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Sociology and Sociological Perspective

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    The Sociological Perspective Sociology Is the systematic study of human society. At the heart of the discipline is a distinctive point of view called the “sociological perspective,” which involves a special kind of “vision”: A. Seeing the general in the particular The sociological perspective helps us to see general social patterns in the behavior of particular individuals. B. Seeing the strange in the familiar This perspective also encourages us to realize that society guides our thoughts and deeds.

    C. Seeing society In our everyday choices Mile Deuterium’s research showed that the suicide rate was strongly Influenced by the extent to which people were socially integrated with others. D. Seeing sociologically: marginality and crisis The greater people’s social marginality, the better able they are to use the sociological perspective. Just as social change encourages sociological thinking, sociological thinking can bring about social change. II. The Importance of a Global Perspective A. Sociologists also strive to see Issues In global perspective, defined as the study of the larger world and our society’s place in t.

    B. There are three different types of nations in the world: 1. The world’s high- income countries are industrialized nations in which most people have relatively high incomes. 2. The world’s middle-income countries have limited industrialization and moderate personal income. 3. The world’s low-income countries have little industrialization and most people are poor. 4. Global thinking Is an Important component of the sociological perspective for four reasons: a. Where we live makes a great difference in shaping our lives. B.

    Societies the world over are increasingly interconnected, making traditional distinctions between “us” and “them” less and less valid. C. Many human problems faced in the United States are far more serious elsewhere. D. Thinking globally is a good way to learn more about ourselves. Copyright 201 1 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. Instructor’s Manual for Macaroni Society: The Basics, 1 Ill Applying the Sociological Perspective Applying the sociological perspective benefits us in many ways: A. Sociology and Public Policy Sociologists have helped shape public policy. B.

    Sociology and Personal Growth using sociology benefits us in four distinct says: 1 . The sociological perspective helps us assess the truth of “common sense. ” 2. The sociological perspective helps us assess both opportunities and constraints in our lives. 3. The sociological perspective empowers us to be active participants In society. 4. The sociological perspective helps us to live In a diverse world. C. Careers: sociology has had in shaping public policy and law in many ways. A background in sociology is also good preparation for the working world. An increasing number of sociologists work in all sorts of applied fields.

    The Origins of Sociology The birth of sociology resulted from powerful and complex social forces: A. Social Change And Sociology Three major social changes during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are important to the development of sociology: 1 . The rise of industrial technology 2. The growth of cities 3. Political change, including a rising concern with individual liberty and rights (e. G. , the French revolution) B. Science and Sociology Augusta Comet believed that the major goal of sociology was to understand society as it actually operates.

    Comet saw sociology as the product of a threatens historical development: 1 . The theological stage, in which thought was guided by religion 2. The metaphysical stage, a transitional phase 3. The scientific stage The scientific stage would be guided by positivism: a scientific approach to knowledge based on “positive” facts as opposed to mere speculation. Sociological Theory A theory is a statement of how and why specific facts are related. The goal of sociological theory is to explain social behavior in the real world.

    Theories are based on theoretical approaches, or basic images of society that guides thinking and research. Sociologists ask two basic questions: “What issues should we study? , and “How should we connect the facts? ” There are three major sociological approaches: Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. 2 A. B. C. D. The structural-functional approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. It asserts that our lives are guided by social structures (relatively stable patterns of social behavior).

    Each social structure has social functions, or of this approach include Augusta Comet, Mile Druthers, Herbert Spencer, and Tailcoat Parsons. Robert Morton introduced three concepts related to social function: 1 . Manifest functions, or the recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern 2. Latent functions, or largely unrecognized and unintended consequences 3. Social dysfunctions, or undesirable consequences of a social pattern for the operation of society 4. Critical Review: The influence of this approach has declined in recent decades. It focuses on stability, ignoring inequalities of social class, race, and gender.

    The social-conflict approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of inequality, generating conflict and change. Most sociologists who favor this approach attempt not only to understand society, but also to reduce social inequality. Karl Marx is always associated with this approach. Feminism and the gender-conflict approach. One important type of conflict analysis is the gender- conflict approach: a point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between men and women. The gender-conflict approach is closely linked to feminism, the advocacy of social equality for women and men.

    The race-conflict approach. Another important type of social-conflict analysis is the race-conflict approach, a point of view hat focuses on inequality and conflict between people of different racial and ethnic categories. 1. Critical Review: The various social conflict approaches have developed rapidly in recent years. They share several weaknesses: a. They ignore social unity based on mutual interdependence and shared values. B. Because they are explicitly political, they cannot claim scientific objectivity. C. Like the structural-functional approach, the social-conflict approaches envision society in terms of broad abstractions.

