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Chapter 1

chapter 1-general theory orientations.docx

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Sociology 2206A/B
Stacey Hallman

THEORY AND RESEARCH 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 theory 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 INTRODUCTION - 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 AND RESEARCH DEGREE OF ABSTRACTION Theory: explanation of observed regularities or patterns, for example schizophrenia is more common in the working class than in the middle class  Composed of interrelated and usually verifiable statements or propositions 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
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