This alternative question addresses some of the issues posed in Q5 but is a little broader in its application. One of the biggest problems I have seen with the research paper is the difficulty students have in applying either positivism or constructionism and a sociological theory to explain a specific form of deviance. This question will give students some practice in applying the elements of a theory to a given issue, or at least I hope so!
Essentialism, and by extension positivism, is concerned with applying the scientific method to the study of social phenomenon. Sociologists use a positivist approach to understand the nature and extent of deviance, and to try to explain “Why did they do it?” We may use a deductive approach – to collect data on a specific phenomenon from which we may develop a theory that we can further test and refine – or an inductive approach – to apply the basic elements or tenets of a theory to inform what we measure and how, and then evaluate how well the theory worked. Whether we use a deductive or inductive approach, much of our work in the area of deviance involves one or more theories.
There are two parts to this question; please address both in your answer.
- In general, what role does theory have in the study of deviance from a positivist perspective? In other words, what value does a theory or theories have in studying and explaining deviance?
- Select one of the forms of deviance listed below (or use your own example). Next, select one of the theories described in the text and discuss how that theory might help us understand and explain that form of deviance. Please be aware that not all of the theories will be equally useful in explaining each form of deviance; some may work better than others!