    The symbolic-interaction approach is a framework for building theory hat sees society as the product of the everyday interactions of individuals. The stratospherically and the social-conflict approaches share a macro-level orientation, meaning that they focus on broad social structures that shape society as a whole. In contrast, symbolic-interactions has a micro-level orientation; it focuses on patterns of social interaction in specific settings. Key figures in the development of this approach include Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, Irving Coffman, George Humans, and Peter Blab.

    Critical Review: Symbolic interactions attempts to explain more clearly how individuals actually experience society. However, it has two weaknesses: 1. Its micro-orientation sometimes results in the error of ignoring the influence of Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. 3 larger social structures. 2. By emphasizing what is unique, it risks overlooking the effects of culture, class, gender, and race. VI. Three Ways to Do Sociology A. Scientific Sociology One popular way to do sociological research is positivist sociology, which is the study of society based on scientific observation of social behavior. 1 .

    Science Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, meaning facts we verify with our knees. Sociological research often challenges what we accept as “common sense. ” women and men reflect “human nature. ” In fact, much of what we call “human nature” is constructed by the society in which we live. B. It is often thought that the United States is a middle-class society in which most people are more or less equal. In fact, the richest 5 percent of U. S. Families control half of the country wealth. C. Many believe that people marry for love. Sociological research indicates that marriages in most societies have little to do with love. . Concepts, variables, and agreement A basic element of science is the concept, which is a mental construct that represents some part of the world, inevitably in a simplified form. Variables are concepts whose value changes from case to case. Measurement is the process of determining the value of a variable in a specific case. Statistical measures are frequently used to describe populations as a whole, and this requires that researchers operational variables, which means specifying exactly what one is to measure in assigning a value to a variable. 3.

    Statistics Sociologists use descriptive statistics to state what is “average” for a large population. Included in this category are mean, median, and mode. 4. Reliability and Validity a. Useful measurement must have reliability, which refers to consistency in measurement. B. Useful measurement must have validity, which refers to precision in measuring exactly what one intends to measure. 5. Correlation and Cause The real payoff in sociological research is determining how variables are related. Correlation can be defined as a relationship by which two (or more) variables change together.

    The scientific ideal is mapping out cause and effect, which means a relationship in which we know that change in one arable causes a change in another. Just because two variables change together does not necessarily mean that they have a cause-and-effect relationship. When two variables change together but neither one causes the other, sociologists describe the relationship Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. 4 as a spurious correlation. To be sure of a real cause-and-effect relationship, we must show that: a. The two variables are correlated. B. He independent (or causal) variable precedes the dependent variable in time. C. There is no evidence that the correlation is spurious because of some third variable. . The Ideal of Objectivity A guiding principle of scientific study is objectivity, or personal neutrality in conducting research. Whenever possible, sociologists follow Max Weeper’s model of value-free research. That is, we must be dedicated to finding truth as it is rather than as we think it should be. Interpretative Sociology Some sociologists suggest that science, as Human beings do not simply act; we engage in meaningful action.

    Max Weber, who pioneered this framework, argued that the focus of sociology is interpretation. Interpretative sociology is the study of society that focuses on the meanings people attach to their social world. The interpretative sociologist’s Job is not Just to observe what people do but to share in their world of meaning and come to appreciate why they act as they do. Critical Sociology 1. The Importance of Change Karl Marx founded this framework, rejecting the idea that society exists as a “natural” system with a fixed order.

    Critical sociology is the study of society that focuses on the need for social change. The point is not merely to study the world as it is, but to change it. 2. Sociology as Politics Scientific sociologists object to taking sides, charging that critical sociology is political and gives up any claim to objectivity. Methods and Theory In general, each of the three ways to do sociology is related to one of the theoretical approaches presented earlier in the chapter. Evil. Research Orientations and Theory Links between research orientations and theory A.

    Positivist orientation is linked to the structural-functional approach – both are concerned with the scientific goal of understanding society as it is B. Interpretive orientation is linked to the symbolic-interaction approach – both focus on the meanings people attach to their social world Critical orientation is linked to the social-conflict approach – both seek to reduce C. Social inequality VIII. Gender and Research Research is affected by gender, the personal traits and social positions that members of a society attach to being female and male, in five ways: Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

    All rights reserved. 5 Anthropocentric, or approaching an issue from the male perspective. Parallelizing, or using data drawn from studying only one sex to support conclusions about human behavior in general. Gender blindness, or not considering the variable of gender at all. Double standards, or using different standards to Judge men and women. Interference, because a subject reacts to the sex of the researcher. Research Ethics The American Sociological Association-?the professional organization of U. S. Sociologists-?has established formal guidelines for conducting research.

