of inquiry, or simply curiosity about some phenomenon or problem. Once a general topic has been identified, the researcher in social science and the researcher in the natural sciences complete a thorough literature review to be certain that the topic to be studied has not already been thoroughly researched in the exact manner that the researcher envisions at that point in the inquiry process. In addition, the researchers will, at this point, be looking for relationships between the nascent ideas about the topic of inquiry and the body of research under review. The objective of this step, true for all scientific research, is to describe a scientific study that adds to knowledge in the field of inquiry. Well-designed and successfully executed research is said to add to the literature. From the literature, the researcher will be able to speculate about relationships between variables that seem promising, lend themselves to…[continue]
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