Theirs to Take (Hazard County Book 1)
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It should also be noted that recent sociologists, taking cues from anthropologists, have realized the Western emphasis of the discipline. In response, many sociology departments around the world are now encouraging multi-cultural research. The next two chapters in this book will introduce the reader to more extensive discussions of the methods and theory employed in sociology.
The remaining chapters are examinations of current areas of research in the discipline. Berger, Peter L Garden City, New York: Anchor. Mead, George Herbert. Mind, Self, and Society. University of Chicago Press.
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In spite of these conflicts, Pat continued to think about the recommendations mentioned in an article written by a social scientist, who had carefully examined the life trajectories of large numbers of people who had graduated from various colleges across the U. Those recommendations were again completely different than those made by friends and family.
With all this different information, how could Pat make the right choice? The goal of this chapter is to introduce the methods employed by sociologists in their study of social life. This is not a chapter on statistics nor does it detail specific methods in sociological investigation. The primary aim is to illustrate how sociologists go beyond common sense understandings in trying to explain or understand social phenomena.
They do not see the world as we normally do, they question and analyze why things happen and if there is a way to stop a problem before it happens.
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At issue in this chapter are the methods used by sociologists to claim to speak authoritatively about social life. There are dozens of different ways that human beings claim to acquire knowledge. A few common examples are:. Authority : Choosing to trust another source for information is the act of making that source an authority in your life. Parents, friends, the media, religious leaders, your professor, books, or web pages are all examples of secondary sources of information that some people trust for information. Experience : People often claim to have learned something through an experience, such as a car accident or using some type of drug.
Some physical skills, such as waterskiing or playing basketball, are acquired primarily through experience. On the other hand, some experiences are subjective and are not generalizable to all. Logic : Simple deduction is often used to discern truth from falsity and is the primary way of knowing used in philosophy.
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I might suggest that if I fall in a swimming pool full of water, I will get wet. If that premise is true and I fall in a swimming pool, you could deduce that I got wet. Tradition : Many people who live in societies that have not experienced industrialization decide what to do in the future by repeating what was done in the past. Even in modern societies, many people get satisfaction out of celebrating holidays the same way year after year.
Fast-paced change in modern societies, however, makes traditional knowledge less and less helpful in making good choices. Revelation : Some people claim to acquire knowledge believed to be valid by consulting religious texts and believing what is written in them, such as the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Book of Mormon. Others claim to receive revelations from a higher power in the form of voices or a general intuitive sense of what one should do.
Science : The scientific method combines the use of logic with controlled experience, creating a novel way of discovery that marries sensory input with careful thinking.
By adopting a model of cause and effect, scientists produce knowledge that can explain certain phenomena and even predict various outcomes before they occur. These methods of claiming to know certain things are referred to as epistemologies. An epistemology is simply a way of knowing.
In Sociology, information gathered through science is privileged over all others. That is, information gleaned using other epistemologies will be rejected if it is not supported by evidence gathered using the scientific method. A scientific method or process is considered fundamental to the scientific investigation and acquisition of new knowledge based upon verifiable evidence. In addition to employing the scientific method in their research, sociologists explore the social world with several different purposes in mind. Like the physical sciences i. This approach to doing science is often termed positivism though perhaps more accurately should be called empiricism.
The positivist approach to social science seeks to explain and predict social phenomena, often employing a quantitative approach where aspects of social life are assigned numerical codes and subjected to in-depth analyses to uncover trends often missed by a casual observer. This approach most often makes use of deductive reasoning , which initially forms a theory and hypothesis, which are then subjected to empirical testing.
Unlike the physical sciences, sociology and other social sciences, like anthropology also often seek simply to understand social phenomena. Max Weber labeled this approach Verstehen , which is German for understanding. This approach, called qualitative sociology, aims to understand a culture or phenomenon on its own terms rather than trying to develop a theory that allows for prediction.
Qualitative sociologists more frequently use inductive reasoning where an investigator will take time to make repeated observations of the phenomena under study, with the hope of coming to a thorough and grounded understanding of what is really going on. Both approaches employ a scientific method as they make observations and gather data, propose hypotheses, and test or refine their hypotheses in the formulation of theories. These steps are outlined in more detail below. Sociologists use observations, hypotheses, deductions, and inductions to understand and ultimately develop explanations for social phenomena in the form of theories.
Predictions from these theories are tested. If a prediction turns out to be correct, the theory survives. If not, the theory is modified or discarded. The method is commonly taken as the underlying logic of scientific practice. Science is essentially an extremely cautious means of building a supportable, evidenced understanding of our natural and social worlds.
The essential elements of a scientific method are iterations and recursions of the following four steps:. A scientific method depends upon a careful characterization of the subject of the investigation. The systematic, careful collection of measurements, counts or categorical distinctions of relevant quantities or qualities is often the critical difference between pseudo-sciences, such as alchemy , and a science, such as chemistry.
Scientific measurements are usually tabulated, graphed, or mapped, and statistical manipulations, such as correlation and regression , performed on them. The measurements might be made in a controlled setting, such as a laboratory, or made on more or less inaccessible or unmanipulatable objects such as human populations. The measurements often require specialized scientific instruments such as thermometers, spectroscopes, or voltmeters, and the progress of a scientific field is usually intimately tied to their invention and development.
These categorical distinctions generally require specialized coding or sorting protocols that allow differential qualities to be sorted into distinct categories, which may be compared and contrasted over time, and the progress of scientific fields in this vein are generally tied to the accumulation of systematic categories and observations across multiple natural sites. In both cases, scientific progress relies upon ongoing intermingling between measurement and categorical approaches to data analysis.
Measurements demand the use of operational definitions of relevant quantities a. That is, a scientific quantity is described or defined by how it is measured, as opposed to some more vague, inexact or idealized definition. The operational definition of a thing often relies on comparisons with standards: the operational definition of mass ultimately relies on the use of an artifact, such as a certain kilogram of platinum kept in a laboratory in France.
In short, to operationalize a variable means creating an operational definition for a concept someone intends to measure. Similarly, categorical distinctions rely upon the use of previously observed categorizations. A scientific category is thus described or defined based upon existing information gained from prior observations and patterns in the natural world as opposed to socially constructed "measurements" and "standards" in order to capture potential missing pieces in the logic and definitions of previous studies. In both cases, however, how this is done is very important as it should be done with enough precision that independent researchers should be able to use your description of your measurement or construction of categories, and repeat either or both.
The scientific definition of a term sometimes differs substantially from its natural language usage. For example, sex and gender are often used interchangeably in common discourse, but have distinct meanings in sociology. Scientific quantities are often characterized by their units of measure which can later be described in terms of conventional physical units when communicating the work while scientific categorizations are generally characterized by their shared qualities which can later be described in terms of conventional linguistic patterns of communication.
Measurements and categorizations in scientific work are also usually accompanied by estimates of their uncertainty or disclaimers concerning the scope of initial observations. The uncertainty is often estimated by making repeated measurements of the desired quantity.