The Sociology of Gender: An Introduction to Theory and Research (Key Themes in Sociology)

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Others examine larger social organizations such as businesses and governments, looking at their structure and hierarchies. Still others focus on social movements and political protest, such as the American civil rights movement. As you can see, sociologists study just about everything.

Introduction to Sociology/Print version

Thus, it is not the subject matter that makes a paper sociological, but rather the perspective used in writing it. So, just what is a sociological perspective? At its most basic, sociology is an attempt to understand and explain the way that individuals and groups interact within a society. How exactly does one approach this goal? That is certainly a tall order, but it is the basis of all effective sociological writing. Keep it in mind as you think about your own writing. What are the most important things to keep in mind as you write in sociology? Pay special attention to the following issues.

The first thing to remember in writing a sociological argument is to be as clear as possible in stating your thesis. Of course, that is true in all papers, but there are a couple of pitfalls common to sociology that you should be aware of and avoid at all cost.


As previously defined, sociology is the study of the interaction between individuals and larger social forces. Different traditions within sociology tend to favor one side of the equation over the other, with some focusing on the agency of individual actors and others on structural factors. The danger is that you may go too far in either of these directions and thus lose the complexity of sociological thinking.

Although this mistake can manifest itself in any number of ways, three types of flawed arguments are particularly common:.

Gender and Socialization

Although each of these three arguments seems quite different, they all share one common feature: they assume exactly what they need to be explaining. They are excellent starting points, but lousy conclusions. Once you have developed a working argument, you will next need to find evidence to support your claim. What counts as evidence in a sociology paper? First and foremost, sociology is an empirical discipline. Empiricism in sociology means basing your conclusions on evidence that is documented and collected with as much rigor as possible.

This evidence usually draws upon observed patterns and information from collected cases and experiences, not just from isolated, anecdotal reports. Just because your second cousin was able to climb the ladder from poverty to the executive boardroom does not prove that the American class system is open.

You will need more systematic evidence to make your claim convincing. Above all else, remember that your opinion alone is not sufficient support for a sociological argument. Even if you are making a theoretical argument, you must be able to point to documented instances of social phenomena that fit your argument. Logic is necessary for making the argument, but is not sufficient support by itself. Thus, the methods you choose will reflect the type of evidence most appropriate to the questions you ask. This would measure the distribution of race and racial beliefs in the organization.

The qualitative researcher would see how people act out their beliefs, and how these beliefs interact with the beliefs of others as well as the constraints of the organization.

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Some sociologists favor qualitative over quantitative data, or vice versa, and it is perfectly reasonable to rely on only one method in your own work. However, since each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, combining methods can be a particularly effective way to bolster your argument. But these distinctions are not just important if you have to collect your own data for your paper. You also need to be aware of them even when you are relying on secondary sources for your research.

In order to critically evaluate the research and data you are reading, you should have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the different methods. Given that social life is so complex, you need to have a point of entry into studying this world. In sociological jargon, you need a unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is exactly that: it is the unit that you have chosen to analyze in your study.

Again, this is only a question of emphasis and focus, and not of precedence and importance. You will find a variety of units of analysis in sociological writing, ranging from the individual up to groups or organizations. You should choose yours based on the interests and theoretical assumptions driving your research.

The unit of analysis will determine much of what will qualify as relevant evidence in your work.

Introduction to Sociology/Print version - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

Thus you must not only clearly identify that unit, but also consistently use it throughout your paper. What if you wanted to study globalization? Where would you start? You might focus on individual human actors, studying the way that people are affected by the globalizing world. Or you might choose to focus on social structures or organizations.

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This approach might involve looking at the decisions being made at the national or international level, such as the free-trade agreements that change the relationships between governments and corporations. Or you might look into the organizational structures of corporations and measure how they are changing under globalization.

Another structural approach would be to focus on the social networks linking subjects together. That could lead you to look at how migrants rely on social contacts to make their way to other countries, as well as to help them find work upon their arrival. Offers an accessible yet intellectually sophisticated approach to current gender theory and research. Includes pedagogical features designed to encourage critical thinking and debate. Closer Look readings at the end of each chapter give a unique perspective on chapter topics by presenting relevant articles by leading scholars.

About the Author Amy S. Permissions Request permission to reuse content from this site. Sociological Vantage Points. What Is Gender?. A Working Definition Of Gender. Three Frameworks For Understanding Gender. Gender Matters. Chapter Summary.

For Further Reading. A Close Look. Part I: Conceptual Approaches:. The Gendered Person:. Chapter Objectives. Sex And Gender.

  1. A sociological dilemma: Race, segregation and US sociology.
  2. An Introduction to Sociology.
  3. Masculinity?
  4. Sex And Sex Category. The Gendered Person. Sex Difference Research. Sex Differences And Gender Inequality. Becoming Gendered. Key Terms. A Closer Look.

    Interactionist Views Of Gender. Gendered Organizations. Gendered Institutions. The Division Of Labor.