Introduction to Social Research Methods

Sociology 180/280




Spring Quarter, 2004

Class Meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00A- 11:50A

Meyer Forum


Lab/Section once a week

time and place TBA


Michael J. Rosenfeld

Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology

Building 120 room 124

Office Hours 2:35-3:30, Wednesday


TA Paul Chang




††††††††††† This class should provide students with hands-on experience in three areas of applied social research: ethnography, archival/historical, and quantitative analysis of survey data.This class is based around three projects.All students will complete all three projects.Some projects are done in groups, others may be done individually.Given the 3 week time frame for each project, completed projects are not expected to be masterpieces, but rather students are expected to explore new ideas about how the social world can be studied.

††††††††††† Readings are provided to give examples of how research can be done (ethnography by Goffman; historical essays by Davidson and Lytle), to provide some practical advice for and a language for research (texts by Babbie and Davidson), and as a technical reference (STATA manuals and CPS documentation).There are no exams.


Successful student projects will contain 4 features:

* An attempt to test a stated hypothesis, with some reference to the theoretical ideas found in the assigned readings.

* The most important element of a good project is an explanation of how you did your research and what you found out.

* A brief map of how research might proceed if given more time and resources

* Some insight into the inherent limitations of the method for testing the stated hypothesis (learning about the limitations of research is as important as learning how to do research).

Readings and Grading Policy


Books required (available at Stanford Bookstore):

* Davidson, James West and Mark H. Lytle.1999.After the Fact:The Art of Historical Detection.McGraw Hill.

* Goffman, Erving.1963.Behavior in Public Places.Free Press.

* STATA Corp.2001.Getting Started with STATA for Windows OR Mac (version 8).



Books Recommended:

* STATA corp.2001.STATA reference manual extract (version 7).

* Babbie, Earl.2001.The Practice of Social Research (9th Edition). Wadsworth



Readings in the course packet:

Some notes from the handbook for the March, 2000 Current Population Survey.

(Required for the 3rd project)




Project 1 (historical/archival)


Project 2 (ethnography)


Project 3 (quantitative data analysis)


Section attendance and participation



Note: For each project, most of the grade will depend on the final written paper, and some smaller part of the grade will depend on preparatory assignments and on section presentations (if required) of the findings.The section attendance and participation grade will reflect general participation in section.


Project and Reading Assignment Timeline




Class lecture Goals




Mon Mar 29

No Class




Wed Mar 31

Introduce the class, and talk about project 1














Mon Apr 5

Library orientation

After the Fact, Prologue, Ch 6-7



Wed Apr 7

Different kinds of historical perspective.Social History, the view from 'the bottom rail'

After the Fact, Ch 9, 10

Written Historical Proposals Due in class



Discuss practical and theoretical aspects of Archival research









Mon Apr 12

Doing History, understanding sources, understanding perspective

After the Fact, Ch 10, 12



Weds Apr 14

Watergate, the Vietnam war, the Tonkin Gulf resolution.

After the Fact, Ch 14, 15




Discuss how the historical research is going









Mon Apr 19

Introduction to Ethnographic research


Written Historical Papers Due in class


Weds Apr 21

Issues in Human Subject Research; the Tuskegee experiment

Read Goffman, Ch 1-5




Discuss ideas for ethnographic project









Mon Apr 26

Participant Observation

Read Goffman, Ch 6-11



Weds Apr 28

Social Interaction,

Ethno methodology

Read Goffman, Ch. 12-15

Written Ethnographic Proposals Due in class



Discuss how the ethnographic project is going









Mon May 3



Read Babbie, Ch 10,13, and 18



Weds May 5






Discuss how the ethnographic project is going









Mon May 10

Introduction to Survey research


Written Ethnographic report due

Hand out CPS HW #1


Weds May 12

In Class demo of STATA

Read Intro to STATA

Babbie Ch. 4-7




Work on STATA, discuss the issues in CPS HW #1, discuss student proposals









Mon May 17

Probability sampling, sample size, bias


Babbie Ch. 4-7

CPS assignment #1 due.



