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How Sociologists

Approach Social
Problems
Angie Andriot
Lecture 2
Last Time
We:
Examined some issues fundamental
to the philosophy of sociology, such
as:
 What is sociology, the social
sciences, and science?
 How can we build knowledge?
 What is real?
 What is the sociological
perspective?
 Do we have free will?
Key Terms
Were: Sociology
Science
Culture
Positivism
Antipositivism
The Sociological Perspective
Social location
Structure
Agency
Today We:
1. Define what a social problem is
2. Describe the sociological approach
to social problems
3. Identify the four main methods
and designs used to study social
problems
Key
Concepts:
Social Problem
Objective Condition
Subjective Concern
Sociological Research
Survey
Experiment
Interview
Document
Participant Observation
"We cannot live for
ourselves alone. Our lives
are connected by a thousand
invisible threads, and along
these sympathetic fibers,
our actions run as causes
and return to us as
results."

–Henry Melville
Sociology
The SCIENTIFIC study of
SOCIETY and human
behavior
Language The application of systematic methods to
Beliefs obtain knowledge

Values People who share a CULTURE and


Norms a TERRITORY
Behaviors
Objects
Sociology
SOCIETY

BEHAVIOR
Sociology
PUBLIC ISSUE

PERSONAL
TROUBLE
Social
Problem
Some aspect of society that
people are concerned about
and would like to change
Facts What people? How do they decide?
Data
We must separate the objective
Morals conditions from the subjective
Values concerns
Evaluations
Observations
Apply to
Abortion:
Take a moment and think about how
one would approach examining the
issue of abortion.
•What are the objective conditions?
•What are the subjective concerns?
• What morals and values underlie
each side’s argument?
Objective:
Subjective:
Your Top Social
Problems
• Racism
• Violence
• Social Class Inequality
• Sexism
• Homophobia

Who gets to decide?


Values
+
Power
Dynamic Social
Problems
What is considered a social
problem changes over time and
location.

Ex: Gender-Selective abortion


Ex: Interracial marriage
Sociological
Research
based on the use of
EMPIRICAL data to
substantiate concepts and
theories and to test
hypotheses.
Facts that we observe, measure, and verify
An educated guess with our senses.
or proposition
about the A simple, abstract construct (idea) that
relationship represents some aspect of the world.
between two or A formal statement that attempts to explain a
more phenomena phenomenon by attributing it to particular
that is stated in relationships among a group of concepts.
testable form.
Science or
Interpretation?
Sociological research is Sociological research
a systematic method of examines the meanings
direct observation of the that actors attach to
world, similar to the social phenomena.
natural sciences, which Meanings are subjective
produces objective and not governed by
knowledge of social universal laws; hence,
phenomena and, in sociology differs from
some cases, general natural science.
social laws.

Associated with Associated with


quantitative research. qualitative research
(deductive)

(inductive)
Methods for
Gathering Data:
1.Survey
2.In-Depth Interview
3.Participant Observation
4.Document Study
5.Experiment
Types of survey questions and their best uses.

Type of question... Best Used for...


Open-ended When respondents' own words are
important; when the surveyor doesn't
know all the possible answers.
Closed-ended when all response choices are known;
when quantitative statistical results
are desired.
Likert-scale To assess a person's feelings about
something.
Multiple-choice When there are a finite number of
options
Ordinal To rate things in relation to other
things.
Categorical When the answers are categories, and
each respondent must fall into exactly
one of them.
Numerical For real numbers, like age, number of
months, etc.