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Theory, Research and Causation - Part 1.docx

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McMaster University
David Young

May 8 th Theory, Research and causation – Part 1 A. Sociological analysis  Macro theory – involved large large scale explanation of human behaviour i. They focus on the entire or large portions of the society ii. They deal with social structure  Micro theory i. Small scale explanations of human behaviour ii. Focus is on individuals and small groups iii. Focus is on social interaction B. Sociological inquiry (def in prev lecture)  Two issues: i. logical reasoning – this involves theory ii. empirical observation – involves research  theory and research are related in positivist, interpretive and critical approach positivist approach A. positivist approach aims to identify general laws of cause and effect in society o they really emphasize on causation B. major figures and schools of thought o (1) aguste compte – argued history had gone through three stages  1. Theological stage – dominated by religion  2. Metaphysical stage – philosophy  3. Positive stage – science  Essentially three diff ways of understanding the world, through science or other two  He coined the term ‘positivism’ which reflects his optimism on using science as a way to explain the world  He also coined the term sociology – refers to science of society  He argues that sociology should be modeled on the natural sciences – they focus on cause and effect relationships  E.g. sciences like bio and physics  Comte argues that just as we use these sciences to explain things, sociology can help explain what causes certain things to happen in the social world o 2) Emile durkhiem – agreed with compte on that socio should be based on natural science  Wrote a book on socio method – rules of sociological method  First book to outline this new science of society  He argued that socio should identify patterns or regularities in society  These will be reflected in stats  Durkhiem used stats to do studies (i.e. suicide)  Focusing on stats on what’s happening in society helps make us just as objective as the natural science – we can gather ‘objective data’  His ideas laid the ground for structural functionalism – this was really influenced by natural sciences, especially biology  Organismic analogy o 3) schools of thought (read chapter 2)  ‘early positivism’ and ‘structural positivism’ – read about them in chapter 2 C. Goals of sociological research – is to predict behaviour or developments in society o If we can identify the cause if should be easy to predict the effect D. Position on values in research o Research should be ‘value free’ – in other words ‘objective’ o Researchers need to put their own values aside and not let them influence our studies E. Associated research methods o Quantitative research methods  So they do experimental research  They do survey research  They rely on some form of numerical analysis F. Criticism of the positivist approach o 1. The idea of value free research is actually an unattainable goal o Hard to put a
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