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Assignment 2: Social Control and Criminal Deviance: Bullying


Student Success Tips

  • Review the Student’s Guide to Research section of the textbook (Chapter 2)



Sociological research seldom follows a formula that indicates exactly how to proceed. Sociologists often have to feel their way as they go, responding to the challenges that arise during research and adapting new methods to fit the circumstances. Thus, the stages of research can vary even when sociologists agree about the basic sequence. At the same time, for student sociologists, it is useful to understand the key building blocks of good sociological research. As you read through the following descriptions of the stages, think about a topic of interest to you and how you might use that as the basis for an original research project.




FRAME YOUR RESEARCH QUESTION “Good research,” Thomas Dewey observed, “scratches where it itches.” Sociological research begins with the formulation of a question or questions to be answered. Society offers an endless spectrum of compelling issues to study: Does exposure to violent video games affect the probability of aggressive behavior in adolescents? Does religious faith affect voting behavior? Is family income a good predictor of performance on standardized college entrance tests such as the SAT? Beyond the descriptive aspects of social phenomena, sociologists are also interested in how they can explain relationships between the variables they examine. Formulating a research question precisely and carefully is one of the most important steps toward ensuring a successful research project. Research questions come from many sources. Some arise from problems that form the foundation of sociology, including an interest in socioeconomic inequalities and their causes and effects, or the desire to understand how power is exercised in social relationships. Sociologists are also mindful that solid empirical data are important to public policies on issues of concern such as poverty, occupational mobility, and domestic violence. Keep in mind that you also need to define your terms. Recall our discussion of operationalizing concepts. For example, if you are studying middle school bullying, you need to make explicit your definition of bullying and how that will be measured. The same holds true if you are studying a topic such as illiteracy or aggressive behavior.


REVIEW EXISTING KNOWLEDGE Once you identify the question you want to ask, you need to conduct a review of the existing literature on your topic. The literature may include published studies, unpublished papers, books, dissertations, government documents, newspapers and other periodicals, and, increasingly, data disseminated on the Internet. The key focus of the literature review, however, is usually published and peer-reviewed research studies. Your purpose in conducting the literature review is to learn about studies that have already been done on your topic of interest so that you can set your research in the context of existing studies. You will also use the literature review to highlight how your research will contribute to this body of knowledge.


SELECT THE APPROPRIATE METHOD Now you are ready to think about how your research question can best be answered. Which of the research methods described earlier (1) will give the best results for the project and (2) is most feasible for your research circumstances, experience, and budget? If you wish to obtain basic information from a relatively large population in a short period of time, then a survey is the best method to use. If you want to obtain detailed information about a smaller group of people, then interviews might be most beneficial. Participant observation and detached observation are ideal research methods for verifying data obtained through interviews, or, for the latter, when the presence of a researcher might alter the research results. Document analysis and historical research are good choices for projects focused on inaccessible subjects and historical sociology. Remember, sociological researchers often use multiple methods.


WEIGH THE ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS Research conducted on other human beings—as much of sociological research is—poses certain ethical problems. An outpouring of outrage after the discovery of gruesome experiments conducted by the Nazis during World War II prompted the adoption of the Nuremberg Code, a collection of ethical research guidelines developed to help prevent such atrocities from ever happening again (Table 2.5). In addition to these basic guidelines, scientific societies throughout the world have adopted their own codes of ethics to safeguard against the misuse and abuse of human subjects. Before you begin your research, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics (, as well as the standards of your school, and carefully follow both. Ask yourself whether your research will cause the subjects any emotional or physical harm. How will you guarantee their anonymity? Does the research violate any of your own ethical principles? Most universities and research institutes require researchers to complete particular forms before undertaking experiments using human subjects, describing the research methods to be used and the groups of subjects who will take part. Depending on the type of research, a researcher may need to obtain written agreement from the subjects for their participation. Today, a study like that conducted by Philip Zimbardo in the 1970s at Stanford University (described in the Private Lives, Public Issues box) would be unlikely to be approved because of the stress put on the experiment’s subjects in the course of the research. Approval of research involving human subjects is granted with an eye to both fostering good research and protecting the interests of those partaking in the study.


COLLECT AND ANALYZE THE DATA Collecting data is the heart of research. It is time-consuming but exciting. During this phase, you will gather the information that will allow you to make a contribution to the sociological understanding of your topic. If your data set is qualitative— for example, open-ended responses to interview questions or observations of people—you will proceed by carefully reviewing and organizing your field notes, documents, and other sources of information. If your data set is quantitative—for example, completed closed-ended surveys—you will proceed by entering data into spreadsheets, comparing results, and analyzing your findings using statistical software. Your analysis should offer answers to the research questions with which you began the study. Be mindful in interpreting your data and avoid conclusions that are speculative or not warranted by the actual research results. Do your data support or contradict your initial hypothesis? Or are they simply inconclusive? Report all of your results. Do your findings have implications for larger theories in the discipline? Do they suggest the need for further study of another dimension of the issue at hand? Good research need not have results that unequivocally support your hypothesis. A finding that refutes the hypothesis can be instructive as well.


SHARE THE RESULTS However fascinating your research may be to you, its benefits are amplified when you take advantage of opportunities to share it with others. You can share your findings with the sociological community by publishing the results in academic journals. Before submitting research for publication, you must learn which journals cover your topic areas and review those journals’ standards for publication. Some colleges and universities sponsor undergraduate journals that offer opportunities for students to publish original research. Other outlets for publication include books, popular magazines, newspapers, video documentaries, and websites. Another way to communicate your findings is to give a presentation at a professional meeting. Many professional meetings are held each year; at least one will offer a panel suited to your topic. In some cases, high-quality undergraduate papers are selected for presentation. If your paper is one, relevant experts at the meeting will likely help you interpret your findings further.


Take notes as you watch the video below.



Write a one to two (1-2) page essay in which you:

  • Identify the most important step in the student’s guide to research that you would need in order to analyze bullying.
  • Define the identified critical step of research in your words.
  • Explain how bullying relates to one (1) of the following topics:
    • the agents of socialization (i.e., family, teachers and school, peers),
    • formal organizations (i.e., conformity to groups),
    • different types of deviance (i.e., everyday deviance, sexual deviance, or criminal deviance).

Provide a rationale for your response.

Your assignment must follow these formatting requirements:

  • Be typed, double spaced, using Times New Roman font (size 12), with one-inch margins on all sides. Check with your professor for any additional instructions.
  • To keep this essay short and manageable, your only sources for the essay should be the TED video and the sections noted in your text. For this reason, APA citations or references are not required for this assignment.
  • Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page is not included in the required assignment page length.

The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:

  • Define the basic concepts used in the discipline of sociology.
  • Define the various methodologies for sociological research.
  • Identify the sociological perspective to the inequalities of class, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and political aspects.
  • Use technology and information resources to research issues in sociology.
  • Write clearly and concisely about sociology using proper writing mechanics.


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