Weds May 19

Practical and theoretical issues in survey research


Babbie, Ch 9, 15

Student proposals due for main CPS project



Work on STATA









Mon May 24





Weds May 26






Work on STATA, final chance to ask questions about the quantitative paper









Mon May 31

Memorial Day, No Class




Weds June 2



CPS final project due



NO Section--reading period.















Project 1: Archival/ Historical

††††††††††† This syllabus provides general suggestions about the assignments.Specific information and requirements for the proposal and the paper are posted on my website,

††††††††††† The assigned readings from this class are all from Davidson and Lytle's marvelous textbook After the Fact.The key to a successful historical project is the additional reading that each student will do.The more time you spend in the library and in the archives, looking at sources, hunting down citations from bibliographies, and trying to make sense of different perspectives, the more successful you project will be.Each chapter of After the Fact discusses one event or controversy or trend in American history, with a substantial bibliography.Davidson and Lytle's book will help you learn how to think like a historian:what is the evidence?Who was the author and what was his or her intended audience?What kinds of filters of censorship, self- censorship or bias do you need to consider?In some ways, a good historian is like a homicide detective.The historical record provides clues and witnesses, and the historian has to figure out 'who dunnit' and why.

††††††††††† The goal of the project is to find at least 2 sources (at least one of them primary) that describe a particular political, social, or historical event.Students will explore how the different sources provide different or overlapping perspectives on the event.You may choose any kind of historical event (political or social in nature) you like, but the event must be pre-1975.Written reports will be evaluated based on creativity in finding sources, imaginative use of sources, and on a theoretically grounded analysis of what the sources mean.Final reports should be 7-12 pages in length.The project proposal should be a 1-2 page explanation of what historical event you plan to examine, with a preliminary bibliography of the availability and suitability of sources.


Project 1 Timeline






Class meets with librarians.Students meet with librarians on their own, and evaluate sources.In section, discuss the information gathering


Weds, Apr 7

Written Historical Proposal due



Gather sources, compare their perspectives, discuss the findings in section.


Mon, Apr 19

Historical Paper due


††††††††††† Resources:

††††††††††† Stanford library has at least 4 different branches that you will need to know about

††††††††††† 1) Green library.See the reference librarians with questions.Also Malgorzata Schaefer ( is the instructional librarian, and we may ask her to give an orientation to the class.Green library has newspapers and magazines on microfilm, and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which can help you locate magazine articles about a certain subject.The newspapers are useful for getting the dates and names and places of events- start with the printed newspaper indices.Famous figures may have their papers published in edited volumes, and these would appear in Green (Booker T. Washington's papers, for instance, are here).

††††††††††† 2) Green library special collections.Green library has a small special collection room, but this room has some collections that may be useful or interesting, like the papers of Huey P. Newton, Project South, and the Civil War Diaries.See

††††††††††† 3) Hoover Archives.The Hoover archives has one of the world's great collections of materials on 20th century politics, war, and peace.The Hoover archive librarian Elena Danielson ( is eager to help students, and looks forward to responding to your inquiries.She has provided a long list of ideas for research, which are listed below under 'choosing an historical event..'

††††††††††† 4) The Hoover library (separate and distinct from the Hoover archives).Librarians Molly Molloy ( or Linda Weaver, are very helpful, and look forward to helping students find cool materials.The Hoover library specializes in 20th century materials on war, conflict and revolution.They have, according to the librarians, lots of material on World War I (including US reaction and, supposedly, dissent) as well as the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Revolution, the Nuremberg Trials, WWII Japanese Internment in the U.S. including newspapers published in the internment camps.They have, apparently, a big collection of newsletters published by all kinds of groups.See


††††††††††† Choosing an historical event to study:

††††††††††† One way to find a historical subject is start with one of the chapters in After the Fact, since these have good bibliographies.If you choose one of these subjects, however, your analysis must go beyond what is in the text.You also need to figure out if the Stanford libraries have the primary sources you want.


