AS Theoretical Issues

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AS Theoretical Issues

  1. 1. AS Sociology Lesson 4: Theoretical Issues
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Refers to what we think society is like & if we can obtain an accurate and truthful picture of it. </li></ul><ul><li>Our views on these issues will affect the kinds of methods we prefer to use. </li></ul><ul><li>There are four different concerns regarding theoretical issues. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Validity <ul><li>A valid method is one that gives a true or genuine picture of what something is really like. </li></ul><ul><li>Sociologists argue use of qualitative methods like Participant Observation give a more valid, truthful account. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide us with a deeper insight through first hand experience. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Reliability <ul><li>Another word for reliability is replicability . </li></ul><ul><li>Comes from Latin, replica, meaning an exact copy of something. </li></ul><ul><li>So... </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A reliable method is one which when repeated by another researcher gives the same results again and again . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>think reliability = repeatability. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Reliability (Repeatability) Example <ul><li>Physics or Chemistry researchers can repeat the same experiments & get the same results as other researchers . </li></ul><ul><li>In Sociology… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can use quantitative methods such as written questionnaires = more reliable results than qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Representativeness <ul><li>Refers to whether or not the people being studied are a typical cross-section of the group we are attempting to study. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Cannot study every singe child of divorced parents. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We can however study a randomly chosen group of say 100 and use the findings. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Note: Large scale quantitative studies tend to provide more representative data. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Methodological Perspective <ul><li>Choice of method is influenced by their perspective- their view of what society is like and how we should study it. </li></ul><ul><li>There are TWO contrasting perspectives on choice of methods: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Positivism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interpretivism </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Positivists Perspective <ul><li>Prefer quantitative data </li></ul><ul><li>Seek to discover patterns of behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>See Sociology as a science. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Interpretivists Perspective <ul><li>Prefer Qualitative data </li></ul><ul><li>Seek to understand social actors’ (those who exercise free will) meanings </li></ul><ul><li>Reject the view that sociology is a science </li></ul>
  10. 10. Who Falls in Where? <ul><li>So where do the current theories fall into? </li></ul><ul><li>Marxists & Feminists = Positivist approach. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>See society as a large scale (macro) structure that shapes our behaviour. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interactionists = Interpretivists approach. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They take a micro-level view of society, focusing on small scale, face to face interaction. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Importance of Sociologists Perspective <ul><li>It is the single most important factor when choosing which method to use. </li></ul><ul><li>Practical and ethical factors usually limit the choice of method. </li></ul><ul><li>Just as a Sociologist prefers a particular type of data doesn’t mean they can just go ahead & gather it. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time, resources, access, consent, privacy all constrain their choice. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Example Constraint <ul><li>Name to know: Daivid Tuckett (2001) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Had a student fallen ill with TB </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Student confined to bed in a hospital ward </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used this as an opportunity to conduct a participant observation study. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Choice of Topic Factors influencing Sociological Choice
  14. 14. Cart Before the Horse? <ul><li>Before we can choose a method to use, we must decide what topic the sociologist wants to study. </li></ul><ul><li>Four factors are important to consider: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Theoretical Perspective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Society’s Values </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Funding Bodies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Practical Factors </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Theoretical Perspective <ul><li>T.P. is a major influence on their choice of research topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>New Right Researcher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wants to study the effect of welfare benefits on the growth of lone-parent families, since the idea of welfare dependency is central to their standpoint. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contrastingly, a feminist researcher will likely be more inclined to choose to study domestic violence, as opposition to gender oppression lies at the core of feminist theory. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Society’s Values <ul><li>Sociologists being a part of society, are also influenced by its values. </li></ul><ul><li>As these values change, so too do the focus of research. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Rise of Feminism in the 60’s & 70’s led to a focus on gender inequality & environmental concerns of the 21 st century have created an interest in ‘green crimes’ such as heavy pollution and unlawful handling/transport of nuclear materials. (example: spent rods dumped at bottom of ocean etc…) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Funding Bodies <ul><li>Most Researchers require external funding. </li></ul><ul><li>Typically this comes from governments, charitable organisations & businesses. </li></ul><ul><li>When they are paying, they decide (not the sociologist) the topic to be investigated. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>New Labours (1997) concern over ‘social exclusion’ in disadvantaged groups. Threw a lot of money at projects which investigated this issue. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Practical Factors <ul><li>Inaccessibility of certain situations to the researcher may also restrict what can be studied. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology might like to research the ways in which global corporations make their decisions, but it is unlikely they could since most of these are made in secret. </li></ul>

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