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Sociological Imagination

A quality of the mind that allows us to understand the relationship between our particular situation in life and what is happening at a social level

Culture Shock

A sense of disorientation when you enter a radically new social or cultural environment.

Everyday Actor

One who has the practical knowledge needed to get through the daily life but not necessarily the scientific or technical knowledge of how things work.

Beginner's Mind

Approaching the world without preconception on order to see things in a new way.


The systematic or scientific study of human society and social behavior. From large scale institutions to small groups and individuals.


A group of people who shape their lives in aggregated and patterned ways that distinguish their group from other groups.

Social Sciences

The disciplines that use the scientific method to examine the social world: in contrast to the natural sciences, which examine the physical world.

Qualitative Research

Research that works with nonnumerical data such as text, interview, pictures, transcripts, etc. This type of research tries to understand how people make sense of their world.

Quantitative Research

Research that uses numbers so it can be studied and manipulated mathematically. This type of research tries to find cause - and - affect relationships.


The level of analysis that studies large - scale social structures in order to determine how they affect the lives of groups and individuals.


The level of analysis that studies face - to - face and small groups interactions in order to understand how those interactions affect the larger patterns and institutions of society.


In sociology, abstract propositions that explain the social world and make predictions about future events.


The theory, developed by Auguste Comte, that sense perceptions are the only valid source of knowledge.

Scientific Method

A procedure for acquiring knowledge that emphasizes collecting concrete data through observation and experiment.


the tendency to favor European or Western history, culture, and values over other histories, cultures, and values.


Based on scientific experimentation or observation.

Mechanical Solidarity

term developed by Emile Durkeim to descrive the tupe of social bonds present in premodern, argrarian societies, in which shared tradition and beliefs created in which shared tradition and beliefs created a sense of social cohesion.

Organic Solidarity

term developed by Emile Durkeim to describe the type of social binds present in modern societies, based on indifference interdependence, and individual rights.


"normlessness"; term used to describe the alienation and loss of purpose that result from weaker social bonds and an increased pace of change


The degree of integration or unity within a particular society; the extent to which individuals feel connected to other members of their group


A political system based on the collective ownership of the means of production; opposed to capitalism


generated by the competition between different class groups for scarce resources and the source of all social change, according to Karl Marx

Social Inequality

the uneven and often unfair distribution of goods within society


an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and characterized by competition, the profit motive, and wage labor

Means of Production

anything that an create wealth: money, property, factories, and other types of businesses, and the infrastructure necessary to run them.


workers; those who have no means of production of their own and so are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live.


owners; the class or modern capitalist who are employers of wage labor


The sense of dissatisfaction the modern worker feels as result of producing goods that are owned and controlled by someone else, according to Marx.


a political system based on state ownership or control of principal elements of the economy in order to reduce levels of social inequality


the application of economic logic to human activity, the use of formal rules and regulations in order to maximize efficiency without consideration of subjective or individual concerns


secondary groups designed to perform tasks efficiently, characterized by specialization, technical competence, hierarchy, written rules, impersonality, and formal written communication.

Iron Cage

Max Weber's pessimistic description of modern life, in which the "technical and economic conditions of machine production" control our lives through rigid rules and rationalization.


"to understand"; Weber's term to describe good social research, which tries to understand the meanings that individual social actors attach to various actions and events.


the therapeutic branch of psychology founded by Sigmund Freud in which free association and dream interpretation are used to explore the unconscious mind.


In Freudian psychology, the drive or instinct that desires productivity and construction.


In Freudian psychology, the drive or instinct toward aggression or destruction


the process that cause unwanted or taboo desires to return via tics, dreams, slips of the tongue, and neuroses, according to Freud


the process in which socially unacceptable desires are healthily channeled into socially acceptable expressions, according to Freud.


a set of assumptions, theories, and perspectives, that make up a way of understanding social reality.