* Ch 6: John Brown's anti slavery rebellion (1859)

* Ch 7: Slavery, reconstruction and the WPA's freedpeople project (interviewing ex slaves)

* Ch 8: Jacob Riis and the photographic history of the slums of New York

* Ch 9: The US government's attempts to break the beef trust and regulate the food processing industry (under Teddy Roosevelt)

* Ch 10: The murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti

* Ch 11: The great depression, the dust bowl, and the great migration to California

* Ch 12: The US decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan

* Ch 14: Watergate

* Ch 15: Vietnam


††††††††††† Materials and Ideas from Elena Danielson at the Hoover Archives:


* There's a Poster collection, with 20K to 30K posters, and photos of posters with translations.(the textbook chapter on Riis' photos would help to frame the question of point of view, subject, and focus)


* There are some great materials on the Russian Revolution (1917), including the diary of Frank Golder, who was there.


* There are some great materials on Japanese internment.There are letters from interned Stanford students to their Stanford professor.There are photos.Think about the issue of censorship, noting that the newsletters from the camp (which are in the Hoover library) were censored, and the photos carry the censor's marks.There are also materials from pro internment California politicians, like Lilian Baker.


* There are some holocaust collections, or more specifically post- holocaust remembrances, translated.There is also a collection of papers of Jon Karski, who was a refugee from the Warsaw ghetto and miraculously escaped and came to the U.S. and tried to impress on Roosevelt the dire situation, and was met with empty and blank silence.


* There is a 'survey of race relations' consisting of interviews with immigrant Chinese and Japanese.Thetextbook chapter on the interviews with former slaves (which examines the wildly different interviews that the same person gave to two different interviewers) might help here.


* Letters home from GI's in WWII, which had to pass through a censor's filter.There is also General Stillwell's diary from WWII.


* From the 60s, there is a New Left collection, and there is a collection of papers from Sidney Hook, who in the 30s was a scion of radicalism but by the 60s was a more conservative voice of the establishment.


Project 2: Ethnography-


††††††††††† This syllabus provides general suggestions about the assignments.Specific information and requirements for the proposal and the paper are posted on my website,


Project 1 Timeline






Discuss potential proposals in section, form groups for joint proposals


Wed, Apr 28

2- page written proposal for ethnographic research due.This may be a group project, but each student turns in their own proposal.



Meet in sections to talk about how the ethnographic research is going



The ethnographic experiment should be well under way.In section, present preliminary findings and last minute issues.


Mon, May 10

Written Ethnographic paper due.Even in group projects, each student turns in their own paper.


A 'Breaching' Experiment

††††††††††† Readings:Goffman's Behavior in Public Places, and Babbie's textbook, read chapter 10 and skim through chapters 13 and 18.Successful papers will draw on some of the language presented in Goffman and Babbie, and use this language to frame their theoretical questions and observations.

††††††††††† The breaching experiment starts with a commonly accepted social rule (sometimes called a norm), such as 'it is inconsiderate to litter- put your garbage in the trash can'.In the breaching experiment, at least one member of the group violates the rule, and the group observes how others react, and the 'breacher' reports on how he/she feels.The actual 'breaching' should be done at least once by every member of the group, and other members should observe the experiment, and take notes for subsequent analysis.It's important to take notes as soon as you can after each trial of the experiment, so that you don't forget what happened.People who do ethnography for a living stress the importance of taking copious notes as soon after the encounter as possible.Pretend you're writing in a diary, and pretend you're getting paid by the word.Then, when it's time to write up your final paper, you'll have lots of data at hand to draw upon.Being able to draw upon precise recollections of how you felt and what the other person said will strengthen your paper.

††††††††††† Since the experiment should be done in groups, your proposal should be specific about where the experiment will take place, and how group members who are not immediately involved, will observe.Each group should agree on a single proposal, but each student must write a separate final report.The final report should answer the following questions:What was the norm you were trying to test or breach?What was your method for breaching the norm, i.e. how was your experiment designed?What did you expect to find?Did you find anything surprising?How did peoples' reactions to the breach differ?Did different members of the group get different results? In what ways did your experiment NOT work, and why?Projects will be evaluated based on the creativity and persistence of the experimenters, and the ability to incorporate some theoretical ideas from the readings.Written reports should be 10-12 pages in length.

