common sense and sociological research

Chapter 2

What Do Sociologists Do?

This Chapter Will Help You:

Understand the difference between common sense and sociological research

Outline the major perspectives in sociology

Identify the difference between qualitative and quantitative research

Identify the various types of research methods that sociologists use

Understand the importance of ethics in social science research

What is Common Sense?

Knowledge we get from our lived experience


May be accurate, but is not always reliable


Things that are commonly known are not necessarily factual


Fake News

Have you seen this meme?

It was circulated widely on social media as “factual”

In reality, research shows that this information is completely inaccurate

Major Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology

What is a Theory?

A set of propositions intended to explain social phenomena


May be used to explain or predict a phenomenon


Theories can help us understand the relationships between variables


Major Theoretical Perspectives: Functionalism

Functionalism focuses on social stability

Functionalists view society as a set of interconnected parts

This is similar to how the human body works

Social institutions persist because they help society to survive


Functionalism, cont’d – Talcott Parsons

Society tends toward balance or equilibrium


As one part of society changes, other parts must adjust to maintain social stability


Functionalism, cont’d – Robert Merton

Manifest Functions

The intended outcomes generated by a social institution

Latent Functions

The unintended or less visible outcomes of a social institution


A system that is not functioning properly is dysfunctional



Functionalism: Emile Durkheim

Studied how rapid social change affects social stability

As societies grow more complex, people have fewer commonalities

Less social solidarity

This may result in anomie:

A feeling of normlessness

Major Theoretical Perspectives: Conflict Theory

Conflict theorists focus on the importance of conflict and change


They study inequality and exploitation


They see social life as a continuing struggle for fairness, security, and respect

Conflict Theories, cont’d – Karl Marx

Marx focuses on capitalism’s mode of production:

A way of producing the material things we need to survive

The capitalist mode of production produces a particular social order:

The bourgeoisie own the means of industrial production

The proletariat work for a wage and produce profits for the bourgeoisie

Conflict Theory cont’d – Karl Marx

Marx believed that the capitalist social order exploited the proletariat


Class consciousness:

Marx believed that if the workers recognized their common exploitation and their common power, they could overthrow the business owners

Major Theoretical Perspectives: Symbolic Interactionism