49 Putting It Together: Sociological Foundations


In this module, you learned about what sociology is, where it came from, and the many possibilities for its present-day use. Unless you are planning a life of total solitude, sociology can contribute positively in both your personal and professional life. Due to the diversity of our society and a “shrinking” world, it’s a good bet that you will run into people from distinctly different cultures, even within the borders of the United States.

You can review the ways that sociologists study behavior and review some of the major contributions from early sociologists in the following video:

Understanding one another contributes to more peaceful interactions as we go about our daily living. A solid knowledge of the sociological imagination helps us to see the connection between our personal experiences and how our own life may be impacted by the way society views us as individuals.

People eating outside on small benches at a table filled with large platters of colorful food.
Outdoor cafe in Yangon, Myanmar.

You also learned the ways that empirical research differs from what we would consider common sense. When sociological research is founded on scientific data, we can get a much more accurate vision of how people actually live. You learned about how sociologists use the scientific method to test hypotheses and gather data:

  1. First, we ask a question.
  2. Then we review existing studies to see if someone has already studied this particular issue.
  3. Next, we set up a method by which to study the hypothesis and gather our data.
  4. After conducting our study, we look at the answers we have found and draw a conclusion.
  5. Finally, we report our findings so that those who come after us will have the benefit of our studies.

You saw that there are a number of strategies sociologists might use in order to conduct their studies, including the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. Depending on the question being asked, a sociologist might use one of these approaches:

  1.    Surveys
  2.    Field Research
  3.    Participant Observation
  4.    Ethnography
  5.    Case Study
  6.    Experiments
  7.    Secondary Data Analysis

What you learned to do:

  • Define sociology and describe the historical and social context from which it emerged
  • Explain the sociological imagination and the relationship between the individual and the broader workings of society
  • Differentiate between the three main theoretical paradigms/perspectives in sociology and describe how they are used
  • Describe and apply the scientific method to sociology
  • Identify and differentiate between types of research methods, discussing the benefits and limitations of each
  • Consider the importance of ethics in sociological research


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