    Sociologists must strive to be technically competent and fair-minded in their work; ensure the safety of subjects taking part in a research project; include in their published findings any sources of financial support; and observe the global plan for conducting research. Researchers choose a particular method according to those they wish to study and what they wish to learn. A. Testing a Hypothesis: The Experiment The experiment is a research method for investigating cause-and-effect under highly controlled conditions. Experiments test a specific hypothesis, that is, a statement of a possible relationship between two (or more) variables.

    Hypotheses are unverified statements of a relationship between variables. Experimenters gather the evidence needed to accept or reject the research hypothesis in three steps: ; measuring the dependent variable (the “effect”). ; exposing the dependent variable to the independent variable (the “cause” or treatment”). ; measuring the dependent arable again to see if the predicted change took place. 1. Illustration of an Experiment: The “Stanford County Prison” Phillip Zanzibar devised a fascinating experiment in which he tested the hypothesis that once inside a prison; even emotionally healthy people are prone to violence.

    The results supported Sombrero’s hypothesis, but the experiment also revealed the potential of research to threaten the physical and mental well-being of subjects. B. Asking Questions: Survey Research A survey is a research method in which subjects respond to a series of statements or questions in a questionnaire or an interview. Survey research is usually descriptive rather than explanatory. Surveys are directed at populations, the people who are the focus of research. Usually we study a sample, a part of the population that represents the whole. Random sampling is commonly used to be sure that the sample is actually representative.

    Surveys may involve questionnaires, a series of written questions a researcher presents to subjects. Questionnaires may be closed- ended or open-ended. Most surveys are sulfanilamide and must be carefully protested. Surveys may also take the form of interviews, a series of questions administered in person by a researcher to Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. X. 6 respondents. 1 . Illustration of Survey Research: Studying the African American Elite Sociologist Lois Benjamin used survey research to investigate the effects of racism on talented African American men and women.

    What surprised Benjamin the most was how eagerly many subjects responded to her request for an interview. Benjamin concluded that despite the improving social standing of African Americans, black people in the United States still suffer the effects of racial hostility. In the Field: Participant Observation Participant observation is a method by which researchers observation research is descriptive and often exploratory. 1 . Illustration of Participant Observation: “Street Corner Society’ William Foote White studied social life in a rundown section of Boston he called “Cornelia. White entered the Cornelia world as a participant observer and actually married a local woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life in the process. He learned that the neighborhood was not the stereotypical slum. His work shows that participant observation is a method based on tensions and contrasts. Using Available Data: Existing Sources Not all research requires collecting new data. In many cases sociologists save time and money by using existing sources, analyzing data collected by others. 1.

    Illustration of the use of existing sources: A Tale of Two Cities Dig Ballet’s study of Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia illustrates the clever use of existing data. Ballet’s investigation used scientific logic but it also illustrated the interpretive approach by showing how people understood their world. His research reminds us that sociological investigation often involves mixing methodological orientations and a vilely sociological imagination. Putting It All Together: Ten Steps in Sociological Research The following ten questions will guide you through a research project in sociology: 1.

    What is your topic? 2. What have others already learned? 3. What, exactly, are your questions? 4. What will you need to carry out research? 5. Are there ethical concerns? 6. What method will you use? 7. How will you record the data? 8. What does the data tell you? 9. What are your conclusions? 10. How can you share what you’ve learned? Everyone, including sociologists, makes generalizations, but sociological generalizations differ from impel stereotypes, which are exaggerated descriptions that are applied to every person in some category. Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc.

    All rights reserved. 7 Chapter Objectives After they have read Chapter 1, students should be able to: 1. Define sociology and examine the components of the sociological perspective. 2. Explain the importance of a global perspective for sociology. 3. Identify and describe four benefits of using the sociological perspective. 4. Identify and discuss three social changes especially important to the development of sociology. 5. Discuss the importance of theory in sociology. 6. Summarize the main assumptions of the three major theoretical approaches in sociology. 7.

    Discuss the advantages of the scientific approach to knowing and examine how scientific evidence challenges our common sense. 8. Define concepts, variables, and measurement. 9. Distinguish between the concepts of reliability and validity. 10. Understand the distinction between cause-and-effect sociological research and discuss ways that researchers can be as objective as possible. 12. Summarize the three methodological approaches in sociology: scientific, interpretive, and critical. 13. Identify five ways in which gender-based issues may distort sociological research. 14.

    List ethical guidelines to follow in sociological research. 15. Summarize the four major methods by which sociologists conduct research and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each method. 16. Understand the basic logic of experimental research. 17. Outline the ten steps involved in carrying out sociological investigation. 8 Supplementary Lecture Material Sociology and the Other Social Sciences Sociology is only one of a number of interrelated ways of attempting to understand and account for human behavior. Most earlier attempts were humanistic; that is, they were not guided by the principles of scientific methodology.

