S-Cool Revision Summary

S-Cool Revision Summary

This Revision Summary applies to all of the Theory topics...

Basic Concepts in Science and Theory

Can You?

Explain positivism, realism and interpretivism.

Explain the Determinism/Free Will argument.

Explain the Nature/Nurture problem.

Give a brief description of System theory and Action theory.

Give an account of alternatives to the traditional theory/method relationship.

Give an account of the traditional view of scientific procedure and the sequencing of research.

Explain why the traditional account is flawed.

Explain falsification.

Explain Kuhn's concepts of paradigm, normal and revolutionary science.

Give an account of Merton's idea of the scientific ethos, and its faults.

List problems that would face any sociologist wishing to use traditional scientific methods.

Explain how science has itself moved on from certainties to probabilities.


Can You?

  • Reliability.

  • Validity.

  • Representative.

  • Imposition.

Participant Observation

Can You?

List the major advantages of P.O. as a research method.

List the major disadvantages of the method.

Describe the advantages and disadvantages of both overt and covert P.O.

Explain why P.O. is viewed by some sociologists as 'unscientific'.


Can You?

Explain the 'Method of Difference'.

Correctly use the terms: control, dependent/independent variable, Hawthorne effect.

Explain why it is difficult/unethical to experiment on humans.

Explain the logic of the 'field/what if experiment'.

Give examples of experiments in the social sciences.


Can You?

Explain the terms, sampling frame, sample, and representative.

List and explain the various types of sampling.

Describe the sources of error in sampling.


Can You?

Explain what is meant by value-freedom.

Explain why value freedom is valued.

Explain why value-freedom is impossible to attain but worth attempting.

Give examples of sociologists who support the concept of value-freedom and of those who reject it.

Distinguish between bias, prejudice and point of view.

Key terms:

Ontology The nature of Reality.
Epistemology What is knowledge, objective fact, and subjective opinion.
Positivism The method of science.
Empiricism Knowledge gained by direct sense experience.
Determinism The idea that our behaviour is 'caused' by some external force.
Interpretivism The belief that all human actions are purposive and need interpreting, 'facts do not speak for themselves'.
Postmodern After the modern period.
Objectivity Knowledge uncontaminated by values.
Value Freedom The idea that facts should not be contaminated by values.
Reliability Could anybody, using the same method, come up with the same results?
Validity Does the research measure what it claims to measure?
Representativeness Is the situation typical? If so, generalisations are possible.
Imposition Any selection of information or interpretation made by a researcher.
Operationalisation Defining concepts so that they can be measured.
Sponsor A person who helps obtain entry to a group and who furthers data gathering.
Observer fatigue Tiredness resulting from pretence, particularly in covert observation.
Covert research The subjects of the research are unaware that research is being conducted.
Overt research The subjects know about the research.
Control To control the variables.
Dependent variable The factor being acted upon.
Independent variable The active (change causing) factor.
Replication The possibility of research being repeated with the same result.
Representative The basis for generalisation.
Population A list of all those who could be included in a survey.
Sample frame A list of al those from among which the sample will be selected.
Sample Those actually selected for investigation.
Random sample A sample technique where everybody in the sample has an equal chance of selection.
Systematic random sample Any number is chosen at random (n) then every nth person in a sample frame is selected.
Stratified sample A sample that takes note of and mirrors significant differences in the sample population, for example, gender, age, ethnicity.
Quota sample As above but without the possibility of non-response, and with the respondents actually chosen by the fieldworker.
Snowball sample A sample that grows in number via personal relationships.
Non-representative sample A sample that deliberately does not select a representative group of subjects for research.

Key names:

Berger and Luckmann 'The Social Construction of Reality'. Society creates individuals and individuals create society.
Giddens Structuration, same idea as above.
Popper Falsification
Kuhn 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' (1962).
Merton The Scientific ethos.
John Stuart Mill The method of difference.
Elton Mayo The Hawthorne effect.
W. Whyte 'Street Corner Society' (1955).
Parker 'View from the Boys' (1974).
Gold 'Rules in Sociological Field Observation' (1958): Proposed a four-fold classification.
Rosenthall and Jacobson (1964) Pygmalion in the Classroom.
S. Milgram (1965) The electric shock experiments.
Rosenham Being sane in insane places.
Garfinkel 'What if' experiments.
Popper Objectivity obtained at the collective, not the individual, level.
Gomm 'Neutrality and Commitment in Sociology' argues that: a value free sociology is impossible.
Gouldner, in Anti-Minotaur 'The Myth of Value Free Sociology' (1973).
Becker 'Whose Side are we On?' Argues that Sociology should side with the disadvantaged.
Oakley (1974) Sociology reduces women to a side issue from the start.
Marsland 'Bias against Business' suggests that many Sociology textbooks ignore the central features of capitalist economies.
C.W. Mills (1970) "By their work, all students of man and society assume and imply moral and political decisions".