1.1 What Is Sociology?

Sociology is the systematic study of society and social interaction. In order to carry out their studies, sociologists identify cultural patterns and social forces and determine how they affect individuals and groups. They also develop ways to apply their findings to the real world.

1.2 The History of Sociology

Sociology was developed as a way to study and try to understand the changes to society brought on by the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some of the earliest sociologists thought that societies and individuals roles in society could be studied using the same scientific methodologies that were used in the natural sciences, while others believed that is was impossible to predict human behavior scientifically, and still others debated the value of such predictions. Those perspectives continue to be represented within sociology today.

1.3 Theoretical Perspectives

Sociologists develop theories to explain social events, interactions, and patterns. A theory is a proposed explanation of those social interactions. Theories have different scales. Macro-level theories, such as structural functionalism and conflict theory, attempt to explain how societies operate as a whole. Micro-level theories, such as symbolic interactionism, focus on interactions between individuals.

1.4 Why Study Sociology?

Studying sociology is beneficial both for the individual and for society. By studying sociology people learn how to think critically about social issues and problems that confront our society. The study of sociology enriches students lives and prepares them for careers in an increasingly diverse world. Society benefits because people with sociological training are better prepared to make informed decisions about social issues and take effective action to deal with them.

Section 1.1  What Is Sociology?

  • sociology: the systematic study of society and social interaction
  • society: a group of people who live in a defined geographical area who interact with one another and who share a common culture
  • micro-level theories: the study of specific relationships between individuals or small groups
  • macro-level: a wide-scale view of the role of social structures within a society
  • culture: a group's shared practices, values, and beliefs
  • sociological imagination: the ability to understand how your own past relates to that of other people, as well as to history in general and societal structures in particular
  • reification: an error of treating an abstract concept as though it has a real, material existence
  • figuration: the process of simultaneously analyzing the behavior of an individual and the society that shapes that behavior

Section 1.2  The History of Sociology

  • positivism: the scientific study of social patterns
  • significant others: specific individuals that impact a person's life
  • generalized others: the organized and generalized attitude of a social group
  • verstehen: a German word that means to understand in a deep way
  • value neutrality: a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment during the course of a study and in publishing results
  • antipositivism: the view that social researchers should strive for subjectivity as they worked to represent social processes, cultural norms, and societal values
  • quantitative sociology: statistical methods such as surveys with large numbers of participants
  • qualitative sociology: in-depth interviews, focus groups, and/or analysis of content sources as the source of its data

Section 1.3  Theoretical Perspectives

  • theory: a proposed explanation about social interactions or society
  • hypothesis: a testable proposition
  • social solidarity: the social ties that bind a group of people together such as kinship, shared location, and religion
  • grand theories: an attempt to explain large-scale relationships and answer fundamental questions such as why societies form and why they change
  • paradigms: philosophical and theoretical frameworks used within a discipline to formulate theories, generalizations, and the experiments performed in support of them
  • functionalism: a theoretical approach that sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of individuals that make up that society
  • social institutions: patterns of beliefs and behaviors focused on meeting social needs
  • function: the part a recurrent activity plays in the social life as a whole and the contribution it makes to structural continuity
  • dynamic equilibrium: a stable state in which all parts of a healthy society work together properly
  • social facts: the laws, morals, values, religious beliefs, customs, fashions, rituals, and all of the cultural rules that govern social life
  • manifest functions: sought consequences of a social process
  • latent functions: the unrecognized or unintended consequences of a social process
  • dysfunctions: social patterns that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society
  • conflict theory: a theory that looks at society as a competition for limited resources
  • symbolic interactionism: a theoretical perspective through which scholars examine the relationship of individuals within their society by studying their communication (language and symbols)
  • dramaturgical analysis: a technique sociologists use in which they view society through the metaphor of theatrical performance
  • constructivism: an extension of symbolic interaction theory which proposes that reality is what humans cognitively construct it to be

Section 1.1 What Is Sociology?

What Are Society and Culture?
Studying Patterns: How Sociologists View Society
Studying Part and Whole: How Sociologists View Social Structures

Section 1.2 The History of Sociology

Creating a Discipline
 Auguste Comte
 Harriet Martineau – the First Woman Sociologist
 Karl Marx
 Herbert Spencer
 Georg Simmel
 Émile Durkheim
 George Herbert Mead
 Max Weber

Section 1.3 Theoretical Perspectives

Conflict Theory
Symbolic Interactionist Theory

 Sociological Theory Today

Section 1.4 Why Study Sociology?

Sociology in the Workplace

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2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research

Using the scientific method, a researcher conducts a study in five phases: asking a question, researching existing sources, formulating a hypothesis, conducting a study, and drawing conclusions. The scientific method is useful in that it provides a clear method of organizing a study. Some sociologists conduct research through an interpretive framework rather than employing the scientific method.

