Sociology research methods are very important as they allow sociologists to have a better understanding of sociological phenomena and to answer various questions regarding social issues. The ultimate aim of this paper is to explain how the topic ‘Effects of Home Work on Students Today’ can be investigated using sociology methods of research. A research method will be chosen and the research design will also be described in detail. The most suitable method for studying the question will be identified and explained. Possible weaknesses in the chosen method will be enumerated and explained. Key terminologies such as constructs and indicators, sample size and selection, ethical guidelines of special significance, measurements, data collection plan and any special challenges that conducting the research may present will be explained. The reliability and validity of the results will also be considered.
First, it is important to note that sociological research is based on the use of empirical data to substantiate concepts, theories and test hypothesis (“Sociology” 1). Therefore, there is need to first develop some concept, theory or hypothesis to be tested (“Sociology” 1). In order to conduct some research on the above topic, it is imperative that a hypothesis be developed first. The hypothesis will be “Doing homework increases the chances of a student getting higher grades.” Here, the Dependent Variable (DV) is grades obtained by students while the Independent Variable (IV) is doing homework (McManus 34).
Now that a hypothesis exists, the discussion will shift to the design of the research. First, a level of analysis has to be determined (McManus 35). The unit of analysis, which refers to some particular social entity about which information is collected and empirical claims made, will be individuals since the study focuses on the effect of homework on students today (“Sociology” 10). There are many methods of conducting research that can be utilized. However, the most suitable method that can be used to answer the question at hand is the use of surveys. A survey is a poll in which the researcher gathers facts or attempts to determine the relationships among facts (Kendall 32). Most sociologists utilize surveys in their research missions. In fact, surveys are the most widely used research method in the field of social sciences (Kendall 32). The reason for this is the fact that sociology usually involves studying phenomena that cannot be observed directly. For instance, sociological studies may involve unraveling people’s feelings and beliefs about certain things. Studying sociological phenomena may also call upon the researcher to study a very big and diverse population of people. It may not be possible to observe such kind of a population directly. Therefore, surveys may come in handy in such situations.
This method involves selecting a group of people from the population being studied and asking them questions pertaining to the research question. The selected group of people is known as the sample while the people themselves are called respondents. The selection of the sample should be done carefully as the sample should be representative of the entire population being studied (McManus 40). Since the entire population of students, parents and teachers cannot be questioned in an endeavor to answer the research question, a sample that reflects the whole population should be chosen. The aim of the study is to establish the effects of home work on students today.
Though not explicitly stated, the term student refers to all students in USA. This is a very big population and the sample has to be selected carefully. Further, it should be noted that there are different categories of students. There are those who attend public schools and those who attend private schools; there are those who live in poor neighborhoods and those who live in posh estates; there are those who are disabled and those who are a hundred percent physically and mentally fit; there are white students and students of other races. Since the research has to capture the situation in the entire country and the effect of homework on all these diverse categories of students, the selection of the sample is of paramount importance. The respondents will not only be students. Teachers will also be questioned as well as parents.
The sample size for each category of respondents (students, parents and teachers) will be 2000. In other words, 2000 students, 2000 parents and 2000 teachers will be questioned. To decide how these respondents will be selected to meet the representation criteria discussed above, it is important to first decide on a method in which all or most Americans have an equal or known likelihood of being selected (“How are Polls” 2). The most convenient method that will achieve this objective is the use of landlines and mobile phones. Almost every American owns at least one cellular phone. A computer program that utilizes a routine called Random Digit Dialing (RDD) can then be used to select the sample (“How are Polls” 3). RDD first generates a list of all possible landline and mobile phone numbers in America and then selects a random sample of 2000 landline and mobile phones (“How are polls” 3). Each phone number can then be called and a request made to speak with a student, parent or teacher in the household. If several of these people (for instance, there may be two students in the home) exist in the household, the one who celebrated his or her birthday most recently is chosen.
Measurements and data collection will simply be via questioning. A questionnaire with questions whose answers can be analyzed and help verify the hypothesis should be formulated. Here, it is important to understand concepts related to constructs and indicators (McManus 33). Evaluationspringboard.org explains:
A construct is a concept that can be measured. Turning evaluation questions into answers requires that you first parse the question into measurable units or constructs. On the other hand, an indicator is a measure of success. (“Constructs and Indicators” 1)
The questions directed at student respondents that can be included in the survey include: Do you believe doing your home work has improved your grades? Do you like doing your home work? Questions that can be directed to teachers and parents include: Have you ever noticed any remarkable improvement in your student’s grades whenever you give them (or they are given – in the case of parents) adequate home work to do? Do you believe that doing homework improves the overall grades of students? The answers to these and other questions that can be formulated effectively form the data to be analyzed.
However, it should be noted that this method poses various challenges and has several weaknesses. One of them is the fact that not all respondents that have been randomly selected will be willing to answer the questions. The random sample chosen cannot precisely reflect the opinions of all Americans. This is a weakness that is usually explained by giving reasonable margins of errors. Further, it is possible for the respondents to supply incorrect information either knowingly or unknowingly. This might lead to inaccurate results and conclusions. Other challenges may include sourcing funds to conduct the surveys since human resources (e.g. trained interviewers) have to be employed and phone calls cost money. Other expenses may accrue and this calls for adequate funds before conducting the survey.
There are several ethical considerations that should be considered when undertaking the research. First, it is important to for the respondents to give their consent before they are interviewed (McManus 42). Further, they should be guaranteed that the information they supply is confidential and will not be released to other parties neither will it be used for any other purposes except those specified under the primary objectives of the research. The respondents should also be guaranteed of their privacy (McManus 45). It is also important to ensure that the interviewers remain neutral and independent during the entire process. The researchers should also take into consideration the various laws that exist and ensure that they follow them while implementing the survey. If the researchers follow the plan discussed in this paper, then the results are likely to be valid within minimal margins of error.
“Constructs and Indicators.” Evaluationspringboard.org. 2006. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.evaluationspringboard.org/documents/Constructs%26IndicatorsFile.pdf>.
“How are Polls Conducted?” Gallup. 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/File/125927/How%20Are%20Polls%20Conducted%20FINAL.pdf>.
Kendall, Diana. Sociology in our times: The essentials. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
“Sociology: Sociological Research Methods.” Sparknotes.com. 2009. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://sparkcharts.sparknotes.com/gensci/sociology/section12.php>.
McManus, Stephen. Research in Sociology. Sebastopol: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, 2003. Print.