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Chapter 2

Sociology 2206A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Symbolic Interactionism, Grounded Theory, Negative Relationship

Course Code
SOC 2206A/B
William Marshall

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Chapter 2 Theory and Social Research
Aggregates: a collection of cases, samples, or individuals
Social Theory: a system of interconnected ideas that condense/organize knowledge about the
social world. They can be divided into three broad groupings based on the level of social reality
they deal with:
1) Macro-social theory: focuses on social structures and populations. Their focus on large-
scale social phenomena mean they deal with highly abstract ideas
2) Micro-social theory: focused on individuals and individual action
3) Meso-social theory: focuses on social organizations and social institutions in society
Note: time is also important when determining which type of social theory is being used
(macro-social theory will span over 10 years, meso will take place over a 5 year period,
micro will take 2 months)
Empirical Generalizations: derived from theories
Offers a simple statement or generalization about two or more concrete concepts
Example: more men than women chose engineering as a university major
o This example summarizes a patterns between gender and major choice
o It is easy to test or observe because the pattern operates among many periods
and social contexts
Middle-range theories:
Slightly more abstract than empirical generalizations
Offers theories about limited aspects of social life
Parts of Theory:
All theories contain concepts; concepts are ideas expressed as symbols or in words
Natural science concepts are often expressed in symbolic forms, such as the Greek
syol fo siga, hih i ath eas su of
o Most social science concepts are expressed in words
o Examples: sexism, social class, etc.
Concepts are created from personal experience, creative thought, or observation
Research requires that concepts be well defined; the definition helps to link the theory
with the social research
Concept cluster: a collection of ideas that share a common assumption and belong to
the same larder social theory
o Example: talking about a concept like urban decay; there are a set of associated
concepts; urban expansion, economic growth, suburbs, etc.
Assumptions: a component of the social theory that is not tested, but acts as a starting
point or basic belief about the world
o Often remain hidden or unstated
o Different types of assumptions:
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1) Agey ad “tutue: agey efes to the idiiduals’ aility to at ad
make independent choices, and structure refers to the aspects of the social
ladsape that appea to liit o ifluee the idiiduals’ hoies
Individual autonomy or socialization?
Structural functionalists (macro) that that although people do
make their own decisions, the decisions are based on the larger
macrostructures that contain the individuals
Symbolic interactionists (micro) focus on the subjective meaning
which individuals give to the larger social world
2) Ontology and Epistemology: ontology deals with how we understand the
nature of reality. Epistemology refers to the techniques which we use to
study the social world
Two polar opposite ways of thinking of ontology:
o That there is an objective world which we are striving
o There is only subjectivity and our world is created by our
own human actions
Two components of epistemology:
o Positivism: the belief that the social world should be
studies in the same manner as the physical world
o Interpretivism: says that society is completely different
from anything in the world of natural science and it would
be inappropriate to use positive techniques to study it
Two major paradigms:
A paradigm is a general framework for empirical research
Includes basic assumptions, major questions to be answered, methods for findings
answers to questions, etc.
Reseahes do’t eally uestio paradigms; they just attempt to gain knowledge on
components within it
Approaches to paradigms:
Positivist approach: places a high value on the principle of replication; the researcher
must be able to replicate his or her findings in multiple studies to have a high level of
confidence that the findings are true
o Positiists like epliatio eause it ofte ioled fidig had fats ad
quantifiable data (they use quantitative research methods)
o If a researcher repliates a study ad they do’t get siila esults, it ould e
because of a few different reasons:
1) The initial study was a fluke
2) Important conditions were present in the original study but not the
replicated one
3) The initial study, or the replication of it, was sloppy/not precise
4) The initial study or the replication of it was improperly conducted
5) The repeated study was an unusual fluke
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