Sociological Research Methods

Sociological research methods are important tools in ensuring that the findings of a particular research can be applied to a population different from the one that was used as the sample. This calls for researchers to ensure that proper definition of concepts and careful selection of samples is done before embarking on the actual research. This will ensure that findings of the research can be generalized to any given population and eliminate the issue of biasness. However, this is not an easy task because coming up with holistically defined concepts and samples that fully eliminate biasness of research findings is a toll order. This paper evaluates the extent to which concepts used in a study Student Anger and Aggressive Behavior in School: An Initial Test of Agnew's Macro-Level Strain Theory were defined by authors of the study.

Different researchers use various concepts to carry out a research on related subject. More often than not, the results of a research are different from the conclusions of previous researches. Through hypothesis and analysis, the results and conclusions may be adjusted to conform to the most logical conclusions in a particular subject. This paper evaluates concepts that were used in a research titled Student Anger and Aggressive Behavior in School: An Initial Test of Agnew's Macro-Level Strain Theory. Both the concepts and the sample that were used in this research were appropriate to the study.

Major Concepts and the Extent to Which They are Defined by Authors

Major concepts that authors of this study focused on included anger, fighting, and arguments between students and their teachers. These concepts were generally defined as aggressive behaviors and as conflicts with peers. However, a closer look at what each concept means reveals that authors did not exhaustively discuss the definition of each concept. For instance, aggressive behaviors among students can be a result of several factors including environment in which live or can even be emanating from family issues at home.

According to this study, authors used aggressive behavior as a collective term to refer to all unwanted behaviors that students in public schools are likely to engage in. Among the aggressive behaviors that authors of this research included in their study are anger, violence, and various deviant behaviors. The authors define the concept and provide examples of aggressive behaviors, which include those acts that could lead to criminal prosecution. This, of course, is a conclusive concept only to the extent concerned by the law. However, it is notable that some student behaviors like rudeness with teachers and fellow students cannot be punished in a criminal court even though they are likely to cause disruption in schools.

Moreover, the authors did not include minor behaviors, which would in their own right cause disruptions in schools. This is because such behaviors do not merit criminal label or even cause physical harm to other students or teachers. Consequently, authors’ definition of what constituted aggressive behavior was inconclusive as far as disruptive behaviors in school were concerned. This is because some students' behaviors may not be in direct conflict with what constitutes aggressive behaviors according to the definition in this research, but on their own may interrupt activities of other students. For instance, a student, who fails to complete her or his assignment and who makes the teacher spend the first 10 minutes of class on interrogating the student, would easily qualify as showing disruptive behavior and may have a negative effect on other students.

The authors sampled public schools across the country and investigated different types and rates of aggressive behavior and their causative factors among public school students. From findings of the study, it was clear that aggressive behaviors among school children were seen as a national problem. The results also indicated that bullying was among the most prevalent forms of aggressive behavior. Those who engaged in bullying confessed doing it in order to protect themselves or show their dominance. Students who participated in the study also indicated that they related aggressive behaviors to teachers' actions or accusations of wrongdoings. In addition, past experiences, like being bullied in lower classes or witnessing incidents of violence, also increased the probability that a student in school could engage in a certain form of aggressive behavior.

To increase accuracy and reliability of the study researchers characterized aggressive behaviors among public school students into verbal, nonverbal, and physical aggression. This characterization is important as far as understanding of contributing factors is concerned. To remain relevant, the study put much emphasis on the concept of aggressive behavior and its variant forms like violence and bullying, since these were the most common forms of misbehavior among public schools students. This was also in line with the earlier findings discussed in the review of literature, which revealed that aggressive behaviors among public school students are multifaceted in nature. Study’s literature review thus revealed both internal and external causative factors that contributed to higher rates of aggressive behaviors among students.  

The study used a sample of 2213 male students, who were chosen from randomly selected public schools. The authors noted that this sample was a constitution of “an essentially bias-free representation of 10th-grade boys in public high schools throughout the United States”. The selection of sample participants was done randomly thus all people had equal probability of participating in study. However, this sample may not have been very a representative of the entire population. This is because the researchers did not include female students even though the number of cases of aggressive behaviors amongst female students is also high. In addition, they did not consider the need to evaluate the causes of anger amongst students, who were attending single-gender schools. This would have helped them determine if this also contributed to aggressive behaviors amongst students in schools. On their part, authors assumed that by randomly selecting a large number of male students from public schools their conclusions would be an accurate reflection of what caused aggressive behaviors amongst students across all public schools.

In my opinion, the sample was not a general representation of the true picture of what happens in schools considering that the researchers did not include female students. They also failed to consider students of private schools, where environment of learning is very different from that in public schools. Exclusion of this vital section from the sample means that findings of the study cannot be generalized to a population of all girl public schools.

Moreover, this study left out several factors that were important in determining the causes of anger and conflict amongst students. For instance, the study did not evaluate how teachers can influence their student to become angry and as a result engage in aggressive behaviors. Similarly, the study failed to include female students in the sample. Motivators for aggressive behaviors amongst male and female students certainly differ, and thus there was a need to include female students in the study so that their conclusions could be generalized to other populations. As such, the generalization of findings of this study is possible only to the population, which consists of only male public school students.


Concepts that were used in this study were important in determining the causes of aggressive behaviors amongst students. However, the extent to which researchers defined chosen concepts determined the level of applicability of findings of the study. In the same manner, the sample used was supposed to be a representation of the entire population that the researchers wanted their findings to be generalized to. The selection of a study sample had to include all factors, including gender and environment, since all these factors influence behaviors of students in schools. From the above evaluation of the concepts, it is evident that the authors did not capture all parameters in those concepts. The authors also did not include relevant participants of the sample like female students and students of private schools.

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