Practice of Social Research
The Research Process
The Tools of Sociological Research
Paradigms and Theoretical Assumptions
Is Sociology Value-free?
The Research Process
Sociology is empirical and uses the scientific
Sociological studies may be quantitative and
statistically sophisticated or qualitatively
Steps in Sociological Research
Developing a Research Question (Air Jordan
Creating a Research Design
Analyzing the Data
Reaching Conclusions and Reporting Results
Sources of Research Questions
Casual observation of human behavior
Tools of Sociological Research
Comparative and Historical Research
Prediction and Probability
Sociology analyzes, explains, and predicts
human social behavior in terms of trends and
Researchers can predict patterns of behavior
but they cannot predict specific incidents of
Paradigm = A perspective; a way of looking at
the world; a set of theoretical assumptions
about the way the world operates
Four main paradigms in sociology
– Early Positivism and Evolutionary Paradigm
– Structural Functionalist Paradigm
– Conflict Paradigm
– Symbolic Interactionist Paradigm
Macro vs. Micro
Macro sociology is the study of large social structures
and patterns within a society; e.g., how do economic
trends influence crime rates in a society? How does
religion affect the suicide rate?
Micro sociology is the study of individual behavior as
it occurs in a social context. Also the study of
interaction between individuals; e.g., under what
conditions do people help each other? When do they
take advantage of each other?
Theory – How have societies
progressed through history?
Auguste Comte (coined term “Sociologie” in 1822)
“Positive philosophy” held that history involved
progression toward enlightenment and that through
objective, scientific method we could solve society’s
Social Darwinism – Spencer (1820-1903) applied
Darwin’s evolutionary theory to whole societies,
arguing we are getting “better and better” through a
social process akin to “survival of the fittest”
Structural Functionalist Paradigm –
What makes society work?
Society is a relatively stable but complex system of
parts (an organism like the human body)
Each part (social institution) serves a “function” and
contributes to the well-being of the whole system
Social systems respond to the environment; change
occurs slowly; change in one part of the system affects
the others, sometimes requiring changes in the whole
system to occur
Dysfunctions in the system occur and require reform –
usually minor “tweaks” to help system run better
Conflict Paradigm – How do power
relations manifest in a given society?
How does social change occur?
Society is a site of conflict where individuals and
groups try to dominate each other and avoid being
Power relations in one sphere affect other spheres of
Feminist Theory – gender is an important source of
conflict and inequality; men have more power to make
the rules than women
Social conflict is necessary to create a more equal
society – revolution (political) or reform (many social
movements) seek more widespread, equal access to
Symbolic Interactionist Paradigm –
How do we make sense of the
Social world is key source of individual understanding,
as are “primary groups” such as family, friendship
Human mind capable of “role-taking,” reflection, critical
thought, and change
Symbols and language allow people to communicate
and understand each other
Role = set of expected behaviors (student, teacher,
Role theory – who would we be without roles?
Exchange Theory – people are rational; act according
to calculations of costs and benefits
Can/Should Sociology Be Value-
Should theories assume that individuals and social life
are always rational?
Can scientists ever be completely “objective?” Are
scientists hiding/ perpetuating their own biases when
they consider themselves neutral, objective observers?
Is there any objective reality, or “Truth” in the world?
Or does every individual/group/nation/etc. have their
Should research attempt to solve social problems
and/or criticize the status quo?