Here is your writing assignment for the first module. It deals with the reading material and video lecture from the module, as well as the two readings from the introductory module, entitled “Sociological Perspective” and “Sociological Imagination.” There are three writing prompts, and you need to do all three. Each writing prompt asks you to compose a short essay that synthesizes information from the course materials, and instructs you to combine this information with some of your own reasoning and ideas.
1. Epistemology is a word that means “a method of acquiring knowledge.” In this first module, we’ve learned about science as an epistemology, and we’ve examined the ways that sociologists—as social scientists—make knowledge claims.
What is the essential difference between how sociologists establish what they know about society vs. alternatives to social research? What are some of the advantages of sociology as an epistemology? What kinds of things are beyond the scope of sociology, and can’t be known using sociological methods?
Think about what you read in the book Damned Lies and Statistics and pick one example of the misuse of statistics and identify which of the alternatives to social research it typifies. State why you think this. (400 words maximum)
2. The chapter “Godless Science, Irrational Religion” uses a case study to exemplify the conflict between religion and science. Throughout this chapter, the discipline of biology is juxtaposed with religion. What is the essential point the author is trying to make about the conflict between religion and science? Outline the parameters of this conflict, and give your assessment.
The chart above shows the percentage of American university professors in various academic fields who were raised without religion, and who currently say they do not belong to any religion. Most of my students are surprised by what the table shows. Why do you think they are surprised? Re-read through the short biographies of the founders of the discipline and see if you can find any hints about these people and their ideas that might make sense of the chart. What did you find? How does it relate to the chapter entitled “Godless Science, Irrational Religion”? Explain in detail. (400 words maximum)
3. Which of the major research designs would you use if you wanted to study members of a criminal youth gang in the inner-city? Why would you use this particular method? What would make it preferable to the others? What specific ethical issues from the American Sociological Association’s code of ethics do you think you would have to carefully consider as you embarked on your study? State why you would need to consider these things.
Which of the major research designs would you use if you wanted to examine the effect of education on the political behavior (e.g. voting, campaign contributions) of American citizens? What steps would you take to ensure the validity of this research? Which of these two variables (education or political behavior) would be the dependent variable in this study? Why? (400 words maximum)
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