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Social Difference

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Using Social Analysis to Investigate Social Structure and Human Agency

Assignment #1

Sociology 110.3 (04)

Due Friday November 25, 2005

!0% of Total Grade

Part of the challenge of developing a sociological imagination is learning to see how social structure and human agency interact and shape the behaviours of individuals in social settings. Your primary objective in this assignment is to develop your skills for sociological analysis by: (a) learning how to see the nature and implication of social structure in social settings that are relatively familiar to you; and (b) learning how to make sense of the relationship between social structure and human agency in society.

To complete this assignment you will need to:

1. Review Relevant Literature and Formulate a General Sociological Question

Review the assigned readings and lecture notes that deal with concept of social structure. Your first goal in completing the review is to learn how sociologists understand and use the concept of social structure as a strategy for practicing the sociological imagination. In other words, how do sociologists use their conceptual understanding of social structure as a means to develop and enhance their capacity to observe, understand and explain the nature of the relationship between society and individuals. To complete this exercise, you will need to place a particular emphasis on developing your understanding of the components of social structure and on learning how these various components shape and influence individual and group behaviour. Your second goal in completing the review is to begin to formulate some general questions about how social structure operates to organize and regulate individual/group behaviour in particular kinds of social settings.

For example, you could be interested in learning about how the social structure of the grocery store influences and regulates the social practices of shoppers. Conversely, you might be interested in exploring how a particular category of human agents (e.g., servers in restaurants) make use of "props" to construct and regulate the social structure of the restaurant. A third point of focus might be to identify and classify the social functions of humour in a particular social setting. Whatever the question that you come up with, the first step in your analysis will be to determine which conceptual components of social structure are likely to be most useful in helping you to formulate a reasonable response to the question that you have posed.

2. Hypothesis generation

Use your understanding of the conceptual components of social structure and the nature of the relations among these components to generate a hypothetical response to the question that you have posed. Select a public social setting that you have easy access to on a regular basis (e.g., the bus, a coffee shop, a grocery store line-up, sporting event, political rally, etc.) and one that will allow you to collect information relevant to the sociological question that you are posing. The conceptual components in your hypothesis will guide you to the kinds of observations you need to collect to test the validity of the hypothesis.

3. Data Collection

To test your hypothesis against empirical reality you will need to develop a strategy for observing, collecting and systematically recording the observations that you make in the social setting. The strategy that you come up with will depend largely



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