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The use of concepts in sociology

The use of concepts in sociology


Every field of study makes the student memorize many words to which the field attaches special meanings. It is done because precise concepts are necessary. First we need carefully expressed concepts to carry on a scientific discussion. The sociological concepts are necessary for a clear discussion of social phenomena. The formulation of concepts leads to increased knowledge. Some accurate descriptive knowledge must be organized before a concept is framed. Then the analysis and criticism of this new concept point up the gaps and errors in present knowledge. Use of the concept often calls attention to the facts and relationships which may have been overlooked. While studying migration Park framed the concept of the marginal man who is on the fringes of two groups or two ways of life while fully belonging to neither.

The use of this concept quickly led to the recognition that there were many kinds of marginal persons- the persons of mixed racial ancestry who belongs clearly to neither race, the supervisor who is clearly either management or labour the ambitious climber no longer in the lower class yet not securely a middle class person and many others. Concepts like marginality lead to increased knowledge. Concepts are useful as verbal shorthand. The term control group replaces an entire sentence. Every discipline develops concepts as time savers. Most of the concepts of sociology are expressed in words which also have a popular meaning. Every science appropriates some common words and makes them into scientific concepts by giving them a specific definition andsociology is no exception.

Pure and Applied Sociology


A distinction between pure and applied science is drawn in every scientific field. Pure science is a search for knowledge, without primary concern for its practical use. Applied science is the search for ways of using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. A sociologist making a study of the social structure of a slum neighbourhood is working as a pure scientist if this is followed by a study of how to prevent delinquency in a slum neighbourhood this is applied science.

Practical applications of sociological knowledge have become quite common. Sociologists are employed by corporations, government bureaus and social agencies often in evaluation research but sometimes in administration. Sociologists are often consulted by legislative committees in preparing new legislation. While the political clout of opposing interest groups may be the prime determinant of social policy decisions, the policy recommendations of social scientists are a significant factor in the legislative process.

Popular Sociology


A great deal of sociological material reaches print through people who are not sociologists. The popular magazines are full of articles on crime, family life, education and social class -practically every sociological topic. This is a popular sociology-treatment of sociological topics usually by writers without much formal sociological training and aimed at a popular audience. Popular sociology deals with the topics which are descriptively inaccurate with a total lack of the interpretative analysis which would fit the facts into a relevant social context.

At the opposite pole are many writers who do a good job of popularizing sociological findings. Pop Sociology often contains inaccuracies and instances of misplaced emphasis doubtful interpretation, oversimplification and too sweeping generalization. Yet it is likely that popular understanding of sociological topics has been increased by such writers. Sociologists write for the scholarly audience while journalists popularize sociology more or less accurately for the public.
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