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Lecture 1. the discipline of sociology. The Sociological Imagination. Defined as: “...the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society” (Mills, 1959) Defining “society” social group geographical territory

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the sociological imagination
The Sociological Imagination

Defined as: “...the ability to see the relationship between individual experiences and the larger society” (Mills, 1959)

Defining “society”

social group

geographical territory

same political authority and cultural expectations

importance of global interdependence
Importance of Global Interdependence

Where we live shapes the lives we lead

Societies are increasingly interconnected

Many social problems in Canada are more serious elsewhere

Macionis and Gerber, 2011:8

the discipline of sociology1
The Discipline of Sociology
  • Industrial economy
  • Growth of cities
  • Political change
early thinkers
Early Thinkers

Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

coined the term sociology..and considered the founder

He believed that societies contained:

Social Statics

Social Dynamics

Natural science applied to society


early thinkers1
Early Thinkers

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)

Made Comte’s work more accessible

She was an active sociologist studying social customs and consequences of industrialism and capitalism

early thinkers2
Early Thinkers

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Believed that people are a product of the social environment

Society are built of social facts

Anomie - a condition when social control becomes ineffective as a result of the loss of shared values and a sense of purpose in society

Scientific approach to studying social facts

questioning the status quo
Questioning the status quo

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Conflict (especially class conflict) was necessary

    • Bourgeoisie and proletariat
    • Capitalist system made poverty
  • Capitalist class controls and exploits the masses of struggling workers
  • Results in Alienation
  • Marx predicted that the workers would becomes aware of its exploitation and overthrow the capitalists, creating a free and classless society
just one more
Just one more…

Max Weber (1864-1920)

  • Value-free sociology conducted in a scientific manner
  • Verstehen – see the world as others see it
  • Bureaucracies and organization
development in north america
Development in North America

United States


First department

Canadian Review of Sociology founded in 1965

theoretical perspectives
Theoretical Perspectives
  • Theory
  • Perspective
  • A basic image of society that helps us think about social issues and guide social research
contemporary theoretical perspectives
Contemporary Theoretical Perspectives

Functionalist (or structural-functionalist)



Symbolic Interactionist

functionalist perspectives
Functionalist Perspectives

Assumption that society is a stable, orderly system

The parts of society work together to promote solidarity and stability

Everything in a society (institutions, customs, interactions) function to keep the society going

types of functions
Types of functions

R. K. Merton (1910-2003)

Attempted to classify functions




conflict perspectives
Conflict Perspectives

Assumption that groups in society are engaged in a continuous power struggle for control of scarce resources

Social patterns and relations benefit some individuals while hurting others

Emphasize factors such as social class, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and age

Conflict can also lead to social change

feminist perspectives
Feminist Perspectives

Assumption that gender is necessary category to understand and to explain inequalities in the household, paid labour force, politics, law and culture

There is no single unified approach.

Focus on patriarchy : a hierarchical system of power in which males possess greater economic and social privilege than females

symbolic interactionist perspectives
Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives

Assumption that society is a sum of the interactions of individuals and groups

Focuses on micro-level of analysis

Symbolic interactionists attempt to examine people’s day-to-day interactions and their behaviour in groups

This perspective examines:



Each person has a subjective interpretation of a given situation

theory guides our research
Theory guides our research!
  • Research is the process of systematically collecting information for the purposes of testing an existing theory or generating a new one
  • But not all sociologists collect research in the same manner
the sociological research process
The Sociological Research Process

With quantitative research, the goal is scientific objectivity, and the focus is on data that can be measured numerically

the sociological research process1
The Sociological Research Process

With Qualitative Research, the use of interpretative description (words) rather than statistics (numbers) are used to analyze the underlying meanings and patterns of social relationships

research methods
Research Methods

Research methods: strategies or techniques for systematically conducting research


Secondary Analysis of Existing Data

Field Research



Survey: a poll in which the researcher gathers facts or attempts to determine the relationship among facts

Respondents: people who provide data for analysis through interviews or questionnaires


Types of Surveys

  • Interview
  • Personal and direct contact
  • Face to face Respondents
  • Problems: Major cost and time
  • Telephone
  • More honest and less threatening
  • Greater control over the data
  • Problems: Some not accessible to researchers
  • Self Administered
  • Questionnaires
  • Simple and inexpensive
  • Respondents are anonymous
  • Problems: low response rates

Sampling Considerations:

Survey research involves some type of sampling

From a population (those persons we want to find out about)


Representative Sample

Random Sample

secondary analysis
Secondary Analysis

Using data that has already been gathered by someone else

One kind: content analysis: the systematic examination of cultural artifacts or various forms of communication to extract thematic data and draw conclusions about social life

field research
Field Research

Field research is the study of social life in its natural setting: observing and interviewing people where they live, work and play

Use of qualitative data

Varieties of observation:

Participant observation



Defined: a carefully designed situation in which the researcher studies the impact of certain variables on subjects’ attitudes or behaviour.

experimental group

control group


Process: After persons are selected with very similar characteristics into these two groups, then:

Both groups are pre-tested

Exposed to a stimulus representing the independent variable

Post-tested: to see if the independent variable had an effect on the dependent variable

ethical issues in sociological research
Ethical Issues in Sociological Research

Elements of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association:

Participation must be voluntary

No harm to research subjects (physically, psychologically, or personally)

To protect confidentiality and anonymity

to summarize
To summarize
  • Sociology involves using different theoretical perspectives to systematically study the social world
  • Different perspectives can be used to interpret the same issues/topics in different ways
  • These different perspectives allow us to deconstruct the “taken-for-granted” ways of thinking