Juggling Work and School Sociology Discussion

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Read the lectures and chapter one then answer the discussion prompts (THERE ARE 3 SEPARATE PROMTS)

Prompt 1 –

“Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) ― C. Wright Mills

In this discussion forum you are going to apply the concept of the Sociological Imagination.

First, select a “personal problem” you are currently grappling with, like juggling work and school, finding adequate childcare, securing school financing, trying to gain or lose weight, etc. Make sure the “personal trouble” you select is not too personal and you feel comfortable sharing it.

Second, explain how the problem is a “public issue.” Explain how sociologists analyze it as an issue shaped by social structure or the larger societal context. Or in the words of Mills, explain how your problem/situation (“the life of an individual”) can be understood through the larger societal context (“history of a society”).

Finally, provide feedback to two of your classmates’ posts. Did they properly differentiate personal troubles from public issues? If so, what did they do particularly good on? If not, offer feedback on how to apply the sociological imagination and distinguish how a personal trouble from a public issue? Offer feedback on why the personal trouble can be a public issue shaped by social structures.


Lecture – Let’s begin by understanding what is Sociology and other sociology-related terms:

  • Sociology is the study of human behavior in society.
    • It is the study of how societies are organized into different institutions and how this organization structures interactions between individuals and groups.

What is a social institution?

  • An enduring set of cultural patterns and social relationships organized to accomplish basic social tasks.
  • What is a social structure?
    • Organized pattern of social relationships and social institutions that together constitute society.
    • It is not always a “thing.”
    • Social forces not always visible to the human eye that guide and shape human behavior.

Sociology gives you the ability to see societal patterns that influence individual and group life.

Sociology allows you to think outside the box, for instance:

  • What if…
    • Born another sex
    • Were born into a very poor or very rich family
    • Raised a different religion
  • …how would my life be different and what experiences would I have?

Sociology also allows you to have a Sociological Imagination (Links to an external site.)

C. Wright Mills coined the term, sociological imagination.

Having a sociological imagination helps us see the connection between individuals and the larger society.

Sociological imagination is a tool that distinguishes “personal troubles” from “public issues.”

  • Troubles are privately felt problems that spring from events or feelings in a person’s life.
  • Issues affect large numbers of people and have their origins in the institutional arrangements and history of a society.


  • A factory worker became a fast-food worker because the factory where this person worked moved to China. This is a personal trouble because this person now has a job in a service job that doesn’t provide full-time work, is low-paid and doesn’t provide many benefits. But, it is also public issue because factories are being moved overseas in search for cheaper labor. This lost factory job is not only affecting one person or a few, but it is affecting a significant number of workers.
  • An unemployed person doesn’t have a job due to a change in the economy (think of the effects of COVID-19). This is a personal trouble because now this person is struggling to pay rent and buy food. But, it is also public issue because many people were laid off because businesses are closed (and not allowed to operate due to the pandemic).

The Sociological Imagination allows you to look at a social issue or incident and be able to distinguish between “personal problems” and “public issues.”

It can allow you to see how individual behaviors or situations are connected to their larger societal context.

In other words, you can see how socio-historical conditions (social structures) have shaped individual experiences (problems, situations, etc).

“The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise.”

—C. Wright Mills,

Chapter 1 link : https://openstax.org/books/introduction-sociology-…


Prompt 2 –

. Amid the global pandemic, many schools have transitioned to online learning.

First, read the article on the Rise of Online Learning During the Pandemic. (Links to an external site.) and watch this clip:

Then, apply either structural functionalist theory or conflict theory to this topic. In other words, how would structural functionalist theory OR conflict theory view the topic of online learning, especially amidst a pandemic?

[You only need to select one theory. You do not need to apply both theories.]


Lecture – Enlightenment/Age of Reason

Sociology has European origins
During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe experienced significant changes as a result of Enlightenment.
Before the Enlightenment period, religion and the supernatural were seen as explanations for social problems.
After the Rise of Enlightenment: Observation and reason were seen as better explanations for social problems. Thus, the idea that humans reason can solve society’s problems became prominent.

Auguste Comte (Links to an external site.), French philosopher: coined the term Sociology

Classic Sociological Theorists from Europe: Marx, Weber, and Durkheim


Emile Durkheim

He believed people in society are glued together by belief systems and this creates social cohesion.
He asked, “what holds society together?

