Chapter 2 Study Questions & Exercises

Social Research Methods

Study Questions

  1. What is positivism and how has it influenced sociological research of early sociologists?
  1. Discuss the differences between insider and outsider perspectives in research, giving an example for each. Which perspective appeals more to you and why?
  1. Discuss how different operational definitions of social phenomena, such as poverty, middle class, or abuse, can produce varying research outcomes.
  1. Discuss the intricacies and challenges of operationalizing “poverty.” What are the consequences for different types of operational definitions of poverty? How would you choose to operationalize the concept?
  1. What was the “narrative’s moment” described by D.R. Maines in 1993? Outline two of the ten propositions discussed by Maines that should form the foundation of a new narrative sociology.
  1. Provide two examples of a correlation between two variables. In your example, identify the dependent and independent variables as well as the proposed direction of effect (hypothesis).
  1. Explain what spurious reasoning is and provide two of the examples discussed in your textbook.
  1. Demonstrate how polls, surveys could be disingenuous.
  1. Define institutional ethnography. Examine this concept in a corporate entity such as McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s.

Exploration and Discussion Exercises

  1. What is our country’s population? Are our unemployment rates increasing or decreasing? Which age group has the highest unemployment rate in Canada? These and numerous other questions about our society can be answered by taking a look at the Statistics Canada website ( In this database, you will find economic and social census data. Familiarize yourself with the statistics that are available to you. When you enter the site, you will have the option of locating specific data by subject. Summary tables, community profiles, maps, and many other important tools are at your disposal. Explore!
  1. Narratives are stories people tell about themselves, their situations, and the others around them. Interview someone. This person could be from inside or outside the classroom. Include questions in your interview about the person’s social location (e.g., gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, occupation). Consider how these factors may shape the individual’s point of view.