1. In class we have discussed Philip Meyer’s article titled “If Hitler Asked you to Electrocute a Stranger, Would You? Probably,” and Alan Brandt’s article on “The Tuskegee Syphilis Study.” Briefly summarize the article indicating the question (or purpose) that the research was intended to answer or fulfill, the methods that were used, and the population on which the research was focused. Lisa McIntyre’s article, “Doing the Right Thing” focuses on ethics in social science research, and the history of the efforts to protect subjects from exploitation and harm. Using the guidelines in the Nuremberg Code discuss the degree to which researchers complied with ethical requirements. The Code (on page 57 of McIntyre’s article) has 10 points. Look at these carefully and consider them in your answer.
2. Symbolic Interactionism, a major perspective in Sociology, stresses that individual’s actions toward one another and interpretations of the world we inhabit are based on their definitions of reality which are learned from interactions with others. We socially construct reality. Language and words are powerful. How does language help us to construct our world and build a culture of shared meaning? (See Chapter 3 for a discussion of this topic.)
3. Sociology is a social science. Thus, sociologists use empirical methods to describe social reality. What is meant by “empirical”? How is sociological research different from individual inquiry? How does using probability strengthen sociological findings?
4. Summarize the major methods for sociological research. At George Mason many students combine full time academic schedules with full or part-time jobs. If you were asked to investigate the effects of having these competing demands, what method(s) would you use? Why?
5. Ellen, Tim, and Marisa volunteer at The Kitchen, a food pantry that serves a poor neighborhood. One afternoon, they find themselves discussing poverty. “I don’t think that we’ll ever completely eliminate poverty, “ says Ellen. “there are poor people in every society, and that leads me to think that poverty must be serving some kind of purpose. Maybe it somehow benefits society as a whole,” she concludes. Tim shakes his head. “I disagree,” he says. “The structure of our economy benefits some people and places others at a disadvantage.” Tim continues to make his case: “For example, women are far more likely to be poor. Generally speaking, the jobs women pay hold less than the men jobs hold. And many of the families in this neighborhood are headed by single mothers.” Ellen, Tim, and Marisa volunteer at The Kitchen, a food pantry that serves a poor neighborhood. One afternoon, they find themselves discussing poverty. “I don’t’ think that we’ll ever completely eliminate poverty,” says Ellen. There are poor people in every society,” she continues. “That leads me to think that poverty must be serving some kind of purpose. Maybe it somehow benefits society as a whole.” Marisa, who has been listening quietly, interjects. “You both have good points,” she says. “But I come at the issue from another angle. Think about the languages we use to talk about the different kinds of work people do.” She pauses: What do we call the people who collect trash? Garbage men. That’s degrading.” Seeing she has their attention, Marisa gives another example: “When someone cleans a house or is a fast food cook, we say they do ‘menial’ work. Surely the way we talk about different kinds of work has an effect on how much people are compensated for doing it.”
Each of these quotes represents a perspective on society, structural functionalist, conflict, and symbolic interactionist. Briefly summarize these perspectives and then identify which of these perspectives Ellen, Tim, and Marisa are using. Which comes closest to your view of society?
6. (a) In class we discussed the term “status” as it is used in sociology. Define status. (2) We occupy multiple statuses. Give examples of at least three statuses that you occupy. (c) Each status has a distinctive set of rights, obligations, and behaviors that are associated with it. In the statuses you occupy, describe these roles, obligations, and behaviors. (d) Role strain and role conflict are often part of our lives as we balance different roles. Describe role strain and role conflict using an example from your own experience.
7.We define groups as a set of people who interact more or less regularly with one another and who are conscious of their identity as a group. Select three groups or more that you feel affiliated with specifying whether these are primary or secondary groups. Are any of these groups related to your race, ethnicity or religion? Do you feel yourself more closely associated with these aspects of your identity in comparison to social or recreational groups? Explain your answer.