Concepts Test -- Finals
Study Guide

[Revised:  September 1, 2014]

SL0 1 -- After successful completion of this course the student should be able to use components of the scientific method.  They should be able to analyze data and identify various research designs appropriate to the study of society (Empirical and Quantitative Skills).

 scientific method

The scientific method is a systematic, organized series of steps that ensures maximum objectivity and consistency in researching a problem (Schaefer and Lamm, 1992:35).


A percentage is a proportion, or rate, based on 100. Use of percentages allows one to compare groups of different sizes. For example, if we are comparing contributors to a town's Baptist and Roman Catholic churches, the absolute numbers of contributors could be misleading if there were many more Baptists than Catholics living in the town. With percentages, we could obtain a more meaningful comparison, showing the proportion of persons in each group who contribute to their respective churches (Schaefer & Lamm, 1992: 36).


The mean is a measure of central tendency that is calculated by dividing the total number of all figures by the number of individual cases involved.  For example, to find the mean of the numbers 5, 19, and 27, we add them and divide by the number of values that is 3. The mean would then be 17.


The median is the midpoint or number that divides a series of values (which are ranked in ascending or descending order).  Eleven students who completed the first test had scores of 48, 57, 64, 68, 68, 70, 78, 84, 90, 92, and 95.  The median for this distribution of scores is70.


With surveys, the researcher asks questions of people either face-to-face in interviews or by using a questionnaire. A survey consists of precisely worded questions. Data collection is systematic.  The researcher can study a large number of cases with relative ease compared to other methods of collecting data.  Findings may be generalizable to larger populations. There are, however, numerous drawbacks to the survey.  When relying on a survey questionnaire, much information is lost. Facial expressions are not recorded. Environmental considerations are missed (e.g., what was the weather like when the survey was taken. Or, what was the characteristics of the location where the interview takes place). Furthermore, information can be lost because the interviewer failed to ask the right question.

case study

Case studies are in depth studies of a group or individual in real life situations. Its advantages are that the researcher can study individuals in-depth in their natural setting (e.g., at home, at work, playing, etc.). Case studies provided volumes of information such that at the end of the study the researcher has a thorough understanding of the individuals involved in the study. Drawbacks to the case study include the fact that social scientist cannot usually investigate many cases because of time constraints. Another problem with the case study is that the results are often not generalizable to the population at large.

participant observation

Participant observation is involvement by the researcher, either known or unknown, with the group under observation. An example of participant observation might be a researcher studying Appalachian culture by living with the people under investigation for a long time.  The researcher may sleep in the same house as the people being investigated.  He or she would engage in the same activities as the people being studied.  By using participant observation, the researcher is able to gather a broad body of information of the groups being studied including their needs and social characteristics.  A significant drawback to this style of research is that one cannot generalize the findings to larger populations.  It's also very time consuming.

Example:  Jason is conducting research on the homeless. For six weeks he has lived among the homeless "24/7," sleeping on the street or at a shelter, and engaging in the same activities as the population he is studying. By doing so, Jason has been able to gather a broad understanding of the homeless, their needs, and characteristics.

secondary data analysis (existing data)

Existing data refers to government records (such as the Census), personal documents (such as letters or diaries), or mass communication (published books, the news, movies, FaceBook pages). In other words, secondary data are data that some one else has collected.  The advantages are that the data is generally easy to get. They already exist and can be found in most university libraries or online. Much existing data are standardized, thus making it easier to compare one set of data with another. Problems associated with using existing data are that the researcher must use the format provided. For example, a researcher studying poverty would be frustrated with the census before 1970 because there was no poverty rate information documented before 1965.

experimental method

The experiment offers a high degree of exactness because one can control everything in a laboratory setting. Variables can be precisely studied. The natural sciences and Psychology uses this approach most often. It is easier to define independent and dependent variables in experiments.  As a result, it is also easier to determine cause and effect. One disadvantage with the experiment in studying social phenomena is that the environment is contrived. People do not normally carry out their lives in a laboratory setting. Ethical issues may also arise when performing experiments on people. The Nazi death-camp experiments represent extreme instances of ethical violation. Even in ordinary, university-type experiments deception and misinformation are often employed. Many consider these ethical violations.

