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The Foundations of Social Research

THE LANGUAGE OF SOCIAL RESEARCH

This chapter is about the fundamental concepts of social research: variables, measurement, validity, reliability, cause and effect, and theory. When you finish this chapter, you should understand the crucial role of measurement in science and the mutually supportive roles of data and ideas in the development of theory.

You should also have a new skill: You should be able to operationalize any complex human phenomenon, like ‘‘machismo’’ or ‘‘anomie’’ or ‘‘alienation’’ or ‘‘acculturation.’’ You should, in other words, be able to reduce any complex variable to a set of measurable traits.

By the end of this chapter, though, you should also become very critical of your new ability at operationalizing. Just because you can make up measurements doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be useful or meaningful. The better you get at concocting clever measurements for complex things, the more critical you’ll become of your own concoctions and those of others.

 
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