S S 301 • Logic and Methods of Theory ConstructionW
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Once sociological ideas are generated, how should they be stated? A conventional answer is that they should be stated in theories so as to organize disparate ideas and generate new ones. However, that answer begs another question: How should theories be stated? Most sociological theories have been stated discursively (e.g., in accordance with the conventions of some natural language, such as English). An alternative is a formal mode of theory construction; and while there are several alternative modes, they are formal in that at least one of their rules (e.g., their rules of deduction) is not a convention of some language. We will consider the logic and methods of sociological theory construction, especially formal theory construction, and in the process consider such issues as the links between theory and data, criteria for evaluating theories, causation, and the use of theory and research to generate cumulative sociological knowledge. We will consider examples of formal theories and will attempt to formalize several discursively-stated sociological theories.
About the Professor Mark Stafford is a professor in the Department of Sociology. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University. He has had postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford University) and the University of Colorado. He has published widely on crime, juvenile delinquency, and deviance and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on all of these topics. He also is an author of the fourth edition of American Delinquency: Its Meaning and Construction. A native Texan, he is married, has two children, two cars, and two dogs; and he enjoys reading and sports.
This course contains a substantial writing component. There will be three papers, counting for 65% of the course grade. Two of the papers will be relatively short, about 5 double-spaced pages each. The third paper will be 10-15 double-spaced pages in length. Class participation will count for 15% of the course grade, and a take-home examination at the end of the semester will count for the remaining 20%.
Jerald Hage, Formal Theory in Sociology There will also be articles about formal theory and theory construction from major sociological journals, which will be made available in EReserves.