Chapter 16: Reading and Understanding Social Research

Learning Objectives

  • Identify what can be learned from an article simply by reading its abstract and its acknowledgments.
  • Describe how tables presenting causal relationships are typically presented.
  • Identify several key questions to ask when reading research reports.
  • Identify what one needs to do to be a responsible consumer of research.
  • Identify the major differences between scholarly and media reports of sociological research.
  • Identify locations where one might find examples of sociology and sociological research.
  • Describe how having a background in sociological research methods is useful for one’s everyday encounters with sociology.

You might think that sociological research plays a very small role in our day-to-day lives, but once you know what to look for, you will soon discover that it is more a part of our everyday lives than you might have imagined. This is even truer now that you have taken a class in sociological research methods. Having some background in and understanding of the scientific method means that you are now better equipped to understand, question, and critique all kinds of scientific research, since many of the basic tenets of good research are similar across disciplines that employ the scientific method. Those tenets include having a well-designed and carefully planned study, having some theoretical grounding and understanding of research that has come before one’s own work, and engaging in peer review, to name just a few. In this chapter, we will consider how to responsibly read research findings and examine areas of everyday life where sociological research may be present, even if it is not immediately visible. The aim in these final chapters is to remind you of the relevance of sociological research and why one might care to know something about it. These chapters are also designed to encourage you to think critically about how sociology shapes your everyday life, both in ways you might choose and in ways of which you might not be aware.


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