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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 12 October 2018

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Transcript of Introduction to Sociology

ntroduction to Sociology

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. Supported social activism. A primary concern for Comte was to improve society. Used the term "social physics". Created first sociology book, "
Introduction to Positive Philosophy
= applying the scientific method to analyze society. First described by Comte.
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.
Durkheim discovered that different countries have varying suicide rates that generally do not change yearly. (Published in
Suicide, 1897
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 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 behavior.
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
Three major frameworks in sociology
Symbolic Interaction
Functional Analysis
Conflict Theory
Symbolic Interaction
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)
Functional Analysis
Society can be viewed as one unit (organism) and the various parts have differing functions
Functional Analysis, Functionalism, or Structural Functionalism all focus 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)
Conflict Theory
Proposed by Karl Marx and was highly influenced by the Industrial Revolution.
Marx argued that the people in power will always want to control the means of production to keep power over the working class.
Research Methods in Sociology
Macro Level:
Examining society at large. More focused on structures, government, social systems than people. 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 social interactions. For example,
how teenage girls form friendships while in high school.
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
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
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.
The Industrial Revolution is often viewed as the "catalyst" for the start 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.
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 overthrow 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 of patterned behavior: suicide, birth and death rates, sexual assault, criminal behavior, and voting behavior. These rates do change, but VERY slowly.
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 studying criminal activity such as robbery, should they sit back and observe people getting robbed without intervening? The 19th century Sociologist might say "Do not get 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
What is Sociology?
Scientific approach to studying culture and social interactions between humans
Sometimes described as the bridge between biography and history (Mills, 1959).
Sometimes we pick them, sometimes they are assigned.
Just like psychology, sociology was heavily influenced by philosophy.
His book "
The Study of Sociology
" (1873) was one of the first sociology books written in English.
Largely attributed to George Herbert Mead's research. We will cover his work in later chapters.
Symbolism is a micro-level of analysis. It often is less helpful at the macro level. There is a large amount of variability in how we perceive the same symbol.
Structuralism is better used at the macro level of analysis. It also has the weakness where researchers tend to "justify" certain structures as natural when they are actually man-made (e.g., race).
The book that explained this theory,
"The Communist Manifesto"
, was released by Karl Marx in 1848.
Karl Marx DID NOT create communism. When he was older, he was told that communism was influenced by his book. This greatly disturbed and embarrassed Marx.
Conflict theory is used to explain that people who already have resources (e.g., money, property, businesses) have more power in controlling the government for their benefit. Wealthy people benefit from the government more than people in poverty.
False Consciousness:
Marx argued that the rich try to distract the poor with various social practices to keep them from complaining about the difference in wealth. Examples include: religion, acceptable dating rituals, pop culture, consumerism, etc.
Modern conflict theorists would argue we are so obsessed with having the newest iPhone that we often don't worry about poverty in the United States.
Class Consciousness:
Marx said the conflict would end with people in poverty removing social classes and wealth inequality. Has this ever happened?
What's in a theory?
Theory :
A testable, educated guess in the form of a statement that determines the relationship between two or more variables
A theory describes, explains, and predicts behavior
Theories must rely on scientific verification
No theory is or will ever be perfect
Theories are continuously discarded and replaced with newer theories.
Law :
the only statement "better" than a theory. Laws happen EVERY time, not just most of the time like theories.
There are no laws in sociology as of now.
Experimental Research Requirements
Empirical evidence and research:
conducting research using the scientific method and following commonly accepted research practices. Empirical evidence is more reliable than personal opinions or anecdotes. Empirical research is
Systemic research :
establishing strict guidelines
conducting research and sticking to these rules throughout the whole study.
if the study has been systemic, multiple people should be able to conduct the same study and produce identical (or highly similar results).
Scientific research using experimentation is the ONLY way to determine that one variable causes another (causation).
Experimental research uses a control and treatment group. Make sure you know the difference!
Independent Variable:
variable that is manipulated to see if it has an influence.
Dependent Variable:
variable that is being measured and influenced by the Independent Variable
Examples of Experimental Research
Independent Variable examples:

