The sociological perspective analyzes the connection between personal troubles and four levels of social structure: microstructures, mesostructures, macrostructures, and global structures.
Sociology has four major theoretical traditions. Functionalism analyzes how social order is supported by macrostructures. The conflict approach analyzes how social inequality is maintained and challenged. Symbolic interactionism analyzes how meaning is created when people communicate in micro-level settings. Feminism focuses on the social sources of patriarchy in both macro- and micro-level settings.
The Scientific, Democratic, and Industrial Revolutions stimulated the rise of sociology. The Scientific Revolution encouraged the view that sound conclusions about the workings of society must be based on solid evidence, not just speculation. The Democratic Revolution suggested that people are responsible for organizing society and that human intervention can therefore solve social problems. The Industrial Revolution created a host of new and serious social problems that attracted the attention of many social thinkers.
To maximize the scientific value of a research project, one must address issues of reliability consistency in measurement and validity precision in measurement.
An experiment is a carefully controlled artificial situation that allows researchers to isolate hypothesized causes and measure their effects by randomizing the allocation of subjects to experimental and control groups and exposing only the experimental group to an independent variable. Experiments get high marks for reliability and analysis of causality, but validity issues make them less than ideal for many research purposes.
In a survey, people are asked questions about their knowledge, attitudes, or behavior, in a face-to-face interview, a telephone interview, or a paper-and-pencil format. Surveys rank high on reliability and validity as long as researchers sample and phrase questions carefully and take measures to ensure high response rates.
Participant observation is one of the main sociological methods. It involves carefully observing people's face-to-face interactions and actually participating in their lives over a long period. Participant observation is particularly useful for enabling researchers to understand how their subjects understand the world and for conducting exploratory research. Issues of reliability and generalizability make participant observation less useful for other research purposes.
Existing documents and official statistics are inexpensive and convenient sources of high-quality data. However, they must be used cautiously because they often reflect the biases of the individuals and organizations that created them rather than the interests of the researcher.
The Postindustrial Revolution is the technology-driven shift from manufacturing to service industries. Globalization is the process by which formerly separate economies, states, and cultures are becoming tied together and people are becoming increasingly aware of their growing interdependence. The causes and consequences of post industrialism and globalization form the great sociological puzzles of our time. The tensions between equality and inequality of opportunity, and between freedom and constraint, are among the chief interests of sociology today.