A common-sense approach to the study of human societies, means that the information is taken as it is given, and no more thought or ideas are put into it. An example of a common-sense approach may be a Naturalistic explanation, or an Individualistic explanation. A Naturalistic explanation assumes that natural reasons for behaviour can be acknowledged, e.g. it is only natural that someone should go to school, get a job, get married and reproduce. An Individualistic explanation is an explanation which simply tries to explain a situation through the individual personally or other people involved.
A sociological approach to the study of human societies is a way for us to look at situations from another perspective. This approach seeks to explain social behaviour, in terms of wider social forces, processes and structures. Sociology is the study of human relationships and institutions.
An example which conveys the difference between a common sense approach and a sociological approach, may be that a common sense approach may claim that people divorce simply because they fall out of love with one another, whereas a sociological approach may argue this point by looking at divorce rates over time, across different social classes and consider laws of a country which may have made divorce simpler: as this may have been a factor stopping people from divorcing their partners.
One research method which tends to generate qualitative data may be a focus group. These are used when it is preferable to gain information from a group, rather than a single person. Members of the focus group must have a similar thing in common which is relevant to the investigation. Focus groups seek to make use of the participants feelings, opinions and perspectives. They may be used due to lack of time or money, and to study how the individuals behave in a group and to gain wider opinions.
A research method which generates quantitative data may be a quantitative survey. These are ideal when dealing with a large number of participants, as they are least time-consuming, and information is passed easily. However, participants may lie, and their behaviour cannot be studied to justify this. The respondents preferred answers may also not be listed, therefore not giving an accurate representation of the candidates.
Task 2: Analyse relationships among individuals, groups and institutions.
One structural theory which is relevant to sociological understanding of human society is a consensus theory; an example of this being Functionalism. Functionalism was created by a theorist named Emile Durkheim. The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness.” (Durkheim, 1893). Functionalism takes the view that a persons surroundings and influences will decide what type of person they turn out to be. Functionalism also believes that rules are extremely important in society, as they help us to build relationships with one another. Functionalism claims that society is similar, in a way, to the human body. As the human body is made up of many parts which would not work the same if one piece was missing, society is the same.
A strength of Functionalism is that as it is a theory, it allows us to see a situation from a differing viewpoint and a new perspective. Another strength is that it deals with society in a new way and through comparing it to something everyone understands, it becomes simpler to agree with and potentially get people talking about it. A weakness is that it fails to deal with the opposing view of Marxism, which frustrates those who hold that viewpoint as they are not listened to. Some people may also consider Functionalism to be too positive, as it suggests that there is always a positive side to everything when this is not always true.
A specific action theory which is relevant to sociological understanding of human society is Symbolic Interactionism. Symbolic Interactionism is described as the way that society learns and experiences, through the way that we interact with others. It suggests that society becomes based upon how people think they see each other, how their minds react to this and the result. As everyone we meet interprets us differently, George Herbert Mead believes that this becomes the foundation for the type of person we turn out to be.
A strength of Symbolic Interactionism may be that it considers how people think about themselves and the choices they make based on this. Another strength may be that as it is detailed and goes into depth, more people may feel that they are able to relate to this. A weakness of Symbolic Interactionism may be that the symbols could be interpreted incorrectly, as well as failing to explain social order and the background of this. George Herbert Mead is an example of an important sociologist who invented the Symbolic Interactionism theory. Mead believes that a persons view of themselves stems from their interactions with others in society.
One similarity between Functionalism and Symbolic Interactionism, is that they are both theories, therefore both look at different perspectives in society. A difference between Functionalism and Symbolic Interactionism is that Functionalism looks at the wider picture of society, whereas Symbolic Interactionism focuses on a specific part, which is how someone acts. Another difference between Symbolic Interactionism and Functionalism is that Functionalism believes that society is made up by social facts, as well as previous generations and their beliefs, shown in Comparison of functionalism and symbolic interactionism (BA, Psych, Langhoff, 2002)
Read the scenario below and respond to the prompt that follows
The research method that I would choose for researching the above scenario, is an unstructured interview. Advantages of an unstructured interview include:
The respondent is free to add additional information, therefore allowing more behaviour to be analysed and more information to be gathered and assessed.
The researcher can ask questions which may derive the response to another question, tricking the respondent and potentially causing them to reveal something they wouldnt have otherwise.
Disadvantages of an unstructured interview include
The respondent may end up leading the interview, giving information that is not relevant to the questions previously asked, and may be trying to change the conversation to stop any unwanted questions being asked.
It can be very time-consuming, meaning some respondents may give false answers just to skip time, and will also take up a lot of time.