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SOCI 2001 CH1.docx

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Carleton University
SOCI 2001

SOCI 2001CHAPTER ONE GENERAL RESEARCH ORIENTATIONSTheory is an explanation of observed regularities or patterns For example the finding that schizophrenia is more common in the working class then in the middle class or that more men than women are alcoholics Theories are composed of interrelated and verifiable statements or propositionsPurpose of theory To assess the adequacy of a particular social theory To gather information to create social theory To understand pressing social problemsTo explore personal experienceThree components of a theory1Definitions specify what the key terms in the theory mean for example crime is any violation of the Canadian Criminal Code and includes arson embezzling etc2Descriptions outlines the characteristics of the phenomena of interest for example Arson involves the illegal setting of fires and is often done at night either to abandoned buildings or houses when no one is home There are 438 cases of arson last year with estimated damage over 2 billion3Relation statements connect two or more variables so that knowing the value of one variable conveys information about the other for example As the economy experiences a downturn the arson rates increases Rational forms could be either deterministic or probabilisticTypes of theoriesTheories of middle rangeTheories that represent attempts to understand and explain a limited aspect of social life Example of this would be Durkheims theory of suicide which maintains that suicide is the function of the level of social integration Another example is Mertons anomie theory which suggests that crime is more common when a society instils a desire for wealth in everyone but provides insufficient means for all to achieve itIt is limited in scope and could be tested directlyGrand theoriesTheories that are general and abstract cannot be tested directly Includes theories such as structural functionalism symbolic interactionism critical theory poststructuralism feminism and so on They often collect few direct indications of how to collect evidence to test them but they provide ways of looking at the world that can be inspiration for a wide variety of research programs For example standpoint theory by Dorothy Smith maintained that the way we the view the world and make our way in it is largely determined by our placement in various hierarchies of status and power
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