SOCA01 Lecture 3: Introduction to Sociology; Week 3.docx
Introduction to Sociology
Week 3; September 17th 2014
•How do we develop knowledge about the everyday world?
•How does research differ from hearsay?
•What tools can we employ to learn about the world in a systematic way?
•How is academic research rigorous?
•Research can often be used to better understand our social world
oIt can lead to policy decisions, debunking of myth, and challenging of
Vaccinations, school curriculum, access to social welfare, etc.
•It is also often ignored by policy makers when it does not fit their political agenda
How we know
oGained directly through our senses
oOccurs in the mind, defined by imagination.
oEmploys concepts and propositions
Concepts: “abstract terms used to organize concrete experience”
Propositions: “ideas that result from finding the relationship
•Epistemology- Study of knowledge, particularly the theories, methods, and scope
used to define the world.
Science and scientific thinking
•Science is based on evidence
oDeductions are made according to the data available
oBased on the observation and collection of data
oCan be limited and not definite
oHas often ignored traditional knowledge at its own peril
•Who is smarter, dogs or people?
What is not science?
•Tall tales or half truths
o“Cracking knuckles will lead to arthritis”
Knowledge based on tradition
oBelief based on an authoritative source
oBell curve, clash of civilizations, etc.
oDeductions made at first glance or based on memory
Memory has been found to be unreliable
One observation cannot lead to broad conclusions
oInformation based on tropes or limited samples that try to explain broad
“If you work hard you can get ahead. I know because several of my
parents’ friends started off poor but are now comfortably in the
middle class” (p. 39, emphasis in original)
•How did most of the wealthiest people get their wealth?
•What is the middle class?
•Claims to a meritocracy
oIgnoring evidence that does not confirm our beliefs
•Qualification or exception to the rule
oUnwillingness to challenge long-held paradigms and placing the exception
as an anomaly rather than the rule
“People of color don’t care about schooling”
•Has been proven false numerous times but remains a
prevalent descriptor of racialized people in Canada.
o“I just can’t be wrong”
oNo one and no study is above critique
•Premature closure of inquiry
oAll theories are temporary
oBelief in supernatural forces
oThere has been no proof of the absence of supernatural forces but this
process is aimed at finding observable causes of observable effects
•Science is limited to the tools and imagination of the people engaging in research
oNot all knowledge is observable
oTools are developed that allow us to understand phenomena once
oScience should not be seen as definitive
•The research question
oInquiry guiding the research agenda.
Must be focused and doable
Must be answerable based on collectable data
Must be nuanced and take into account previous studies
•Review of literature
oUnderstanding of what has been done before that informs our
understanding of our topic
oCan include a critique of previous studies
Regarding scope, focus, methods, population, etc.
•Selecting a method
oNumerous methods available
oAll come with limitations and may be best suited for a particular type of
oProvide us with different kinds of information regarding the topic studied
oEmployment of method outlined previously
oMaking sense of data collected
oFinding patterns through a rigorous process
Statistics, coding, etc.
oCan force us to reconsider theories and lead in new directions
oMaking new information available to similarly interested persons
Often in the form of journal or book publications
•Journals are available regarding a large number of topics
oOften available only to other academics due to high
cost of journal membership
A primary feature of academic employment
•“Publish or perish”
•Research can have important effects on the world and the participant.
oRight to safety (must do no harm)
Exposure to dangerous substances or potentially psychological
trauma among other dangers (adverse effect)
•Right to privacy
o“The right to decide whether…attitudes and behaviors may be revealed to
the public and in what way” (p. 42)
•Right to confidentiality
oResearchers must find ways to describe information while protecting
•Right to informed consent
oKnowledge of how information will be used and the degree of personal
Ethical protections often include: