Lecture notes for Sociology as a Science

Lecture notes for Sociology as a Science - Sociology as a...

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Sociology as a Science On the radio and tv, we hear endless commentary about why people do what they do and how public policies should be revamped. Books, magazines and newspapers provide similar social commentary. Much of this commentary is based upon personal opinion, speculation, and anecdotal evidence. Sociology is more than just the social commentary that bombards us everyday. Sociologists must rely upon careful theory construction techniques and well- tested research methods to effectively understand and explain social issues. To be scientific, we must base our sociological knowledge on systematic observation, sound reasoning, and logical analysis Common sense versus scientific knowledge Common sense isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we tend to rely upon common sense to get us through much of life. Common sense is a storehouse of knowledge that individuals and cultures build up over time and use on a regular basis to explain or understand objects, events, and relationships. However, common sense has limitations. It often fails to take all information into consideration and is seldom critically analyzed. Take, for example, the common belief that hard work will lead to success. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some people work incredibly hard, sometimes working two or three jobs, without getting ahead in life. In fact, common sense, the things that “everyone” knows to be true, may not be true at all or may have varying levels of veracity depending upon the situation. For example, which is true: “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “out of sight, out of mind”? Common sense explanations frequently · allow contradictions · are unconditional – we don’t know what situations they actually apply to · are not systematically tested · allow subjective validation which means we verify our own beliefs by accepting evidence that supports our belief and ignore neutral or unfavorable evidence Scientifically oriented sociologists believe we must go beyond common sense and guesswork when it comes to understanding social life. We believe that it is necessary to devise scientific theories and conduct careful scientific research about the social world. Scientific knowledge differs from other ways of knowing in that it requires empirical confirmation. Empirical evidence means measurable 1
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evidence or proof that can be confirmed. For example, before a sociologist would agree that religious beliefs play a role in divorce, she would seek statistical evidence. Thus, like scientists in other fields, sociologists strive to create theories and test them empirically, using the scientific method. As explained in your textbook, the scientific method is a systematic, organized series of steps that ensures maximum objectivity and consistency in researching a problem. The steps of the scientific method include defining the problem, reviewing the
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Lecture notes for Sociology as a Science - Sociology as a...

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