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Introduction to Sociology

A brief overview of the history, prominent researchers, hallmark theories, and established research methods in sociology.

William Cockrell

on 26 December 2017

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Transcript of Introduction to Sociology

ntroduction to Sociology

Intro to Sociology
the study of how culture and society influences human lives and behavior
a group of people who share a culture, common beliefs, and usually geographical boundaries.
A key research aspect of sociology is to examine how sociological factors (race, sex, income, status, etc) influence human relations
Examples of Society
A shared culture
Shared beliefs
Shared location
Shared goals!!!
Social Location
Places (labels) in Society
There are many different social locations
They influence how we view and respond to society
Sociological Perspective
An advantage of sociology is that it allows multiple levels of analysis
You can examine subjects from various viewpoints to reveal further information
One could learn about students from these two different examinations
Local Perspective
Global Perspective
Origins of Sociology
Sociology started during the Industrial Revolution. Typically we say sociology emerged in the middle 1800s.
For the first time, humans worked in the city more than working on the land. This marked a significant change in human society
Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
is often called the founder of sociology. He coined the term "positivism" Supported social activism. A primary concern for Comte was to improve society.
= applying the scientific method to analyze society
Origins of Sociology Continued
Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903):
did not support Comte's view that sociology should reform society
Created the term "survival of the fittest" often attributed to Charles Darwin
Spencer believed that societies (non-organic entities) could evolve just like organic beings.
Believed helping poor/disadvantaged people stopped society from improving itself (evolving).
Origins of Sociology Continued
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
is the most talked about "sociologist" you will encounter. In actuality, Marx was not a sociologist, but an economist.
Believed that all of human behavior and history can be attributed to class conflict.
Stated everybody in society is divided into two groups. The
and the
Origins of Sociology Continued
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was the first sociological faculty member in a university. If people wanted to study "sociology" they basically enrolled in history and economic classes.
He relied on using scientific methods unlike early sociologists who performed "amateur observations"
Social Integration
= how closely a person is influenced by, relates to, and feels connected to their group. Durkheim found lower rates of social integration leads to a higher chance of suicide. Minority groups typically have higher rates of suicide.
Durkheim discovered that different countries have varying suicide rates that generally do not change yearly.
This helps support statements that
social locations
are strong predictors of life choices
Origins of Sociology Continued
As you probably noticed, women and minorities were not represented among the early sociologists.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jane Addams was noted as one of the most famous early female sociologists
W.E.B. Du Bois (awesome name!) was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard.
He was a supporter of Marxism who was a founding member of the NAACP (Deegan, 1988). Du Bois is known as one of the best writers in sociology.
Battle of Sociological Goals
Sociologists continue to argue should their academic goal be research or social activism
Pure Sociology =
a focus on observing and researching society without intervening. They argue if sociologists intervene during observations they are disrupting and changing society.
Applied Sociology =
using research findings to help reform social inequalities and social problems
Public Sociology =
Middle ground between pure and applied sociology. The primary goal is to spread research results to people in power (e.g., policy makers) to influence change.
Research Methods in Sociology
A verifiable and testable statement about the relationship between two, or more, different variables
Three major frameworks in sociology
Symbolic Interaction
Functional Analysis
Conflict Theory
Symbolic Interaction
Symbols are the primary way we learn about how our society operates
We assign meanings to symbols and learn how to appropriately respond when exposed to these symbols.
Symbols range from concrete, physical examples (e.g., stop sign) to abstract notions and ideals (e.g., symbol of mother or faith based symbols)
Primary focus = small face-to-face interactions that influence every day communication. It also is important in how different people symbolically view social problems.
Functional Analysis
Society can be viewed as one unit (organism) and the various parts have differing functions
Functional Analysis (or functionalism) focuses on two aspects:
An example of structure in society would be how the workforce is organized (e.g., bosses and workers).
Examining function would analyze what each part of the structure does (e.g., how the boss performs at work is an example of function)
Another "vintage" example: what were housewives' "function" back in the 1950s? How has it changed? Try to apply a functional perspective comparing the modern working woman.
Conflict Theory
Proposed by Karl Marx and was highly influenced by the Industrial Revolution.
During the industrial revolution, the bourgeoisie owned all means of production but relied on the proletariat to perform all physical labor.
Marx argued that the people in power will always want to control the means of production to keep power over the working class.
Marx proposed that the workers will eventually revolt against their superiors creating
class conflict.
In modern societies conflict theory focuses on who has authority and power.
Research Methods in Sociology
Macro Level:
Examining society at large. For example, analyzing how the American educational system influences mathematical scores among American girls.
Micro Level:
Examining how a person or small group is influenced by society. For example, studying how Chinese American students in San Francisco react to gang activity.
The Scientific Method
1) Selecting a topic
2) Defining the problem
3) Reviewing the literature
4) Formulating a hypothesis
5) Choosing a research method
6) Collecting the data
7) Analyzing the results
8) Sharing the results
Most common social science tool
Can recruit large amounts of people
group you are studying
selected people from the population you are studying
For best results you need a random sample
Random Sample:
randomly selected participants from a list of the population. All members must have an equal chance of being selected. Usually picked by utilizing a random number table or computer software.
Question Format
Questions should not elicit researchers expectations; bias-free questions
(e.g., Most people support the idea of governmental checks and balances. What do you think of separating power in the government?)
The question is leading
There are two main types of questions
Open and Closed Ended Questions
Closed - ended questions:
assigned set of responses
Demographic Questions: Age = (1-10),(11-20),(21-30)..; Sex = Male or Female; Marital Status = Single, Married, Divorced, Widowed; Pet Owner = Yes or No; etc)
Likert Scale Responses: What do you think of the use of nuclear weapons? Select support or not support on the following scale:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Open - ended questions:

