Chapter 17: Research Methods in the Real World

17.3 Revisiting an Earlier Question: Why Should We Care?

I hope that by now we have managed to convince you that developing an understanding of how sociologists conduct research has many benefits. On the chance that we have not done so, or in case you simply want a refresher, we will spend this final section of the final chapter reviewing some of the reasons you might care about research methods.

Transferable skills

As we have mentioned, one reason to care about research methods is that knowing how to conduct social science research could lead to a variety of job opportunities. The skills and knowledge you have gained from this text will situate you well for a number of research-oriented positions. Moreover, your background in social science research methodology provides you with a number of transferable skills that will serve you well in any profession you choose. Transferable skills are the conglomeration of tasks in which a person develops proficiency from one realm that can be applied in another realm. Whether you realize it or not, you have gained a host of transferable skills from taking a course in social scientific research methods. Those skills can assist you in your search for employment in a variety of arenas.

Perhaps the primary transferable skill you have developed by learning how to conduct social scientific research is an ability to solve problems. Not only that, you are now also better equipped to identify problems. What do social researchers do if not identify social problems and then seek to gain knowledge aimed at understanding and eradicating those problems? Having the ability to seek out problems and the requisite knowledge and tools to begin to solve those problems is crucial in many areas of employment. The investigative skills you have developed as a result of learning how to conduct social scientific research can be put to use in just about any job where assumptions are called into question. These might include jobs such as journalism; however, work in criminal justice also requires investigative skills, as does just about any position that requires one to solve problems, ask questions, and learn new ways of doing things.

A talent for asking good questions is another important ability related to the problem-identification and problem-solving skills that you have developed by learning how to conduct social scientific research. . Not only is the ability to ask good questions essential in many areas of employment (and in most areas of life as well), but also this skill is linked to another key area that comes up in research methods courses and is appreciated in many realms: critical thinking. Thinking critically does not mean that someone sits backs and criticizes every idea or person that comes her way. Critical thinking is a skill that takes practice to develop. It involves the careful evaluation of assumptions, actions, values, and other factors that influence a particular way of being or doing. It requires an ability to identify both weaknesses and strengths in taken-for-granted ways of doing things. A person who thinks critically should be able to demonstrate some level of understanding of the varying positions one might take on any given issue, even if he or she does not agree with those positions.

Understanding sociological research methods also means having some understanding of how to analyze, synthesize, and interpret information. And having a well-developed ability to carefully take in, think about, and understand the meaning of new information with which you are confronted will serve you well in all varieties of life circumstances and employment. In addition, the ability to communicate and clearly express oneself, both in writing and orally, is crucial in all professions. As you practice the tasks described throughout this text, you will attain and improve the oral and written communication skills that so many employers value. Finally, related to the ability to communicate effectively is the ability to effectively frame an argument or presentation. Successfully framing an argument requires not only good communication skills but also strength in the area of listening to others.

The transferable skills you have gained as a result of learning how to conduct social scientific research include the following:

  1. Identifying problems;
  2. identifying solutions to problems;
  3. investigative skills and techniques;
  4. asking good questions;
  5. framing an argument;
  6. listening;
  7. thinking critically;
  8. analyzing, synthesizing, and interpreting information; and
  9. communicating orally and in writing.


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