effect of caffeine
on test performance,
effect of exercise
on weight,
effect of reading
on intelligence,
the impact of colors
on emotion
Dependent Variable examples:
Test scores, weight, IQ scores, emotional responses on survey
Dependent variables have to be something you can measure on a numerical scale OR binary responses (yes = 1, no = 2, present = 1, absent = 2).
group you are studying (e.g., college students, people who play football, people who wear glasses, people who are married).
selected people from the population you are studying
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.
Exceptions to Experimental Research
Quasi-experimental research:
research conducted where it is impossible or unethical to randomly assign participants to the control or treatment conditions.
Examples of factors that cannot be (traditionally) manipulated:
age, race, sex, gender, income, physical or mental abilities, occupation, religion.
Let's say we want to experimentally test if people who make $100,000 or more a year are more likely to donate than people who do not. We cannot randomly assign some people to the "rich" condition and others to the control condition. They are coming into the study with characteristics that cannot be changed.
ALL medical research on humans about the dangers of smoking and lung cancer are quasi-experimental studies. We cannot ethically assign some people to the "smoking" group and others abstain from smoking.
Correlational Research
When we cannot use experimental forms of research, we try to determine if two variables are related to each other. This is referred to as
correlational research
Examples of correlational research:
cigarette smoking and cancer, child abuse and future violent behavior, drug use and level of well-being, marriage and divorce rates, sexual orientation and eating disorders.
It would be unethical to test any of these subjects with experimental research. Therefore, we study participants that have these specific characteristics. We then study them to determine if averages show other variables related (correlated) to them.
Positive Correlation:
The two variables are related and when one changes direction, the other does as well. Examples include: eating and weight gain, reading and vocabulary, practice and accuracy, temperature and ice cream sales.
Negative Correlation:
The two variables that are related go in opposite directions. Examples include: exercising and weight, low self-esteem and not using protection, fashion magazines and self-image, religious beliefs and fear of death.
Correlation Coefficient:
How we statistically express correlational relationships with numbers. They are expressed numerically on a range from
= +1.0 (perfect positive correlation) to -1.0 (perfect negative correlation). A correlation coefficient of
= 0 means there is no relation between the two variables.
A serious error is to state that one variable causes another when they are correlated. The famous scientific statement is
"Correlation does NOT equal causation".

Additional Methods of Research
observing participants in the actual setting of the behavior. Lowest amount of experimental control. Less likely to be used by psychologists.
Case Study:
Small participant samples where you study very few participants in relation to a rare topic. Examples include: people with dissociative identity disorder, people with amnesia, people who speak 20+ languages. Instead of trying to find hundreds of participants you focus on a small amount. May not be generalizable to the whole population. Most common in clinical psychology.
Secondary Analysis:
Studying something using already published data. Examples include historical events, population data, income data, CDC data, etc.
Longitudinal Research:
following the same participants over decades to measure change or constancy. This type of research is very difficult to conduct and often takes over 50 years to complete (!!!)
Universal Findings:
a term used to explain that a particular behavior is common across everybody on the planet. This typically means that the behavior is related to our DNA/Genetics.
Content Analysis:
A Sociological and Psychological research method that analyzes different forms of data (e.g., movies, books, advertising, video games, etc) to examine recurring patterns and overarching messages.
The Most Reliable Online Data Sources
General Social Survey :
U.S. Census Bureau :
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics :
National Health for Center Statistics :
National Center for Education Statistics :
World Health Organization :
Gallup Poll :
Pew Research Center :
FBI Database :
Ethics in Research
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.
Protected Participants are groups of people who have undue pressure to be a participant (make sure you understand this).
Protected Participants include:
minors, pregnant women, prisoners, people who are homeless, and people who are unable to give consent.
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