# 1: Research
Questions and Hypotheses
by Brad Huber, Department of Sociology and
Anthropology, College of Charleston
DUE:__________________________, at the
beginning of class
The main goals of this exercise are: 1) to reinforce your
knowledge about the fundamental concepts of research, 2) to get
you to start thinking about the cross-cultural research project
you will undertake throughout the course, and 3) to familiarize
you with the electronic version of the Human Relations Area
Files or eHRAF World Cultures (commonly referred
to as "eHRAF.")
This project requires that you develop 5 research hypotheses.
All five hypotheses should deal with different aspects of the
same topic. To get some ideas about a topic, first think about
what interests you the most. Then consult the eHRAF via College
of Charleston's Library databases. The eHRAF database is found
by selecting "Human Relations Area Files". Once in the
database try browsing the OCM subjects by clicking "Browse",
then "Subjects", and then "Major Subjects. "
Here's the sort of topical information you'll find:
1: Residence, 591
prevailing rule governing the place of residence of a married
couple (e.g., matrilocal, avunculocal, patrilocal, neolocal);
existence of combined rules (e.g., alternating, bilocal,
matri?patrilocal); occurrence of alternative rules under special
circumstances; extent to which marriage normally involves the
removal of bride or groom to another community (e.g., local
exogamy, local endogamy); residence changes by children or
unmarried adults (e.g., removal to home of grandparents or
maternal uncle); residence changes made late in married life;
evidence bearing upon former or current changes in residence
2: Puberty and Initiation, 881
ideas, beliefs, and practices associated with first emissio
seminis and first menstruation; rites of passage at or near
puberty; prevalence of special initiation rites for each gender;
ceremonial sponsors; function and purpose of ceremonial; mystery
and seclusion; taboos; ordeals and tests; inculcation of secret
lore; special instruction in sex life; ideas of death and
3: Arranging A Marriage, 584
marriage preliminaries; courtship (e.g., opportunities,
methods); initiation of negotiations (e.g., by youth, by girl,
by parents of either); conduct of negotiations (e.g., by
parents, through a go?between); marriage brokers; proposal of
marriage; methods and consequences of rejection; requirement of
consent (e.g., conceptualization, announcement, ceremonial,
symbols, duration); status and behavior of betrothed persons;
infant betrothal (e.g., prevalence, procedure, nullification );
breaking an engagement (e.g., reasons, procedures,
consequences); adjustment to death of betrothed (e.g.,
substitution of a sibling); etc.
If you are in the College of Charleston library, these are some
good sources of ideas too:
TITLE: Dictionary of anthropology
CALL NUMBER: GN11D481986
TITLE: Encyclopedia of cultural anthropology (4 volumes)
Vol. 1 CALL NUMBER: GN307E521996 ?? V.1
TITLE: Encyclopedia of world cultures (10 volumes)
Vol. 1 CALL NUMBER: GN307E531991 ?? V.1
AUTHOR: Bernard, H. Russell
TITLE: Social Research Methods:
SUBTITLE: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
PUBLISHER: Sage Publications, Incorporated
PUBLICATION DATE: Jan. 1999
Please read Chapter 3 in Bernard's book titled Social
Research Methods for some good ideas on research methods.
Your project consists of handing in a typed double-spaced paper
that addresses the following issues. Please use complete
sentences and address these issues in the order that they appear
below. Use the following numbering system in your paper:
1) Clearly state five (5) hypotheses related to your
specific topic. The variables in your hypotheses must deal with
characteristics of societies rather than characteristics of
people. Consider the following example of a hypothesis using 2
variables, "Average Age of Shamans" and "Type of
subsistence pattern": It is hypothesized that "Shamans
tend to be younger in Hunting and Gathering Societies than in
Agricultural Societies." Or a hypothesis that relates
"Type of initiation rite" with "type of
post-marital residence". It is hypothesized that
"Female initiation rites tend to be found in societies with
matrilocal or natalocal post-marital residence." Your 5
hypotheses should be related but use ten (10) different
2) At least one of your hypotheses must be a cause and
effect relationship. Identify it.
3) Identify those variables which are unidimensional and
those which are multidimensional variables? Say why you think
your multidimensional variables are multidimensional.
4) Identify the dependent and independent variables of
your five hypotheses. Read "What's the Question" in
the Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research
for a definition of dependent and independent variables.
5) Give an example of one of your variables that could be
both an independent and a dependent variable.
6) Give conceptual definitions of your variables.
Conceptual definitions can be found in dictionaries and there
are even special reference works for anthropologists that give
conceptual definitions of anthropological concepts, or provide
you with a good start in developing them on your own. Check
those resources I've mentioned above. They're found in the
library's reference section:
7) Give operational definitions of your variables (see
also the section "Measures" in the Basic Guide to
When giving an operational definition assume that you'll be
consulting the ethnographic accounts of cultures found in the
eHRAF. The eHRAF contains the very best ethnographic data we
have on the cultures it covers, but it doesn't contain every
single kind of data. It has its limitations.
Specify exactly what you have to do in order to operationalize
something that has been defined conceptually. See pp. 38-40 of
Bernard' book titled Social Research Methods for ideas.
I've also included an example at the end of these instructions.
It's for the variable "Extended Family Households"
that has been coded as an ordinal level variable. The coder has
anticipated that cultures vary with respect to the frequency
with which extended family households are found in them. The
frequency of extended family households varies from being very
high in frequency (it's the norm or typical household) to being
infrequent or rare. See section "Measures" in the Basic Guide to
Cross-Cultural Research for more information.
8) Now that you've come up with operational definitions
for your variables, be sure to indicate whether they are at the
nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio level of measurement.
9) Now consider your cause and effect hypothesis, and
discuss the issues of covariation, lack of spuriousness,
precedence, and theory.
Your paper will be double-spaced and typed. It will be evaluated
according to the following criteria: 1) Coverage of main points,
2) Use of specific examples or details to illustrate your main
ideas, and 3) Clarity (including spelling, grammar, and
Citing eHRAF documents:
You should include a standard bibliographic reference for the
1996 Modernity at Large:
Cultural Dimensions of Globalization.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Don't forget to include page numbers
when citing material in the text! You should also include
the basic retrieval statement for an on-line database: Retrieved
[month day, year,] from [source] on-line database ([name of
database], [item no.--if applicable]).