SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE Can SOCIOLOGY be a SCIENCE? SCIENCE is the process of attempting to systematically understand our world in ways that are rigorous (logical), testable (verifiable/falsifiable), and evident (empirical). Research is the actual practice by which we gather, interpret, describe, and disseminate our attempts to do science. The broad goals of most scientific research, including sociology are to establish understanding by examining (NOT simply testing) hypotheses and generating theories. DEFINITION OF THEORY: Formal Definition: A theory is a systematically related set of statements, including some law-like generalizations, that is empirically testable. They are ORGANIZING DEVICES that reveal or assert that selected dimensions of social behavior or experience are related in particular ways. The goal of theory is to generate convincing arguments that "EXPLAIN" some phenomena in which we are interested. A theory must, therefore, be able to present convincing arguments on which our conclusions are based. For this reason, much of theory construction involves LOGIC. That is, we must be able to develop a cogent ARGUMENT to justify our conclusions. An "ARGUMENT" is simply the relationship between our conclusions and our evidence (whether empirical or logical). An argument is a GROUP OF STATEMENTS STANDING IN RELATION TO EACH OTHER, and consists of one statement which is our conclusion (such as, "poverty creates crime.") Informal Definition: Theories are STORIES (or MYTHS) about how the world operates. Two Broad Types of Theories A. Nomothetic theories (also called "hypothetic-deductive" or "nomological-deductive") Hypotheses (Definition): Hypotheses are tentative statements about the nature of our world (give examples). Hypotheses are simply expected relationships between two or more even (for example, "prison overcrowding causes violence" is a testable hypothesis. A hypothesis is something to be tested, and usually they derive from a broader theory A HYPOTHESIS is NOT a THEORY!!! A THEORY is a general account of what we see, and a hypothesis is a way of testing that account (give examples). Independent Variable (the factor having an effect on another factor) Dependent Variable (factor that's effected) Some general rules of causal logic: a) argument can't be circular b) IV & DV must COVARY c) Causal Variable must precede effect d) Relationship can't be spurious B. Ideographic theories: Different than nomological approach. The goal is DESCRIPTION, and usually written in prose style rather than statistical style. (These are also called "qualitative" theories, as distinguished from "quantitative" approaches, or those that "measure.") Nomological deductive theories are often called "positivist" or "quantitative." Ideographic theories, associated with symbolic interaction, are often called "qualitative." RESEARCH METHODS: Specific strategies or techniques for systematically conducting research.
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