††††††††††† Some issues to think about:What are you going to do if someone challenges you?Are you going to explain that you are doing research for a class, or are you going to stay 'in character'?Think about the problem of generalizability: would your experiment have worked out the same way if you had done it in downtown San Jose or in Chinatown in San Francisco?What about the bus station or a restaurant?What about in Church?Or at a sťance?If the different members of the group received persistently different responses, is it because of race or gender or age or how you dress?


Some examples:

††††††††††† * 'The inexplicable do-gooder':According to Babbie (chapter 10), it is a social rule that ordinary citizens should not pick up garbage from the street, or mend street signs, or otherwise fix problems.The social rule seems to be that city employees are responsible for cleaning the trash and fixing the signs, so individuals who engage in these activities are somehow suspect.According to Babbie, people have interesting, and sometimes negative reactions when they see somebody fixing something that isn't 'their job' to fix.

††††††††††† * 'The literalist'.See Babbie, P. 282-283.In this experiment (originally done by Garfinkel and his students), instead of responding normally to questions like 'how are you', a person treats every statement or question as if they didn't know there was a social rule for how to respond (i.e. 'I'm fine- how are you').

††††††††††† * What are the norms of behavior in enclosed spaces like elevators?Is there a norm about pausing personal conversations so that others don't overhear? (See Goffman, chapter 9)

††††††††††† * What are the rules for appearing to have a purpose, versus loitering?(See Goffman, Ch. 4 and Ch. 5)Why do we usually feel obligated to give off visible signs, like checking a watch, to let passers-by know that we are waiting for someone or something?

††††††††††† * What are the norms about talking to yourself in public?How are these norms affected by the new technology of cell phones with earpieces?

††††††††††† * What kinds of personal grooming are inappropriate in public (see Goffman, Ch. 5)

††††††††††† * What are the appropriate and inappropriate ways to get a complete stranger to engage in a conversation with you?See Goffman's Chapter 8, especially the 'damsel with large package', P. 140



Other Notes:

††††††††††† * You may choose to make up your own experiment.Make sure that your 'breaching' can't get you into any serious trouble.We will of course read your proposals and provide you with guidance about this.Think a bit about the ethics of interacting with other people.

††††††††††† * Your group may choose to do an ethnographic project other than a breaching experiment.You may do close observation of a ritual (read and think about Geertz' Notes on a Balinese Cockfight).Or you may choose to be a participant observer, or (under some false pretenses) infiltrate a group the way Gloria Steinem infiltrated the Playboy club in 1963.You could observe a panhandler (or a couple of panhandlers) to learn how they test and or subvert the accepted rules of engagement and disengagement.

††††††††††† * Even though the research you will be doing is exempt from official human subjects review because it is research for a class, you should be conscious of the fact that you are interacting with, observing, and studying other human beings who are not in this class.Treat them with respect.See

††††††††††† * One experiment you may NOT do is the 'pay too much for goods' experiment, because this experiment is studied in another class



Project 3: Data Analysis: Analysis of the Current Population Survey, with STATA


††††††††††† This syllabus provides general suggestions about the assignments.Specific information and requirements for the assignments, including the CPS dataset and its documentation, along with a brief STATA tutorial are all on my website,

††††††††††† The purpose of this project is for you to learn the basic elements of quantitative data analysis.In the process you'll learn about demography and stratification in the U.S., because the dataset is the Current Population Survey of March, 2000, which is a nationally representative survey of more than 60,000 households, with lots of information about race, gender, income, occupation, place of residence, and so on.You'll also learn how to use one of the most powerful and flexible tools for data analysis, the statistical software called STATA.STATA 7 is available on Macs in the residential halls, and on the PC cluster in Meyer Library.


a) There will be an initial assignment, whose goal is to familiarize students with the dataset and the software.A substantial portion of the CPS documentation is reproduced in the course reader, but the full documentation can be found at my website.


b) A second assignment will allow students to explore this nationally representative dataset, and test questions of inequality and stratification along gender, race, and ethnic lines.


Project 3 Timeline





Mon, May 10

CPS assignment #1 handed out



Support on how to use STATA, and how to work with data


Mon, May 17

CPS assignment #1 due


Weds, May 19

1 page student proposals due


Weds, June 2

Final CPS project due