SOC 513, Spring 1998

Professor Martina Morris

This course will provide a critical overview of the methods used to collect data for social science research. It is not a course on statistical techniques for estimation and inference. The fundamental theme is that empirical data are socially produced, and all data bear the marks of the specific production process employed. The paradigmatic methods for producing data are: archival research, participant observation, survey research, and experimental research. Each has a distinctive logic and procedure. We will examine each method by taking an in-depth look at an exemplary study, using it to develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in each method. Once the basic attributes of each research method are understood, it is possible to critically evaluate the research product, often without reference to statistical techniques.




Case Study




Jan 13

Key Aspects of the Research Process


Jan 20, 27, Feb 3

Archival Research

Salem Possessed

Feb 10, 17

Participant Observation

Manufacturing Consent

Feb 24, Mar 3

Spring Break


Mar 10

Experimental Research

Obedience to Authority

Mar 17, 24

Survey Research

To Dwell Among Friends

Mar 31, Apr 7, 14

Student MA proposals


Apr 21, 28

MIDTERM PAPER due in class March 17

DRAFT OF MA PROPOSAL due May 1      




The textbook for this course is: 

Approaches to Social Research by Singleton RA, Straits BC and Straits MM, Oxford University Press, second edition (1993).

There are also five required books that we will use as case studies:

Suicide by Emile Durkheim (1897)

Salem Possessed by Paul Boyer and Nissenbaum (1974)

Manufacturing Consent by Michael Burawoy (1979)

Obedience to Authority by Stanely Milgram (1975)

To Dwell Among Friends by Claude Fischer (1982)


All books have been ordered at the University bookstore, and many of the case studies can be purchased there in used condition.

The course has two explicit purposes. The first is to provide a critical overview of social science research methods, and the second is to help you begin the process of developing a proposal for a Masters thesis. The assignments in the course are aimed accordingly. There are two written assignments: a short midterm paper (5 pages) that will involve a critical comparison of two studies (based on either archival research or participant observation), and a draft of a Masters thesis proposal at the end of the course (5 pages). Class participation, both informal and formal, will be encouraged. Group and individual formal presentations will be arranged for the survey research reading, and the Masters thesis proposal.

Your final grade in the course will reflect your midterm paper grade, class participation, and your MA proposal, each weighted about equally.




SSS means the textbook Approaches to Social Research by Singleton RA, Straits BC and Straits MM, Oxford University Press, second edition (1993).


Key Components of the Research Process       

Jan 20  SSS: 7-16, 40-59, 67-93, 100-117; Suicide: 35-53

Jan 27  Suicide: 57-144

Feb 3   Suicide: 145-276

Archival Research

Feb 10 SSS: 354-390; Salem Possessed: 1-36

Feb 17 Salem Possessed: 37-222

Participant Observation

Feb 24 SSS: 316-353; Manufacturing Consent: ix-76

Mar 3   Manufacturing Consent: 77-108, 161-177, 205-215

Mar 10 Spring Break

Experimental Research

Mar 17 SSS: 213-245, 474-496

Mar 24 Obedience to Authority: whole book (it’s short…)

Survey Research          

Mar 31 SSS: 136-178, 246-315; To Dwell Among Friends: 1-45

Apr 7   To Dwell Among Friends: Group readings

Apr 14             To Dwell Among Friends: Methodological Appendix