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Chapter 2

SOAN 2120 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Cherry Picking, Verstehen, Spurious Relationship

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2120
William Walters

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Chapter Two
Blame Analysis
Definition: a type of counterfeit argument presented as if it were a theoretical
explanation and backed by empirical evidence.
Assumes there is a party or source to which a fixed amount of responsibility
can be attached.
Limitations: It confuses blame with cause (gives an account or story instead
of logical explanation with intervening casual mechanism), it fails to explore
empirical evidence for and against several alternative causes.
First provides an unfortunate circumstance, next identifies one or more
responsible parties, then provides selective evidence that shields certain
parties or sources
The Parts of Theory
Concept: an idea expressed as a symbol or in words with two parts
A symbol: A word or term
Concept Clusters
Interconnected groups
E.g. amount of income, temperature, density of population, years of
schooling, degree of violence
Classification Concepts
Partway between a single, simple concept and a theory. They help
organize abstract, complex concepts.
Ideal type: Pure, abstract models that define the essence of the
phenomenon in question.
Qualitative researchers often use ideal types to see how well
observable phenomena match up to the ideal model.
Concepts vary by scope, some are highly abstract, some are at a
middle level of abstraction and some are at a concrete level.
Statements about the nature of things that are not observable or testable.
Concepts and theories build on assumptions about the nature of human
being, social reality or a particular phenomenon.
How concepts relate to one another.
Theories give us reasons for why the relationship does or does not exist.
This is called a hypothesis: when a researcher empirically tests or evaluates
such a relationship
Proposition: a relationship in a theory in which the scientific community
starts to gain greater confidence and feels it is likely to be truthful
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The Aspects of Theory
The direction of its reasoning
The level of social reality that it explains
The forms of explanation it employs
The overall framework of assumptions and concepts in which it is embedded
Direction of Theorizing
Researchers approach the building and testing of theory from two directions
They logically connect the ideas in theory to concrete evidence, then
test the ideas against the evidence
Or, begin with specific observations of empirical evidence
Deductive (Weitzer and Tuch): Begin with an abstract, logical relationship
among concepts, then move toward concrete empirical evidence.
Inductive (Duneier): Begin with detailed observations of the world and
move toward more abstract generalizations and ideas; it is built from the
ground up.
Range of Theory
Empirical Generalization
The least abstract theoretical statement and has very narrow range.
A simple statement about a pattern or generalization among two or
more concrete concepts that is very close to empirical reality.
Middle-Range Theory
Slightly more abstract than empirical generalization or a specific
Focuses on a specific substantive topic area, includes a multiple
empirical generalization, and builds theoretical explanation
Theoretical Frameworks (Paradigm)
More abstract than middle-range theory, empirical generalization and
a specific hypothesis.
Rarely used directly in empirical research
Theories within the same framework share assumptions and major
Levels of Theory
Micro-Level Theory: deals with small slices of time, space, or numbers of
people. The concepts are not very abstract.
Meso-Level Theory: Links macro and micro levels and operates at an
intermediate level. Theories of organizations, social movements and
communities are often at this level.
Macro-Level Theory: Concerns the operation of larger aggregates such as
social institutions, entire cultural systems and whole societies. It uses more
concepts that are abstract.
Forms of Explanation
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