answer however they want
In your own words, why do you support the republican/democratic party?
What is your religion? ___________
Sensitive Questions
Answer according to social expectations
Rapport =
interviewer making participant comfortable enough so that participant can answer honestly (e.g., starting with "warm-up" questions).
Ballot box answers = can also be anonymous
Computer - mediated interviews
The researcher is present and observes the participants in their natural settings
Harder to investigate criminal behaviors or subcultures (e.g., gang activities or nudists)
Should researchers participate or merely observe?
Highest level of external validity
Case Study
Examination of one specific participant or event (e.g., one CEO or 9/11)
Used when event is rare or participants are highly unique/hard to access
Lowest amount of generalizability
Least likely to be used, often utilized by clinical psychologists
Secondary Analysis
Conducting research by using pre-existing sources (e.g., using Census data, FBI statistics, etc).
Document analysis:
using various records to examine behaviors in society (e.g., diaries, bank records, receipts, meeting minutes, etc)
Manipulating one variable to determine if it influences a second variable.
Establishes a relationship/causation
Independent Variable
= variable that is manipulated
Dependent Variable =
variable that is being measured and influenced by the IV
Ethics in Sociology
Researchers must be honest with participants and reporting results
Participants must know they are being researched
Participant names should not be released
Sources should always be cited; this is a collaborative field.
Chapter Recap
Definition of sociology
Origins of sociology
Key founders of sociology
Theoretical Frameworks
Research Methods
Ethical Concerns in research
Sociological Perspective :
a sociological "tool" used to examine groups of people in their natural setting.
Sociology tends to focus on explaining behavior through outside factors (external factors).
When the globe was more "isolated" there was a higher amount of variety in social locations and culture.
Globalization has caused many cultures to share traits and ideals.
The Industrial Revolution is often viewed as the "catalyst" for the start of Sociology.
The creation of the scientific method for physical sciences also had an impact of the creation of sociology.
Spencer argued that true researchers should never become involved with what they are studying. This started an argument that is still debated today in sociology.
The current scientific community would quickly argue that only carbon based lifeforms are capable of evolution. Therefore, it would be incorrect to say "Damn, I can watch videos a lot easier now that my
internet has evolved
from wireless to fiber internet"
Opposed all forms of government assistance
Unlike Spencer, Marx was more similar to Comte. He believed that we should study society in order to improve it.
This perspective of class conflict essentially means that Marx believed society would only change through a revolution.
When we use the term "revolution" in this context we should think of the central premise of
Les Mis
, The American Revolution, any other situations where a group of weaker people are attempting to otherthrow an unjust government.
the working class people. These are the group of people who do most of the manual labor work, but do not own any of the machinery or tools.
Group of people that own the factories and tools. They rarely did the actual work, think of Lords and Noblemen. Downton Abbey esque people.
Conflict Theory:
Marx argued that eventually the Proletariat would revolt and demand that wealth be more equally distributed.
Statistically, men are more likely to commit suicide than women. From an age perspective, as you grow older your risk of committing suicide increases.
Patterns of behavior:
recurring characteristics or events that tend to repeat annually in a cyclical manner. Examples are suicide rates, pregnancy rates, murder rates.
It was very rare to receive higher education in the 1800s and the few that did were typically White males.
Most early female and minority sociologists were heavily focused on applied sociology.
These early minority researchers were often ignored in publications and associations
Du Bois is famous for his term "outside looking in"
Today, women outnumber men in sociology and many minorities have become increasingly represented.
If a sociologist is researching gang drive-bys should they not call the cops if somebody is shot? Pure sociology might argue researchers never become involved.
Researchers that support applied sociology argue that people in academic positions should use their access to information and power to improve the lives of people.
How involved is too involved?
American Sociological Association:
the largest Sociological assocation in America. http://www.asanet.org/topics
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