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Core Concepts of Theoretical Perspectives and Methods of Social Research

Sociological theories offer a set of guiding questions and key concepts that address how societies operate and how people relate to one another.

A sociological theory is a set of core assumptions and core concepts that speak to how societies operate and how people in them relate to one another and respond to their environment. Three major theories dominate the discipline of sociology:

3. Symbolic Interactionist.
Functionalists focus on how the "parts" of society contribute in expected and unexpected ways to social order and stability and to social disorder and instability.

Two types of functions are:
1.Manifest (anticipated) Parts can also be disruptive to order and stability. When a disruption is anticipated, the dysfunction is manifest.
2.Latent (unanticipated or unintended). When a disruption is unanticipated or unintended, the dysfunction is latent.
The conflict perspective focuses on conflict over scarce and valued resources and the strategies dominant groups use to create and protect social arrangements that give them an advantage over subordinate groups.
Conflict can take many forms, from physical confrontations to emotional manipulation. In any society, dominant and subordinate groups compete for scarce and valued resources.
Symbolic interactionists focus on social interaction and related concepts of self-awareness/reflexive thinking, symbols, and negotiated order. Symbolic interactionists draw upon the following concepts:

1. Reflexive thinking, the process of stepping outside the self and observing and evaluating it from another's viewpoint;
2. Symbols are kind of physical phenomenon to which people assigns a name, meaning, or value
3. Negotiated order is the sum of existing and newly negotiated expectations, rules, policies, agreements and understandings.
Sociologists adhere to the scientific method; that is, they acquire data through observation and leave it open to verification by others.
The scientific method is an approach to data collection that relies on two assumptions:
1. Knowledge about the world is acquired through observation, and
2. The truth of that knowledge is confirmed by verification

Sociologists explain why their research topic is important, tie their research in with existing research, and specify the core concepts guiding investigation.
The first step of a research project involves choosing a topic or deciding on a research question. Researchers take existing research into account by showing how their new research verifies, advances, and corrects past research. Finally, researchers typically state the core concepts driving their research.
Sociologists decide on a plan for gathering data, identifying whom or what they will study and how they will select sample subjects for study.
Sociologists use a variety of data-collection methods, including self-administered questionnaires, interviews, observation, and secondary sources.
Sociologists may choose to test hypotheses specifying the relationship between independent and dependent variables.
A variable is any characteristic that consists of more than one category. Sometimes researchers strive to find
associations between variables to explain or predict behavior. The
behavior to be explained or predicted is the dependent variable. 
The variable that explains or predicts the dependent variable is the
independent variable.
When researchers reach the stage of analyzing collected
data, they search for common themes, meaningful patterns, and links.