poverty line

The poverty line is determined by the Social Security Administration and is based on the minimum amount of income needed to provide for the basic necessities of life.  The poverty line is computed by multiplying the cost of a basic nutritionally adequate diet by 3.

sex ratio

The sex ratio in a population refers to the number of men to women and might be calculated by the following:  (Men/Women)*100

metropolitan area

A metropolitan area is that of a core area containing a large population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core

interpret graphs and charts

Be familiar with the following graph and chart.




SLO 2 -- After successful completion of this course the student should be able to judge the relevancy of the components of information from the major theoretical perspectives employed in sociology - evaluation (Critical Thinking Skills).

sociological perspective

The sociological perspective is an approach to understanding behavior by placing behavior within its broader social context. (E.g., In applying the sociological perspective to the study of teenagers from wealthy families who are convicted of shoplifting, sociologists would be most likely to focus on the impact of the larger culture and the social world on teenager’s criminal behavior.)

sociological imagination

The sociological imagination involves understanding one's own situation in terms of conditions that are laid down in the past.  C. Wright Mills, an American sociologist, notes that all of our life chances are shaped by the intersections of our own personal biographies and history.  E.g., some one may engage their sociological imagination by looking at historical events that have occurred over the past fifty years and how they have affected their own life.

functionalist perspective

Understanding society from a functionalist perspective is to visualize society as a system of integrated parts where all the parts work together even though each part may be doing different things. Each part is necessary for the survival of the system. A primary purpose of all parts (institutions like the police, the mass media, education, religion, the family) is to encourage consensus and stability. Functionalists contend that social systems tend toward balance.  Functionalist theory is macro in nature in that it explores very large social relations such as relations between classes, institutions, or nation states.

conflict perspective

Conflict theorists see society less as a cohesive system and more as an arena of conflict, contradictions, and power struggles. Instead of people working together to further the goals of the "social system," people are seen achieving their will at the expense of others. Social change occurs as people seek shares of scarce resources, resources such as power, prestige, or wealth. Most social institutions serve the interests of the powerful. Change occurs as people, groups, and institutions confront contradictions in objective and subjective reality. For example, ideology suggests that everyone has an equal chance at economic advancement, but very few poor people rise very far within the class structure.  Violence sometimes results from inequality and as people compete for scarce resources.  Karl Marx was a conflict theorist who saw class conflict as the engine that drives human history.  Marx further argued that class conflict was at the core of human progress.  Conflict theory is also a macro theory with heavy emphasis on relationships between social classes or other large groups of people (e.g., racial and ethnic groups).

symbolic interactionist perspective

The scope of investigation for these sociologists is very small. Interaction is generally face-to-face and addresses “everyday” interactions between people. Interactionists are interested in the way individuals and small groups act toward, respond to, and influence one another in society. This perspective is not interested in macro-institutions like the economy and nation-states.  The interactionist perspective is decidedly micro in nature.  It explores small-scale social relationships like those between individuals or within small groups (e.g., families).

Example:  Symbolic interactionists would be most interested in the reaction that a vacationer might have at encountering nudism at a beach on a Caribbean island.

power elite

The power elite are a few very wealthy individuals who control the economy, production, and the political system.  C. Wright Mills in The Power Elite (1956) points to three social structures where power is centered. The first of these structures is the economy. Boards of directors of transnational corporations dictate policy to the capitalist world. The second seat of power lies in the political apparatus of the United States, which primarily consists of the President and his close advisors (who Mills calls the "men of higher immorality"). The third seat of power rests in the hands of the United States military (who Mills called "the warlords.")