Scientific sociological studies often observe relationships between variables. Researchers study how one variable changes another. Prior to conducting a study, researchers are careful to apply operational definitions to their terms and to establish dependent and independent variables.

2.2 Research Methods

Sociological research is a fairly complex process. As you can see, a lot goes into even a simple research design. There are many steps and much to consider when collecting data on human behavior, as well as in interpreting and analyzing data in order to form conclusive results. Sociologists use scientific methods for good reason. The scientific method provides a system of organization that helps researchers plan and conduct the study while ensuring that data and results are reliable, valid, and objective.

The many methods available to researchers including experiments, surveys, field studies, and secondary data analysis all come with advantages and disadvantages. The strength of a study can depend on the choice and implementation of the appropriate method of gathering research. Depending on the topic, a study might use a single method or a combination of methods. It is important to plan a research design before undertaking a study. The information gathered may in itself be surprising, and the study design should provide a solid framework in which to analyze predicted and unpredicted data.

2.3 Ethical Concerns

Sociologists and sociology students must take ethical responsibility for any study they conduct. They must first and foremost guarantee the safety of their participants. Whenever possible, they must ensure that participants have been fully informed before consenting to be part of a study.

The ASA maintains ethical guidelines that sociologists must take into account as they conduct research. The guidelines address conducting studies, properly using existing sources, accepting funding, and publishing results.

Sociologists must try to maintain value neutrality. They must gather and analyze data objectively and set aside their personal preferences, beliefs, and opinions. They must report findings accurately, even if they contradict personal convictions.

Introduction to Sociological Research

  • empirical evidence: evidence that comes from direct experience, scientifically gathered data, or experimentation
  • meta-analysis: a technique in which the results of virtually all previous studies on a specific subject are evaluated together
  • scientific method: an established scholarly research method that involves asking a question, researching existing sources, forming a hypothesis, designing and conducting a study, and drawing conclusions

Section 2.1   Approaches to Sociological Research

  • reliability: a measure of a study s consistency that considers how likely results are to be replicated if a study is reproduced
  • validity: the degree to which a sociological measure accurately reflects the topic of study
  • operational definitions: specific explanations of abstract concepts that a researcher plans to study
  • literature review: a scholarly research step that entails identifying and studying all existing studies on a topic to create a basis for new research
  • hypothesis: a testable educated guess about predicted outcomes between two or more variables
  • independent variables: variables that cause changes in dependent variables
  • dependent variables: a variable changed by other variables
  • interpretive framework: a sociological research approach that seeks in-depth understanding of a topic or subject through observation or interaction; this approach is not based on hypothesis testing

Section 2.2  Research Methods

  • Hawthorne effect: when study subjects behave in a certain manner due to their awareness of being observed by a researcher
  • survey: collect data from subjects who respond to a series of questions about behaviors and opinions, often in the form of a questionnaire
  • population: a defined group serving as the subject of a study
  • sample: small, manageable number of subjects that represent the population
  • random sample: a study s participants being randomly selected to serve as a representation of a larger population
  • quantitative data: represent research collected in numerical form that can be counted
  • qualitative data: comprise information that is subjective and often based on what is seen in a natural setting
  • interview: a one-on-one conversation between the researcher and the subject
  • field research: gathering data from a natural environment without doing a lab experiment or a survey
  • primary data: data that are collected directly from firsthand experience
  • correlation: when a change in one variable coincides with a change in another variable, but does not necessarily indicate causation
  • participant observation: when a researcher immerses herself in a group or social setting in order to make observations from an "insider" perspective
  • ethnography: observing a complete social setting and all that it entails
  • case study: in-depth analysis of a single event, situation, or individual
  • experiment: the testing of a hypothesis under controlled conditions
  • secondary data analysis: using data collected by others but applying new interpretations
  • nonreactive research: using secondary data, does not include direct contact with subjects and will not alter or influence people s behaviors
  • content analysis: applying a systematic approach to record and value information gleaned from secondary data as it relates to the study at hand

Section 2.3  Ethical Concerns

  • code of ethics: a set of guidelines that the American Sociological Association has established to foster ethical research and professionally responsible scholarship in sociology
  • value neutrality: a practice of remaining impartial, without bias or judgment during the course of a study and in publishing results

Section 2.1 Approaches to Sociological Research

The Scientific Method
 Ask a Question
 Research Existing Sources
 Formulate a Hypothesis

Section 2.2 Research Methods

Field Research

 Participant Observation
 Institutional Ethnography
 Case Study
Secondary Data Analysis

Section 2.3 Ethical Concerns

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