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Sociology: Perspective, Theory, and Method

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1 Sociology: Perspective, Theory, and Method

2 “...The systematic study of human society ”
What Is Sociology? “...The systematic study of human society ” Systematic Scientific discipline that focuses attention on patterns of behavior Human society Group behavior is primary focus; How groups influence individuals and vice versa At the “heart of sociology” The sociological perspective which offers a unique view of society

3 Benefits of the Sociological Perspective
Helps us assess the truth of common sense Helps us assess both opportunities and constraints in our lives Empowers us to be active participants in our society Helps us live in a diverse world

4 Importance of Global Perspective
Where we live makes a great difference in shaping our lives Societies throughout the world are increasingly interconnected through technology and economics Many problems that we faced in the united states are more serious elsewhere Thinking globally is a good way to learn more about ourselves

5 The Sociological Perspective: Peter Berger
Seeing the general in the particular Sociologists identify general social patterns in the behavior of particular individuals Individuals are unique…but Society’s social forces shape us into “kinds” of people Seeing the strange in the familiar Giving up the idea that human behavior is simply a matter of what people decide to do Understanding that society shapes our lives

6 Durkheim’s Study of Suicide
Emile Durkheim’s research showed that society affects even our most personal choices. More likely to commit: male protestants who were wealthy and unmarried. Less likely to commit: male JEWS and CATHOLICS who were poor and married. One of the basic findings: why? The differences between these groups had to do with “social integration.” Those with strong social ties had less of a chance of COMMITING suicide.

7 Figure 1-1 (p. 3) Rate of Death by Suicide, by Race and Sex, for the United States

One of the youngest of academic disciplines, sociology has it origins in powerful social forces: Social Change Industrialization, urbanization, political revolution, and a new awareness of society Science 3-Stages: Theological, Metaphysical & Scientific Positivism – a way of understanding based on science Gender & Race These important contributions have been pushed to the margins of society

9 Sociological Theory Theory: a statement of how and why facts are related Explains social behavior to the real world Theoretical paradigm: a set of fundamental assumptions that guides thinking Three major approaches Structural-functional Social-conflict Symbolic-interaction

10 Structural –Functional Paradigm
The basics A macro-level orientation, concerned with broad patterns that shape society as a whole Views society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability Key elements: Social structure refers to any relatively stable patterns of social behavior found in social institutions Social function refers to the consequences for the operation of society as a whole

11 Who’s Who in Structural-Functional Paradigm
Auguste Comte Importance of social integration during times of rapid change Emile Durkheim Helped establish sociology as a university discipline Herbert Spencer Compared society to the human body, organic approach Talcott parsons Sought to identify tasks that every society must perform Robert K. Merton Manifest functions are recognized and intended consequences Latent functions are unrecognized and unintended consequences Social dysfunctions are undesirable consequences

12 Social-Conflict Paradigm
The basics: A macro-oriented paradigm Views society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and social change Key elements: Society is structured in ways to benefit a few at the expense of the majority Factors such as race, sex, class, and age are linked to social inequality Dominant group vs. Minority group relations Incompatible interests and major differences

13 Who’s Who in Social-Conflict Paradigm
Karl Marx The importance of social class in inequality and social conflict W.E.B. DuBois Race as the major problem facing the United States in the twentieth century

14 Symbolic Interaction Paradigm
The basics: A micro-level orientation, a close-up focus on social interactions in specific situations Views society as the product of everyday interactions of individuals Key elements: Society is nothing more than the shared reality that people construct as they interact with one another Society is a complex, ever-changing mosaic of subjective meanings

15 Who’s Who in Symbolic-Interaction Paradigm
Max Weber Understanding a setting from the people in it George Herbert Mead How we build personalities form social experience Erving Goffman Dramaturgical analysis George Homans & Peter Blau Social-exchange analysis

16 Forms of Truth Belief or faith Expert testimony Simple agreement
Science Logical system that bases knowledge on direct systematic observation