Structural Functionalism

A paradigm that begins with the assumption that society is a unified whole that functions because of the contributions of its separate structures.


a social institution that is relatively stable over time and that meets that needs of society by performing functions necessary to maintain social order and stability


A disturbance to or undesirable consequence of some aspect of the social system

Manifest Functions

the obvious, intended functions of a social structure for the social system

Latent Functions

The less obvious, perhaps unintended functions of a social structure

Conflict Theory

a paradigm that sees social conflict as the basis of society and social change and emphasizes a materialist view of society, a critical view of the status quo, and a dynamic model of historical change


a system of beliefs, attitudes, and values, that directs a society and reproduces the status quo of the bourgeoisie.

false consciousness

a denial of the truth on the part of the oppressed when the fail to recognize the interests of the ruling class in their ideology

class consciousness

the recognition of social inequality on the part of the oppressed, leading to revolutionary action

dialectical model

Marx's model of historical change, whereby two extreme positions come into conflict and create some new third thing between them


the existing social arrangements in a dialectical model


the opposition to the existing arrangements in a dialectical model


the new social system created out of the conflict between thesis and antithesis in a dialectical model

Double consciousness

W.E.B. DuBois's term for the conflict felt by and out African Americans, who were both American (and hence entitled to rights and freedoms) and African (and hence subject to the prejudices and discrimination) at the same time


those in power in a society

Critical Theory

a contemporary form of conflict theory that criticizes many different systems of ideologies of domination and oppression


practical action that is taken on the basis of intellectual or theoretical understanding

symbolic interactionism

a paradigm that sees interaction and meaning as central to society and assumes that meanings are not inherent but are created through interaction.


a theoretical perspective that assumes organisms (including humans) make practical adaptations to their environments. Humans do this through cognition, interpretation, and interaction.


a theoretical paradigm that uses the metaphor of the theater to understand how individuals present themselves to pthers.


the study of "folk methods," or everyday interactions, that must be uncovered rather than studied directly .

conversation analysis

a sociological approach that looks at how we create meaning in naturally occurring conversation, often by taping conversations and examining them.

Feminist Theory

a theoretical approach that looks at gender inequities in society and the way that gender structures the social world

Queer Theory

a paradigm that proposes that categories of sexual identity are social constructs and that no sexual category is fundamentally either deviant or normal


a paradigm that suggests that social reality is diverse, pluralistic, and constantly in flux


a paradigm that places trust in the power of science and technology to create, progress, solve problems, and improve life.

Scientific Method

a procedure for acquiring knowledge that emphasizes collecting concrete data through observation and experiment

Literature review

a thorough search through previously published studies relevant to a particular topic


a theoretical statement explaining the relationship between two or more phenomena


one of two or more phenomena that a researcher believes are related and hopes to prove are related through research

operational definition

a clear and precise definition of a variable that facilitates its measurement


a relationship between variables in which they change together. may or may not be casual


a relationship between variables in which a change in one directly produces a change in the other

intervening variable

a third variable, sometimes overlooked, that explains the relationship between two other variables.

spurious correlation

the appereance of causation produced by an intervening variable

paradigm shift

the term used to describe a change in basic assumptions of a particular scientific discipline


a naturalistic method based on studying people in their own environment in order to understand the meanings they attribute to their activities; also the written work that results from the study

participant observation

a methodology whereby the researcher both observes and becomes a member in the social setting


the process by which an ethnographer gains entry to a field setting


a positive relationship often characterized by mutual trust or sympathy


detailed notes taken by an ethnographer describing her activities and interactions, which later become the basis of the ethnographic analysis

grounded theory

an inductive method of generating from data by creating categories in which to place data and then looking for relationships between categories.


research that can be repeated, and thus verified, by other researchers later


the degree to which a particular studied group is similar to, or represents, any part of the larger society


an opinion held by the researcher that might affect the research or analysis

close- ended question

a question asked of a respondent that imposes a limit on possible responses

open - ended question

a question asked of a respondent that allows the answer to take whatever form the respondent chooses

leading questions

questions that predispose a respondent to answer in a certain way

double - barreled questions

questions that attempt to get at multiple issues at once, and so tend to receive incomplete answers

Likert Scale

a way of organizing categories on a survey question so that the respondent can choose an answer along a continuum.

Negative Questions

survey questions that ask respondents what they don't think instead of what they do

Representative Samples

a sample taken so that findings from members of the sample group can be generalized to the whole population

probability sampling

any sampling scheme in which the probability of selecting any given unit is known

simple random sampling

a particular type of probability sample in which every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected


techniques for manipulating the sampling procedure so that the sample more closely resembles the larger population

response rate

the number or percentage of surveys completed by respondents and returned to researchers


the consistency of a question or measurement tool; the degree to which the same questions will produce similar answers



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