Course Description

This course introduces students to an array of research methods used by social scientists when they conduct research.  In most social science courses, we tend to focus on the substantive findings of social research.  For example:
  • the effects of divorce on children
  • Americans’ feelings and responses toward new immigration
  • the impact on communities of moving jobs overseas
  • impact of institutional racism on the lives and life chances of different group
  • the impact of rising crime on a community
  • why crime is rising in a community, etc. 

We generally pay less attention to how social scientists came to these findings in the first place.  This latter question is the central focus of this course.  One of the principle objectives of this course is to help you gain knowledge of different methods used by social scientist for gathering empirical data.  As you become more familiar with different “methodologies,” you'll also gain a better understanding of how theory and research work in conjunction with each other.  

Even if you don't become researchers yourselves, you are still surrounded by social science research.  Newspapers, magazines, and television (as well as other media) report regularly on social phenomena.  Once more, as you gain a better understanding of different research methods, you'll also begin to understand how to critically evaluate a study or report.  You'll become better equipped to critically judge the scientific merit of a study based on its methodology; to what degree should the results of a study be trusted or should you accept a study's findings simply because it confirms what I already believe?

Required Textbook

We'll be using Earl Babbie's The Basics of Social Research, 5th Edition (ISBN-13: 9780495812241).  I ordered the book at Shakespeare & Co.

This book is listed at $120.00.  I realise that this is VERY expensive and I have no idea how much Shakespeare & Co. is charging you for it.  However, there are a number of alternatives to buying the book.  You may
  1. use the book at the Hunter College Library (go to the Reserves section)
  2. rent the book (either as download, by chapter, or entirely online) from
    • CenengageBrain
    • Coursemart
      • offers a download or online version; if you prefer reading offline, choose the download version
      • also has an iPad app so you may access the textbook from anywhere
  3. check these sites to see if you can find the book for less
  4. get a Kindle edition for about $49.00 at Amazon
  5. buy an "International Edition" or even the "4th Edition"
    • either the "International Edition" or the 4th Edition should be fine; just be aware that there may be some minor differences.
I trust that there are enough alternatives here that you will be able to obtain the book somehow.  PLEASE TRY TO HAVE ACCESS TO THIS BOOK ASAP.

Objectives / Expected Outcomes

There are five main course objectives; students should

  1. become familiar with different research methods employed in the social sciences
  2. gain a better understanding of the relationship between theory and research
  3. develop skills for critically analyzing research
  4. gain better understanding of planning, organizing, and conducting their own research project
  5. improve research writing skill

Method / Organization

I am a firm believer in "learning by doing."  Nowhere is that more true than in the case of research methods.  Thus, this course is organized into a semester-long research project.  Together, we will decide on a research question and project in the first couple weeks of class; then, throughout the semester, we'll apply what you learn from your textbook and lectures to actually try find an answer to our research question.

In the broadest terms, research methods may be divided into so-called "quantitative" and "qualitative" methods.  We'll be using both to try and find our answers.  Together, you'll design some kind of survey or instrument, determine how to distribute your survey, gather your data, make fieldnotes, etc.  By the end of the semester, you will have effectively gone through all the steps of conducting a research project and hopefully made some headway toward answering our research question.

In other words, it's as if you've just been hired as a Research Associate.  Our class meetings will be akin to the type of meetings that take place in real-world situations as research teams set about defining, planning, implementing, and gathering data for research projects.  And what you do will be similar to what researchers do.


There is really only one assignment-- the semester-long research project.  However, it's been sequenced into a number of smaller assignments to allow you (and me) to continually gauge your progress and understanding of the course materials.  Given this structure, it is heavily focused on group or collaborative work; you are expected to work with your classmates and contribute to implementing each part of the project.  This process is exactly what happens amongst "real" researchers.

This research project is worth 80% of your grade!  Please go to Assignments section to see the full details of this project.

Attendance / Tardy Policy

Attendance is not required per se, but since I've structured the class with a fair amount of in-class work, your attendance is important.  If you miss a class wherein we have a class activity, you will receive a 0 for that activity.  THERE ARE NO MAKE-UPS FOR THESE MISSED CLASSES!

As for being tardy, of course there are times when being late is unavoidable but DO NOT make this a habit!!!  Walking into class late is incredibly disruptive and rude to me and your fellow classmates.  Again, given the structure of the class, it will be unacceptable for you to join a group discussion already well underway.

Contacting Me

If you need to speak with me, you may use the contact form, simply email me directly, or come to my office hours. 

Please keep in mind that if you decide to email me, you should always include your FULL name and the class you're taking with me-- there's always a good chance that there is more than one person with your first name.  Also keep in mind that I am not your buddy or your pal-- do not use email or text message speak with me-- I do not want to have to spend time trying to decipher your message.  In fact, this is a good general rule-- when contacting your professional associates, it's always a good idea to use more formal writing.


Research Project (please see Assignments for a full breakdown of the grading for each assignment)
20% Comprehensive Final Exam

Honor Code

Hunter College takes the Honor Code VERY seriously.  If I suspect you of cheating in anyway including plagiarism, I have no choice but to report you to the college.  In such cases, you risk being expelled from the school.
K. B. Pok-Carabalona,
Jan 27, 2011, 4:32 PM
K. B. Pok-Carabalona,
Jan 27, 2011, 4:25 PM