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Chapter 1

Sociology 2206A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Arson, Post-Structuralism, Symbolic Interactionism

Course Code
SOC 2206A/B
Stacey Hallman

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Theory: explanation of observed regularities or patterns
Three components to theory:
o Definitions: specify what key term is
o Description: outline the characteristics of the
phenomenon of interest
o Rational Statements: connect two or more variables
Rational statements come in two or more forms:
Deterministic: two variables always go
together in specific way
Example: as economy shrinks 1%
arson increases 5%
Probabilistic: two variables go together with
some degree of regularity
Regions of country with growing
economies are more likely to
experience a decrease in arson rate
than others
Two types of theories:
o Theories of middle range:
Are more limited in scope and can be tested
directly by gathering empirical evidence
For example Durkheim’s theory of suicide in
which maintains that suicide is a function of
the level of social integration
One way to test it would be to compare
suicide rates for married people with those
for single divorced, or widowed individuals
Deductive approach: theories and the hypothesis derived from them
are tested by gathering data
Inductive approach: data gathered is used as a means to create
Epistemological issues: such as whether a natural science model
like the one used in chemistry or biology is suitable for the study of
the social world
Ontological issues: such as whether the social world should be
regarded as a reality external to individuals over which they have little
or no control
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- often goal of social research is to assess the adequacy of a particular
social theory such as the theory of prejudice of crime
- other times it is to gather information to create theories
- in other instances research is driven by what is seen as a pressing
social problem
- sociology came into being in the eighteenth and nineteenth century
in a way of understanding social crisis
Theory: explanation of observed regularities or patterns, for example
schizophrenia is more common in the working class than in the middle
Composed of interrelated and usually verifiable statements or
Three common components of theory:
i. Definitions specify what the key terms in the theory
mean: for example crime is any violation of the Canadian
criminal code
ii. Descriptions outline the characteristics of the phenomena
of interest: for example, arson involves the illegal setting
of fires and is often done at night either to abandoned
buildings or house when no one is home
iii. Relational statements connect two or more variables so
that knowing the value of one variable conveys
information about the other for example as the economy
experiences a downturn the arson rate increases.
Relational statements come in two forms:
1. Deterministic: which means the two variables
always go together in a particular way
2. Probabilistic: which means the two variables go
together with some degree of regularity but the
relationship is not inevitable
- two types of theories: theories of middle range and grand theories
grand theories are general and abstract and include theories
such as structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism,
critical theory, post structuralism, feminism, etc.
o generally offer few direct indications of how to collect
evidence to test them but provide ways of looking at
the world that can be the inspiration for a wide variety
of research programs
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