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Unformatted text preview: Chapter 1 - Sociology: Theory and Methods Developing a Sociological Perspective Sociology can be identified as the systematic study of human societies, giving special emphasis to modern, industrialized systems. The subject came into being as an attempt to understand the far-reaching changes that have occurred in human societies over the past two to three centuries. Major social changes have also occurred in the most intimate and personal characteristics of peoples lives. The development of romantic love as the basis for marriage is an example of this. The practice of sociology involves the ability to think imaginatively and to detach oneself as far as possible from preconceived ideas about social relationships. Modern Theoretical Approaches A diversity of theoretical approaches is found in sociology. The reason for this is not particularly puzzling. Theoretical disputes are difficult to resolve even in the natural sciences, and in sociology we face special difficulties because of the complex problems involved in subjecting our own behavior to study. Important figures in the early development of sociological theory include Aguste Comte (1798-1857), mile Durkheim (1858-1917), Karl Marx (1818- 1883), and Max Weber (1864-1920). Many of their ideas remain important in sociology today. The main theoretical approaches in sociology are symbolic interactionism, functionalism, Marxism, feminism, rational choice approach, and postmodernism . To some extent, these approaches complement each other. However, there are also major contrasts between them, which influence the ways in which theoretical issues are handled by authors following different approaches. Levels of Analysis The study of face-to-face interaction is usually called microsociologyas contrasted to macrosociology , which studies larger groups, institutions, and social systems. Micro and macro analyses are in fact very closely related and each complements the other. The Research Process Sociologists investigate social life by posing distinct questions and trying to find the answers to these by systematic research. These questions may be factual, comparative, developmental, or theoretical . All research begins from a research problem, which interests or puzzles the investigator. Research problems may be suggested by gaps in the existing literature, theoretical debates, or practical issues in the social world. There are a number of clear steps in the development of research strategies although these are rarely followed exactly in actual research. Research Methods In fieldwork, or participant observation, the researcher spends lengthy periods of time with a group or community being studied. A second method, survey research, involves sending or administering questionnaires to samples of a larger population . Documentary research uses printed materials, from archives or other resources, as a source for information. Other research methods include experiments,...
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