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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Theory and Social Research .docx

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Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2120
D Walters

How Social Scientific theories work  Social theories explain recurring patterns, not unique or one time events  Social theories are explanations for aggregates: collections of many individuals cases or other units  Social theories state a probability, chance or tendency for events to occur, rather than state that one event must absolutely follow another. What is Theory?  Social Theory: a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that condense and organize knowledge about the social world.  Almost all research involves theory, so the question isn’t whether you should use theory, it’s how you should use it Blame Analysis  Blame Analysis: a type of counterfeit argument presented as if it were a theoretical explanation. It substitutes attributing blame for a causal explanation that is backed by supporting empirical evidence o Blame analysis assumes there is a party or source to which a fixed amount of responsibility can be attached o It gives an account instead of a logical explanation. o Presents an unfavourable situation, identifies a responsible party, then provides selective evidence that shields certain parties Parts of Theory Concept: an idea expressed as a symbol or in words. All theories contain concepts. There are two parts to a concept: Symbol and Definition  We create concepts from personal experience, creative thought, or observation  Concept Clusters: concepts are rarely used in isolation, usually they form interconnected groups, called concept clusters. This is trues for concepts in everyday language as well as for those in social theory  Classification Concepts: classifications are partway between a single, simple concept and a theory. They help to organize abstract, complex thoughts. To create a new classification, a researcher logically specifies and combines the characteristics of simpler concepts o The Ideal Type: a well-known classification, a pure, abstract model that defines the essence of a phenomenon. Mental pictures that define the central aspect of a concept, not explanations. Researchers use them to build theories. Ideal types are abstract concepts that bring together several narrower, more concrete concepts. Qualitative researchers often use ideal types to see how well observable phenomenon match up to the ideal model.  Scope: Concepts vary by scope: some are highly abstract, others are middle level of abstraction and some are concrete o Abstract Concepts have a wide scope, more concrete concepts apply to fewer situations  Assumptions: concepts contain built in assumptions, which are statements about the nature of things that are not observable or testable. To deepen understanding of a concept is to identify the assumptions on which it is based o Ex. The concept “book” assumes a system of writing, reading and the existence of paper  Relationships: theories specify how concepts relate to one another. o When a researcher empirically tests or evaluates such a relationship, it is called a hypothesis. After many tests of a hypothesis, it is considered a proposition: a relationship in a theory in which the scientific community starts to feel is likely truthful Aspects of Theory Direction of Theory  Deductive: begin with an abstract, logical relationship among concepts, then move toward concrete empirical evidence.  Inductive: begin with detailed observations of the world and move toward more abstract generalizations and ideas. Building a theory from the ground up. o Grounded Theory: a part of inductive reasoning, in which a researcher builds ideas and theoretical generalizations based on closely examining and creatively thinking about the data. A widely used approach in qualitative research. Uses a systematic set of procedures to develop an inductively derived theory about a phenomenon, to build a theory which is faithful to the evidence Range of Theory  Empirical Generalization: the least abstract theoretical statement and has had very narrow range o Ex: more men than women choose engineering as a college major  Middle Range Theory: slightly more abstract than empirical generalizations or a specific hypothesis. They focus on a specific substantive topic area, include multiple empirical generalizations, and builds a theoretical explanation o Ex: girls who suffer physical/sexual abuse experience self-blame and guilt that inhibits them from developing healthy social networks/forming stable relationships, which leads them to stay single or experience marital instability as adults.  Theoretical Framework: More abstract than middle-range theories. Sometimes called a paradigm. o Includes structural functional theory, exchange theory, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory Levels of Theory  Micro Level: deals with small slices of time, space, or numbers of people. The concepts are usually not very abstract  Meso Level: links macro and micro levels. Theories of organizations, social movements, and communities are often at this level  Macro Level: 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  Explanation: a theory’s primary purpose is to explain. Many people confuse prediction with explanation. o Theoretical explanation: a logical argument that tells us why something occurs. It refers to a general rule or principle o Ordinary explanation: makes something clear or describes somethin
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