Sociological Theory and Methods

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Sociological Theory and Methods (42:00)
Item# 40133

This multi-section program addresses classical social theory, examining the origins of sociology through the efforts of Marx and Comte to build a holistic science of society; positivism, through a case study of students using surveys to do research on education; interpretivism, through a parallel case study in which students use interviews to carry out their research; and realism, comparing it to classical, positivist, and interpretivist approaches. The video also draws upon a case study of suicide to illustrate how positivist and interpretivist approaches lead researchers to ask very different questions about this key sociological topic. Viewable/printable educational resources are available online. A part of the series Understanding Sociology. (41 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (19)

1. Making Sense of Social Life (01:20)
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Can sociologists provide a clearer, objective view of social life?

2. Theory & Method (01:25)

Theories help guide research and provides the framework around which facts can be organized.

3. Scientific Method (01:25)

Science has proven to be the most effective way to prove or disprove theories.

4. Classical Sociology (02:34)

Early sociologists used statistics to try to uncover general laws of social development.

5. Modern Sociologists (01:22)

Contemporary sociologists tend to focus on correlations between aspects of society rather than general laws.

6. Positivism (02:56)

Auguste Comte argued that the methods of the social sciences were no different from those of the natural sciences.

7. Survey Method (02:44)

The problem with using the survey method is that different interpretations of the questions occur.

8. Interpretivism (02:44)

Interpretive approaches rely heavily on naturalistic methods such as interviewing and observation.

9. Case Study - Suicide (01:45)

Using suicide as a case study provides an illustration of how positivist and interpretivist approaches lead researchers to ask very different questions.

10. The Positivist Approach to Suicide (01:40)

The positivist approach looks at the social causes of suicide such as social isolation, status loss, and unemployment.

11. The Interpretivist Approach to Suicide (02:32)

The interpretivist approach to suicide is to look at the social construction of suicide data.

12. Neutral Observer? (01:38)

The positivist approach creates an 'imposition problem' referring to the risk that the researcher, when asking questions, might be imposing their own views on the subjects being researched.

13. Interpretivists - Imposing? (02:18)

Interpretivists use open ended questions and unstructured interviews; however, there is still imposition problem to this approach as well.

14. Values and Preferences (01:20)

Sociologists are influenced by their own values and preferences.

15. Realist Approach to Sociology (02:02)

Realists are concerned with the interplay between individuals and social structures.

16. Comparing Theories on Suicide (02:30)

Realists believe that using mixed methods to test theories against each other provides more scientific analysis.

17. Objectivity in Sociology? (02:09)

Opponents of the scientific model for sociological onquiry often argue that objectivity (in attitude, method, or outcome) is either unobtainable or inappropriate in sociology.

18. Sociology - Subjective View of Society (02:28)

The elimination of the subjective element in social analysis should be a goal sociologists should be aspiring to achieve.

19. Answering Questions in Theory and Methods (04:26)

Chief examiner gives advice on how to answer exam questions in theory and methodology.

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