Power associated with these three social structures is telescoped by the linking of major institutions, which have become dominated by two or three hundred giant corporations (Mills, 1956:5). Power and control continually experience centralization. Other social institutions like the church, the family, and education are shaped by decisions of the executive, the economy, and the military.

culture of poverty

Oscar Lewis, author of La Vita (1965), coined the term "Culture of Poverty" (also see Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited, 1974). The essence of Culture of Poverty theory holds that poor people share deviant cultural characteristics. The poor have lifestyles that differ from the rest of society and that these characteristics perpetuate their life of poverty. According to the Culture of Poverty thesis (in Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:173) "the poor are qualitatively different in values and that these cultural differences explain continued poverty."  They are more permissive parents, less verbal, more fatalistic, and less likely to defer gratification.  They are not interested in formal education either.

Eitzen and Baca-Zinn (1994:173) maintain that there is a strong implication embedded in the Culture of Poverty that defects in the lifestyle of the poor [cultural deprivation] perpetuate poverty. Such defects are passed from one generation to the next. Under these circumstances it is extremely difficult for people, once trapped by the Culture of Poverty, to escape poverty.

Characteristics that typify the Culture of Poverty exist across a variety of racial and ethnic groups. While these characteristics are certainly present in poverty populations, Culture of Poverty Theory leaves the impression that they typify all poor people. The Culture of Poverty theory avoids structural explanations for poverty which target social arrangements as the culprit.  The C or P blames those who are poor.

colonial theory

Colonial theory argues that race was used by the dominant group in society to oppress a racial minority. Racial distinctions are made based on the type of labor the oppressed group performs.


System-blame explanations for social problems are based on the assumption that social problems result from social conditions.  Using the system-blame approach, one might argue that social problems result from the inequitable distribution of power in society. Solutions to social problems involve changing the social conditions that cause harm to individuals. For example, proponents of the system-blame approach might advocate prison education programs to improve the literacy of those who have been incarcerated.

SLO 3 -- After successful completion of this course the student should be able to demonstrate an understanding of a set of cognitive, affective & behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts (Social Responsibility).

majority group

A majority group is the dominant group in society.  The majority group has greater social power, privilege, and prestige than other groups.

minority group

A minority group is a subordinate group in society.  A minority is a category of people who lack power, privilege, and prestige in social, political or economic spheres. Minorities must always be understood in relation to others in the social structure. A minority groups lacks power, prestige, and privilege in relation to others. They are unable to achieve their will. They lack resources to support their own interests effectively.


A race is a socially constructed category of people who share biologically transmitted traits 9inherited physical characteristics) that a society defines as important.

racial stratification

Racial privilege reaches far back into America's past. The racial hierarchy, with White groups of European origin at the top and people of color at the bottom, serves important functions for society and for certain categories of people. It ensures, for example, that some people are available to do society's dirty work at low wages. The racial hierarchy has positive consequences for the status quo: It enables the powerful to retain their control and their advantages. Racial stratification also offers better occupational opportunities, income, and education to White people. These advantages constitute racial privilege (Eitzen et al., 2011:209).

racial formation

Racial formation is the sociohistorical process by which definitions of races are continually being created, shaped and transformed.


Ethnicity refers to culturally distinctive characteristics based on items such as common language, religion, national origin, dietary practices, etc. In any case, culture is learned.


Discrimination refers to actions against a group of people.


Prejudice refers to any rigid and irrational generalization about an entire category of people.  Prejudice, however, can refer to a positive or a negative attitude or belief directed toward certain people based on their membership in a particular group. The root word of prejudice is "pre-judge."

authoritarian personality

Theodore Adorno contends that many prejudiced people have a distinct set of personality traits.

The authoritarian personality results from family environment. Parents are "cold, aloof, disciplinarian, and themselves bigots" (see Farley, 2012:25).  People who have an authoritarian personality are prone to prejudice because prejudice meets certain personality needs.


Projection is a concept where the individual denies particular characteristics in him/her self but notices them in others (2012:27).

Example:  A fellow with little education will not acknowledge his own educational deficiencies.  Instead, he will call attention to others who do not have sufficient education.

selective exposure and modeling

Farley (2012:33) notes that "if a child is exposed to one set of values over time, the child will eventually come to view that set of vales as the "natural way." This is especially true when the models are someone whom the child is especially close to like parents or close relatives.