    Because they are predicated on relatively rigorous procedures for the gathering and assessment of empirical information, the social sciences provide a more satisfactory way to understand the causes of human behavior than do humanistic approaches, although the value of insights obtained through nonscientific methods should never be underestimated. Often such insights provide the starting point for scientific explorations. Sociology is only one of a family f related social sciences. The following discussion examines the character of these other disciplines and explores sociology relationship with each of them.

    Psychology shares with sociology (and cultural anthropology) a broadly-based interest in understanding a wide variety of human behavior; the disciplines differ from each other in that psychology is principally concerned with the behavior of individuals, while sociologists more commonly study group behavior and the extent to which group membership (including factors such as race, class, and gender) influences individual behavior. Psychology has both academic and applied branches. Applied psychology is a therapeutic effort to help people understand their own behavior and cope with their problems.

    Academic psychology is closer to the mainstream of sociology, placing its central emphasis on understanding such phenomena as learning, thinking, personality formation and functioning, intelligence, memory, and motivation. Academic psychology grew out of biology and is still strongly oriented toward experimental research. Some academic psychologists conduct research into animal behavior and the physiology of the brain, which is sharply distinct from sociological work; others concern themselves with very much the same sort of questions as those that interest sociologists, although always with special emphasis on individual behavior.

    The two fields meet in the susceptible of social psychology, which is commonly taught in both psychology and sociology curricula and which social environment. Anthropology, like psychology, has some concerns it shares with sociology but also studies some very different subjects. The two main subfields are physical anthropology and cultural anthropology, although some attention is also devoted to archeology and linguistics. Physical anthropology uses natural science research methods to study such topics as the biological evolution of the human race and the differences between the races.

    Cultural anthropology studies many of the same topics as does sociology, but there are two main differences between the fields: (1) anthropology tends to study small, preliterate, traditional societies, whereas most sociologists concentrate on modern industrial societies; (2) anthropology generally studies cultures as a whole, while sociology commonly studies smaller systems (for example, groups or institutions) within complex societies.

    However, sociology and cultural anthropology are closer Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights 10 than the other social sciences. Furthermore, as the traditional societies that anthropologists have historically preferred to study have become increasingly scarce, more and more cultural anthropologists are studying such aspects of contemporary society as street gangs, immigrant life, and ethnic subcultures, which are indistinguishable from the subject matter usually studied by sociologists.

    Cultural anthropologists and sociologists use similar research methods, although anthropologists are more likely to develop elaborate descriptive ethnographers of the social scenes they observe by means of extended periods of participant observation, whereas sociologists more commonly collect narrower and more quantitative data using survey research methods. Economics is a much more narrow and focused discipline than sociology, psychology, or anthropology, concerning itself with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

    Because economists restrict their attention to phenomena that can be precisely measured, such as interest rates, taxes, economic production rates, and unemployment, they eve developed by far the most sophisticated statistical techniques for manipulating and presenting data of any of the social sciences. On the other hand, this precision may limit the ability of economists to deal effectively with the sorts of larger issues that many people find most interesting and important.

    Sociologists who study economic behavior, in contrast to economists, focus on the relationship between economics and other aspects of social reality-?for example, on the way in which value orientations (such as support for the environmental movement) may affect institution patterns, on the ways in which corporations are organized and changed, or on how human beings experience the world of work subjectively. Political science, like economics, focuses on a relatively narrow segment of human social behavior, in this case the issues of power and authority.

    Traditionally, political science focused either on political philosophy or on relatively limited studies of the recently, under the influence of the developing field of political sociology, political scientists have been increasingly interested in such topics as political colonization, he social forces influencing voting behavior, the structure of institutional and institutional power in local communities, and the origin and development of movements of political protest, all of which are shared concerns with sociologists working in this area.

    The two disciplines use broadly similar research methods, with political scientists having played an especially important role in the development of opinion polling and related techniques of survey research. Two additional disciplines deserve mention, though each is only marginally compatible with the basic definition f a social science. History straddles the line between the humanities and the social sciences. Traditionally the field studied historical developments as unique events, not as examples of general categories or patterns.

    More recently, however, many historians have become more interested in the social forces that shape historical events and in developing theories of broad patterns of stochastically change; they also have begun using more quantitative and precise data. To the extent that these trends continue, history is moving in the direction of becoming a true social science. Social work is comparable to applied psychology in that its central purpose is not to understand Copyright 2011 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved. 1 human behavior but rather to help people, groups, and communities cope more effectively with their personal and social problems. Of course, it is essential to understand the causes of these problems, and social workers rely heavily on sociological and psychological research and theory, but the fundamental thrust of the field is different from that of sociology and academic psychology because of its practical orientation.

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