Methods of Social Inquiry

Discipline: Sociology
Instructor: Camacho
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1425
End: 1540
Field Work: Day 2 - Yokohama - Monday, 26 January | Japan Download Syllabus

This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of the sociological research process. Students learn concepts of research design including conceptualization, operationalization, sampling methods, and data analysis/processing. With an emphasis on undergraduate research projects, this course will engage methods including ethnographic research, individual and focus group interviewing, and survey research.  We will also cover research ethics and dilemmas of field research.

We will learn the role of theory in research design, as well as when to use which type of research method.  We will have opportunities for “hands-on” research, and we will apply systematic research methods in our own projects.  We will also examine research questions, methods and findings of other social researchers in the context of each of our ports of call.  Throughout the course, we will talk about the scientific method, the complexities of applying methods to social research, ethics and bias, and research design. By the end of the course, you will be able to differentiate between the major “quantitative” and “qualitative” methodologies and you will have had multiple opportunities to try out these methods.

Field Work

Country: Japan
Day: 2 - Yokohama - Monday, 26 January

In this field lab, “The Sociological Art of Observation: Zen Lessons in Kamakura” we will practice qualitative research skills, and contrast readings of the concept of a “Zen Mind” with traditional sociological methods.  In visiting a Zen Buddhist temple, Kencho-ji in the city of Kamakura, we will adopt practices used by monks living in this monastery. Students will participate in a session of zazen sitting and walking meditation for approximately three hours. Through these experiences we will engage in participant-observation, a qualitative research method technique.  We will use “jottings” a method for producing field notes, to record our observations.  Students will reflect on issues of subjectivity and challenges of qualitative research.  Learning goals include using participant-observation as an inductive method to design research questions; writing field notes; interpreting observation data. An effective goal includes demonstrating cultural sensitivity. FIELD ASSIGNMENT:  JAPAN-- Writing ethnographic field notes based on Field Lab. GOAL:  This will give you practice conducting ethnographic observation, writing field notes, and interpreting observation data. ASSIGNMENT: Qualitative participant observation, including jottings, and analysis.  You are expected to participate fully in all of the day's events. Observe the following characteristics of the people and setting:

  • Dress
  • Behavior (actions, their duration and sequence)
  • Positioning (where people stand or move in the setting)
  • Demographic characteristics (age, gender)
  • Conversations (if audible)
  • Physical features of the setting (lighting, decorations, layout, paths for movement)
During the observation use jottings, and immediately afterward, write notes about observations.  After the field lab, type out your notes– in complete sentences and paragraphs. Your completed field notes should be as detailed as possible and should include your analysis and reflections. Your interpretation can draw on our readings. GRADING CRITERIA Jottings & level of detail of field notes:           33 % Attention to dimensions noted above:            33 % Analysis & quality of interpretation:     33 % Academic Objectives: 1.  Practice qualitative research methods by observing and participating in Japanese monastery rituals 2.  Applying the concept of “Zen mind,” design three sociological research questions based on this field lab. 3.  Demonstrate sensitivity to monastery lifestyle by using sociological “jottings” to make preliminary field notes