He argued that in societies there are two types of solidarity:

  • Mechanic Solidarity: cohesion and integration comes from the homogeneity of individuals—people feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle
  • Organic Solidarity: comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in modern and industrial societies
    When there is a breakdown of social norms, people experience anomie.

Durkheim influenced Functionalism.

Karl Marx

His work focused on how capitalism shaped society.
Capitalism: economic system that seeks profit to acquire private property by the owners of production, or the Bourgeoisie.
Struggle among different classes:

  • Bourgeoisie
  • Petti Bourgeoisie
  • Proletariat

Marx is most well know for his work titled, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Links to an external site.).

Marx influenced Conflict Theory.

Max Weber

He focused on political, economic, and cultural influences in society.
While Durkheim and Marx focused on one main factor that shaped society, Weber used a multidimensional analysis of society.

Classic and Earliest Sociological Theorists in the U.S.
Jane Addams (Links to an external site.)

  • Not given due credit because she was a woman
  • Developed housing projects for immigrants, slum dwellers, and other dispossessed groups.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Links to an external site.)

  • Former slave; part of the anti-lynching movement

W.E.B. DuBois (Links to an external site.)

  • Coined the term, “Double Consciousness.”
  • He focused on racial inequalities and how those who are oppressed (particularly Blacks) develop a double consciousness—awareness of how they are perceived in the larger society and a collective identity as African America.
  • He is the first black person to obtain a Ph.D. from Harvard University

Robert Park (Links to an external site.)

  • Helped contributed to the creation of the Chicago School
  • He also contributed to the development of Urban Sociology as an area of study within the discipline of Sociology.

These are some examples of sociological studies that were influenced by the Chicago School of Thought and Urban Sociology—which was influenced by Robert Park.

SideWalk Book Cover
On the Run Book Cover.jpg
Book cover of Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

Major Theoretical Frameworks in Sociology
Functionalism/Structural Functionalists Theory

  • Interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole.
  • Emphasis on consensus and order in society. Views dysfunction in society as impetus for change.

Conflict Theory

  • Sees society as organized around the unequal distribution of resources and held together through power and coercion.

Symbolic Interactionism/Symbolic Interaction Theory

  • Emphasizes the role of individuals in giving meaning to social behavior, thereby creating society.

Feminist Theory

  • Analysis of women and men in society and is intended to improve women’s lives.
  • Gender is primary lens of analysis.

As a way to begin to practice your understanding of the classical sociological theories, try to apply the theories to the social issues of homelessness and drug use.

  • Describe how these theoretical perspectives would approach/view the issues of homelessness and drug use.

[After you have practiced applying the theories to one of these issues, either homelessness or drug use, watch the clip below where I apply two of the theories to the issue of drug use. This clip may help you determine whether you have a good understanding of the theories and if you correctly applied the theories. NOTE: You can turn on the closed captions on the video]

Download lecture: Sociological Theor


Prompt 3 -1. What are some of the ethical issues surrounding:

  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
  • Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places, conducted by Sociologists, Laud Humphreys
    • Must include at least 2 specific examples for each case and explain why they are ethical issues.

NOTE: If you are submitting a file, it needs to be .doc, .docx, or pdf. No other files are accepted.


.Research Methods

Sociological research aims to produce bias-free knowledge. This can be done by using the scientific research method or by taking an interpretative framework approach.

Some of the research methods used include (refer to textbook, chapter 2, for more information on each method):

  • Surveys
  • Experiments
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Field research
    • Participant observation
    • Ethnography
    • Case Studies

All research methods have their advantages and disadvantages and researchers also select a method based on the topic under study and the researcher’s preference.

Of particular concern when conducting research that involves prolonged contact with other people is the ability to produce objective research. And, of researchers “going native.”

“Going native” (Links to an external site.) refers to the act of researcher loosing objectivity as a result of becoming too attached or sympathetic to the population under study.

Sociologist, Victor Rios, who studied young men in Oakland, CA who were gang-affiliated, was cautioned about “going native” as he was studying young men. What are the reasons Rios was cautioned about “going native” or maintaining “value neutrality“?

