Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of social research being conducted. Companies are conducting market surveys and studies to determine how best to position their brands, products, and services. Non-profit organizations are deploying scientific methods to find new ways to help marginalized groups in our society.
Even governments are using sound statistical practices to evaluate policies and programs!
What is the scientific method?
The term “scientific” typically conjures up images of large labs run by professional scientists where experiments are carried out under highly controlled conditions. That’s not all the scientific method entails though!
In fact, the scientific method can be quite simple. You just need to know what steps to take when applying it to situations that aren’t necessarily related to understanding nature or technology.
With this article, we will discuss some easy applications of the scientific method in social research.
Steps of the scientific method
The first step towards using the scientific method is defining what the term means. This can be tricky because there are many different definitions.
The most straightforward definition is describing something as science when it follows certain rules. But this isn’t very helpful since anyone can describe anything as scientific!
Another way to define the scientific method is by thinking about how scientists use it. This seems more rigorous, but only if you don’t think about applying the scientific method to prove things already proven false.
By that standard, any behavior that has an identifiable goal can be called research. So instead of calling studying human nature scientific, we should call everything else not-scientific.
Examples of the scientific method
The first step in using the scientific method is to take a close look at the topics and examples you already know about. When doing so, see if there are any patterns or rules that can be applied to new instances of the topic.
For instance, when studying atoms, you would probably learn about how they are made of protons, electrons, and neutrons. You would also likely learn that these particles are extremely heavy and very reactive due to their intensity (how many there are).
When conducting research, this information can be used to determine whether or not something is true by looking at two main points: does it fit with past studies? And is it practical to use it for everyday applications? If both are yes, then it is considered proven!
This article will go into more detail on how to apply the scientific method to social psychology.
Definitions of hypotheses
The hypothesis is an assertion that something happens or does not happen. It is usually framed as “if X, then Y” or “when X, then Y” (where X is an event like going for a walk today, and Y is another action such as buying a glass of milk).
With our example about research studies that test whether chocolate tastes better when it says you are eating it while watching TV, your hypothesis would be that it feels good when you eat it while listening to music because you use all five senses simultaneously.
Your conclusion – therefore – would be that this study proves that this way of eating chocolate is fun!
That isn’t always the case, however. If the study found no difference in taste between conditions, your theory wouldn’t work. For instance, if the researcher gave some participants white chocolate and others dark and asked which one was nicer, your theory would fail.
The reason is that we humans have a hard time telling what ingredients make up flavor. We rely on our sense of smell, taste, sight, and touch to determine that. Some people simply cannot tell the difference between cocoa powder and cream so they feel the same way about both types of chocolate.
It’s also worth noting that although most individuals agree that listening to music makes food more enjoyable, there is some disagreement over how much it affects perception of taste.
Types of hypotheses
Hypotheses are two parts, they have a topic or question and then a conclusion that says how you feel about this topic. The way to use the scientific method in social research is to begin with a hypothesis!
The term hypothesis comes from ancient Greece. It was used when people would go into unexplored territory or areas where there were not necessarily clear rules. They would ask questions like “why does the sun rise every morning?” Or, if someone did something crazy, like climb onto the roof during a thunderstorm, they would wonder why they did it.
So, a hypothetical theory is a proposition that tries to explain an event or situation by proposing one cause or reason over others. For example, your roommate just so happened to run across the room while you were sleeping and left without saying anything. You hypothesize that she was mad at you for watching too many horror movies.
Examples of hypotheses
One important part of the scientific method is establishing hypotheses or statements that describe an experiment you want to perform. For example, let’s say you wanted to determine whether or not eating chocolate every day was healthy for your health.
You could establish a hypothesis stating that eating chocolate makes people feel happier. You would have to test this theory by having some participants eat one bar of chocolate per week and see how they felt before doing so and then how they felt after doing so once a month.
If the study found that eating chocolate made the test subjects feel happier, then you could conclude that eating chocolate is not necessarily healthy for your health because it does not make people feel better but instead gives them the opposite effect.
Definitions of research
The term social research refers to all forms of inquiry that use systematic, quantitative methods to study human behavior. This includes studies conducted with surveys, questionnaires, experiments (sometimes called interventions or investigations), and observational techniques. These types of studies are also referred to as empirical studies because they rely heavily on evidence gathered through observation and experimentation.
In experimental studies, researchers may randomly assign individuals or groups to different conditions or treatments so that changes can be observed and measured. In observational studies, researchers look at correlations between behaviors and/or events and determine possible reasons for these patterns. For example, they might examine whether people who drink coffee are more likely to go out for lunch after work than those who do not.
There is no single definition of what constitutes social research, but most academic departments require at least one semester’s coursework in qualitative or quantitative methodologies in addition to an advanced degree like a master’s or Ph.D.! Therefore, even if you aren’t formally studying sociology, psychology, anthropology, or another related field, you have still used the scientific method when researching this article…and many times before.
The key difference is that social scientists ask bigger questions using structured approaches, which often produce generalizable knowledge. Generalization implies applying the findings outside of the context in which the experiment was done, but it also means replicating the results somewhere else. That way, we get solid answers that can help us understand how things work.
Important factors when conducting research
When doing social research, there are several important things that you must consider as part of the scientific method. These include how well your study design is done, whether or not your hypotheses are relevant, and what type of data you gathered for your findings.
One major thing to keep in mind while analyzing data is that you should never assume anything about the people or groups under investigation unless it has been proven through testing. Testing your assumptions will help avoid biased results.
A key concept in any scientific experiment is sample size, or what you include and exclude from your study. For example, if studying how many times it takes for blood to clot, you would need a large enough sample size that can give you an accurate result!
In social research, sample size comes into play when deciding how many people will be part of your survey, and/or whether you should do quantitative or qualitative research.
You want to make sure your samples are big enough so that your results have statistical significance- this means they can be generalized to the population at hand!
But remember, even very large studies have failed to find true answers before, as not all participants were representative of the whole.