17 3 Frameworks for Sociological Investigation
Scientific sociology The study of society based on systematic observation of social behavior Empirical evidence – information we can verify with our senses Interpretive sociology The study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their social world Critical sociology The study of society that focuses on the need for change

18 Scientific Sociology Terminology
Concepts A mental construct that represent some part of the world in a simplified form Variables Concepts whose values change from case to case Measurement A procedure for determining the value of a variable in a specific case Operationalizing a variable Specifying exactly what is to be measured before assigning a value to a variable

19 Scientific Sociology Terminology
Reliability – consistency in measurement Does an instrument provide for a consistent measure of the subject matter? Validity – precision in measuring exactly what one intends to measure Does an instrument actually measure what it sets out to measure?

20 Causation Cause and effect Types of variables Correlation
A relationship in which change in one variable causes change in another Types of variables Independent: the variable that causes the change Dependent: the variable that changes (it’s value depends upon the independent variable) Correlation A relationship by which two or more variables change together Spurious correlation An apparent, though false, relationship between two or more variables caused by some other variable

21 Correlation Does Not Mean Causation
Conditions for cause and effect to be considered Existence of a correlation The independent (causal) variable precedes the dependent variable in time No evidence suggests that a third variable is responsible for a spurious correlation between the two original variables

22 Scientific Sociology Terminology
Objectivity A state of personal neutrality in conducting research Value-free research Weber says sociologists should strive to be dispassionate and detached Replication Repetition of research by other investigators Helps limit distortion caused by personal values

23 Limitations of Scientific Sociology
Human behavior is too complex to predict precisely any individual’s actions The mere presence of the researcher may affect the behavior being studied Social patterns change Sociologists are part of the world they study making value-free research difficult

24 Gender And Research Androcentricity Gynocentricity Overgeneralizing
Approaching the topic from a male-only perspective Gynocentricity Approaching the topic from a female-only perspective (less common than Androcentricity) Overgeneralizing Using data collected from one sex and applying the findings to both sexes Gender blindness The failure to consider the impact of gender at all Double standards Using different standards to judge males and females Interference This occurs when a subject under study reacts to the sex of the researcher and thereby interferes with the research operation

25 Ethical Guidelines for Research
Must strive to be technically competent & fair-minded Must disclose findings in full without omitting significant data & be willing to share their data Must protect the safety, rights and privacy of subjects Must obtain informed consent-- subjects are aware of of risks and responsibilities and agree Must disclose all sources of funding & avoid conflicts of interest Must demonstrate cultural sensitivity

26 Sociological Research Methods a Systematic Plan for Conducting Research
Experiment – a research method for investigating cause and effect under highly controlled conditions Hypothesis – an unverified statement of a relationship between variables (an educated guess) Placebo – a treatment that seems to be the same but has no effect on the experiment Hawthorne effect – a change in a subject's behavior caused by the awareness of being studied

27 Survey Research a Research Method in Which Subjects Respond to a Series of Statements or Questions in a Questionnaire or Interview Population The people who are the focus of the research Sample The part of the population that represents the whole Random Sample Drawing a sample from a population so that every element of the population ahs an equal chance of being selected

28 Questionnaire a Series of Written Questions a Researcher Presents to Subjects
Closed-ended A series of fixed responses; easy to analyze but narrows range of responses Open-ended Free response; broadens range of responses but harder to analyze Most surveys are self-administered; pretesting can avoid costly problems

29 Other Research Methods
Interviews A series of questions a researcher administers in person to respondents Participant observation A research method in which a investigators systematically observe people while joining in their routine activities Secondary analysis A research method in which a researcher used data collected by others

30 10 Steps In Sociological Investigation
Select and define topic Review the literature Develop key questions to ask Assess requirements for study Consider ethical issues Select a research methodology Collect the data Interpret the findings State conclusions Publish the findings

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