Chapter 2

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10 Feb 2011

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Chapter 2: Sociological Investigation (pg. 27-50)
Basics of Sociological Investigation
Two requirements of social investigations: apply the social perspective/ be curious
and ask questions
Science as One Form of Truth
Two types of truths:
oBelief/ Faith- saying that we know something, ex. Existence of God
oExpert opinion-ex, parents consult their childrens pediatricians to see which
practices are Right for their children
oSimple agreement/ common sense- among ordinary people, ex. Littering is
oScience- logical system that bases knowledge on observations
Based on empirical evidence- information we can verify with our
Common Sense vs. Scientific Evidence
Six statements that Canadians assume are true:
1.Poor people are more likely than rich people to break the law- Not true.
2.Canada is a middle-class society where people are more or less equal- Not
3.Poor people dont want to work-Not true.
4.Differences in the behavior of females and males are just human nature-
not true
5.People change as they grow old, losing many interests as they focus on
health- false
6.Most people marry because they are in love- not always.
All of the above examples are of widely accepted truths, but they are not necessary
Three ways to do Sociology
Means to learn more about the social world
Three ways to do research: Scientific sociology, Interpretive sociology, and critical
Scientific Sociology/ Positivist sociology: Study of society based on systematic
observation of social behavior
Gathering empirical evidence and facts we can verify by our senses
Concept: mental construct that represents that some part of to the in simplified form
Variable: concept whose value changes from case to case
Measurement: procedure for determining that values of a variable in specific case
To assign social class, scientists usually look at income, occupation, and education
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For larger groups of people, scientists use statistical measures such as mode, mean
and median
Operationalize a variable: specify exactly what is to be measured before assigning
value to a variable
for a measurement to be useful it has to be reliable and it must have validity
reliability: consistency in measurement (same result achieved time after time)
validity: actually measuring exactly what is intended to be measured
cause and effect: relationship in which change in one variable caused change in the
other (ex. Studying hard for exam results in good grades)
o independent variable: variable that causes the change ( how much you study)
oDependent variable: variable that changes (grade)
oThis is important because it allows us to predict the future events
(studying for exam next time will result in good grades)
Correlation: relationship in which two or more variables change together (third
factor could be causing change in both variables)
spurious correlation: apparent but false relationship between two or more variables
that is caused by some other variable
control: used to expose a correlation as spurious; holding constant all variables
except one to see clearly the effect of that variable
oto establish cause and effect, three requirements need to be met:
demonstrated correlation
independent variable that occurs before the dependent variable
proving that there is no third variable causing any changes to the
The Ideal of Objectivity
how people interpret things is different from one another
objectivity: personal neutrality on conducting research; sticking to scientific
procedures and not letting personal attitudes or beliefs influence the results- being
ways of limiting distortion which could be caused by personal values:
oreplication: repetition of research by other researchers -> when the results
are the same for two or more of the same studies, they are considered to be
more accurate and reliable
Some Limitations of Scientific Sociology
1. It is hard to predict individual actions accurately because human
behavior is complex:
Instead, they prove that categories of people typically act in one way or another
in a certain situation.
2.Humans respond to their surroundings and the presence of the
researcher could affect the behavior of the subject
Most people act to being observed.
3.Social patterns change; what is true in one time or place may not hold
true in another.
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4.Because sociologists are part of the social world they study, its hard to
be value- free when conduction social research
It is difficult to recognize and control personal values that could affect their
Interpretive Sociology
Defn: study of sociology that focuses on the meaning people attach to their social
Three differences between interpretive and scientific sociology:
Interpretive SociologyScientific Sociology
-meaning attached to behaviour -focuses on action or what people do
-sees reality as being constructed by people
themselves in their everyday lives-sees an objective reality out there
-qualitative date-using quantitative date
Scientific sociology is better suited to be used in a laboratory, where
researchers observe while taking measurements. Whereas, interpretive
sociology is suited to research in a natural setting where investigators
interact with people and learn how they make sense of their everyday
Interpretive sociology: not just observing what people do but also looking at why
they do it
Are be subjective and bias
Critical Sociology
Developed as a result of limitations of scientific sociology
Founded by Karl Marx- rejected idea that society exists as a natural system with
fixed order
oAssumes that it means society cant be changed
Defn: study of society that focuses on the need for social change
The Importance of Change
Focus question: Should society exist in its present form?
oUsually conclude that it should not
Seek to change not only society but also the character of research
Use findings usually to provide voice for less powerful people and advance political
goal of more equal society
Society as Politics
Critical sociology- all research is political or biased- calls for change or it doesnt
Methods and Theory
Scientific Sociology-> Structural-functional approach
Interpretive Sociology-> Symbolic-interaction approach
Critical Sociology-> Social-conflict approach
Gender and Research
Awareness of research being affected by gender
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