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SOC101Y1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Participant Observation

Course Code
Sheldon Ungar
Study Guide

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SOC101Y1 Term Test #1
P. 1
the study of is the systematic study of human action in social context. It is based on the idea that our
relations with other people create opportunities for us to think and act but also set limits on our thoughts
and action.
oan elastic discipline that shares some elements in common with many other fields (e.g.
Underlying Sociology is Philosophy and its concepts of:
oOntology: What is real?
oEpistemology: How do we know what we know?
Birth of Sociology inspired by scientific revolution (16th c), democratic revolution (18th c),
industrial revolution (19th c)
Uses special point of view known as sociological perspective (seeing the general in particular,
identifying general patterns in the behaviour of particular individuals)
Sociologists recognize that society acts differently on various categories of people (children/adults,
oWe think sociologically when we realize how the general categories into which we happen to fall
shape our particular life experiences.
oE.g. Emile Durkheim recognized that suicide rates were strongly influenced by social forces, found
one of the main causes to be social solidarity

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SOC101Y1 Term Test #1
P. 2
Sociological imagination is a way of looking at the world that allows links between apparently private
problems and greater social issues
oHow are people influenced by their society?
The elements that constitute the social affect our opinions, values, beliefs, knowledge, habits, tastes,
desires, dreams
The way we understand our reality is shaped by the society in which we live
oTherefore it our understanding of it can be challenged and changed
Ordinary human inquiry uses causal and probabilistic reasoning
oTradition and authority provide us with starting points, but are not the end
oErrors include: Inaccurate Observations, Overgeneralization, Selective Observation, Illogical
oScience is about meticulously controlling for these errors and go beyond tradition and authority
Unlike common sense, sociology makes an effort to subordinate itself to the rigorous rules of
responsible speech
oThere is also the size of the field from which the material for sociological thinking is drawn
oThey differ in the way that each makes sense of human reality in terms of how they understand and
explain events and circumstances
oThe power of common sense depends on its self-evident character: that is, not to question its
precepts and to be self-confirming in practice
Sociological research is undertaken with the objective of: Describing, Understanding, and
Influencing or improving the social world in which we live
Social science is about logic (theory) and observations (methods)
oSocial research aims to find patterns of regularity in social life
oStudies the language of attributes (characteristics that describe people, cases, or things; e.g.
man/woman) and variables (logical groupings of attributes; e.g. gender)
The relationship between the two lies at the heart of both description and explanation in social
Social structure: relatively stable patterns of social relations that affect our thoughts, feelings, actions,
and identity; exists in three levels
oMicrostructures: patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction
oMacrostructures: patterns of social relations outside and above one’s circle of intimates and
oGlobal Structures: patterns of social relations outside and above the national level
Data are empirical facts, that only become meaningful when they are presented or considered in
relation to a theory
Theory a tentative explanation of some observed regularity
Sociology has four major theoretical traditions
oFunctionalism: How is social order supported by macrostructures? (role, function, purpose)
Stresses that human behaviour is governed by stable patterns of social relations (“social
Shows how social structures can either maintain or undermine social stability
Suggests social structures are based mainly on shared values or preferences
Argues that re-establishing equilibrium is best way to solve most social problems
oConflict Theory: How is social inequality maintained and challenged? (inequality, power, who
Focuses on large, macro-level structures (e.g., class relations)

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SOC101Y1 Term Test #1
P. 3
Shows how major patterns of inequality produce social stability in some circumstances & social
change in others
Stresses how members of privileged groups seek to maintain advantages while members of
subordinate groups struggle to increase theirs
Typically recommends eliminating privilege as a means of reducing social conflict and
increasing the sum of human welfare
Carl Marx’s conflict theory focused on class conflict, he believed workers would eventually
become aware of their exploitation; trade unions and labour parties would bring about
“communist” society
Max Weber noted growth of the service sector of economy and argued that members of this
group stabilized society; showed that class conflict is not the only driving force of historical
change, but also political and religious forces as well
oSymbolic Interactionism: How do people create meaning when they communicate in micro-level
settings? (meaning and its construction)
Focuses on interpersonal communication in micro-level social settings
Emphasizes social life is possible only because people attach meanings to things
Stresses people help to create their social circumstances, not merely react to them
Sometimes validates unpopular and unofficial viewpoints thereby increasing our understanding
and tolerance of people who may be different from us
Arose out of influence of Weber, Mead, & Goffman:
Weber emphasized importance of Verstehen: Empathetically understanding people’s motives
& meanings they attach to things to gain a clear sense of the significance of their actions
Mead argued individual’s sense of self is formed in the course of interaction with other people
Goffman compared social interaction to a carefully staged play, complete with front stage,
backstage, defined roles, & wide range of props
Social constructionism is a variant of symbolic interactionism; it argues that when people
interact, they typically assume things are naturally or innately what they seem to be
But natural/innate features of life are often sustained by social processes that vary
historically and culturally
oFeminism: What are the social sources of patriarchy in both macro and micro settings?
(interrogating categories)
Focuses originally on various aspects of patriarchy (system of male domination in society)
Suggests male domination and female subordination are determined by structures of power and
social convention rather than biological necessity
Examines operation of power in both micro-level and macro-level social settings
Recommends eliminating patterns of gender inequality, broaden its focus to beyond gender
Theories are ways of looking (i.e. understanding) parts of the world; they are models and each offer a
set of lenses to notice something you had not noticed before
Concepts are clusters of cases that allow to distinguish two things from each other
Researcher’s own personal values can have influence on how research question is chosen and
Research methods link sensed patterns with imagined propositions
oConcrete (sense experience) -> percepts (e.g. “beep”) -> patterns (“beep, beep, beep”)
oAbstract (imagined experience) -> concepts (abstract organizations of sense experience “beep =
danger”) -> Propositions (abstract statements that express relationship between concepts “danger =
I should move”)
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