Read about Sociologists Victor Rios: A Sociologist Returns to the Mean Streets of His Youth. (Links to an external site.)



Based on Rios’ background and research, do you think people can study communities they identify with without “going native” or maintaining “value neutrality”?

Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Sociological research can also be categorized under two main categories, depending on the research method used: quantitative and qualitative. Research may also include a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

These are some of the distinguishing characteristics of quantitative vs. qualitative research:

Quantitative Research

  • Sampling: Random/representative
  • Record Data: Quantify data or observations
  • Data Analysis: Statistical analysis
  • Theory: Guides or establishes rationale for research

Qualitative Research

  • Sampling: Purposeful
  • Record Data: Detailed descriptions (but make sure notes may not have easily identifiable information. For example, create codes for people rather than using their names)
  • Data Analysis: Attention to role social and cultural context plays in research
  • Theory: Develops from research

Studying Low-Wage Workers

If you study low-wage workers by taking a quantitative approach, you may learn about the percentage of people who work in low-wage jobs, the average pay for these workers, the demographic characteristics of these workers, etc.

Check out UC Berkeley Labor Center (Links to an external site.); it provides extensive quantitative research on low-wage workers in California.

If you study low-wage workers by taking a qualitative approach you may learn about how these workers manage their day-to-day life, what it is like to work in a low-wage job, etc.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s conducted a qualitative study on low-wage workers and published her findings in a book titled, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. (Links to an external site.)

Image result for nickel and dimed

As the research by the UC Berkley Labor Center on low-wage workers in CA (Links to an external site.) shows, not much has changed since Nickel and Dimed was published in 2001.

See: Nickel and Dimed in 2016.


Lecture: Ethical Issues in Research Studies

In sociology, like on other fields where people are used as subjects of study, ethical concerns arise.

Today, human subjects used in research are protected. These protections are outlined in the Belmont Report of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. The Belmont Report was first published in 1978. (Links to an external site.)

The Belmont Report was created due to issues of unethical research practices in previous research involving human subjects.

Below are a list of studies that prompted ethical concerns and the need to protect human research participants:

Key Principles when Conducting Research

Some of the key principles when conducting research that involve human participants are:

  • Obtain Consent (when feasible/think about the Hawthorne effect)
  • Protect from Harm
  • Ensure Privacy
EthicsEthical Guidelines/CodesEthical Issues/Violations
Informed Consent**consent is received when conducting overt research. You cannot obtain consent when conducting covert research primarily due to the Hawthorne Effect.Obtain consent from participants and inform them about the research. Inform participants they can withdraw consent at any time during research.Researchers may intentionally deceive the participants about the topic of research when disclosure of research may skew results or behaviors–which threatens the validity of the consent from participants.Researcher did not obtain consent from participants. Researcher continued to gather data from participants even when it had been withdrawn.
HarmProtect participants from physical/psychological/emotional harm.Participants were physically/ psychologically /emotionally/ harmed.
Privacy/ConfidentialityProtect participants’ identity and information.Participants’ identity was revealed. E.g. They were identified by name or in a picture.Information or details about events were exposed and thus used to identify an individual.
“Going Native”Value NeutralityResearcher remains objective.Researcher presents accurate data/research findings.Researcher looses objectivity.Researcher presents distorted data/research findings.

These key principles were born out of many of the studies that engaged in unethical research practices. Ethical issues arise when ethical codes are not followed or practiced by researchers.

While ethical issues in sociological research may not be as severe as in medical research (e.g. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment), it still still very important to conduct research in an ethical manner. And, it is important to uphold the ethical standards of research.

The Brajuha Case: Protecting Privacy of Research Participants

When sociologists conduct qualitative research, they must take extensive and detailed notes of theirs observations. These notes, however, can be subpoena by a judge if a legal case merits it. Due to this potential risk, it is important that the researcher does not include easily identifiable information, such as names.

Mario Brajuha, a sociology graduate student conducting participant observation at a restaurant in New York, was ordered by a judge to turn over his notes when the restaurant burned down and police suspected arson. Brajuha refused to turn over his notes due to his ethical pledge to confidentiality. As a result, he was threatened with imprisonment. He had to fight a legal battle for two years. Brajuha went to great lengths to protect the privacy of this participants.

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