General Survey of Sociology and Anthropology
Important Note (most of which should be unnecessary, but just in case . . .): This exam is “open-book,” which means that you may consult your notes, the “Key Ideas” summaries, and anything else in print or on line. However, you must answer the questions in your own words. You may want occasionally to quote a particularly apt phrase with citation, but quoting others without citation is plagiarism, and cutting and pasting a lot, even with citation, is very unimpressive. Also, you may not be in touch about the exam in any way with any other person (except the instructor if you have a question).
Directions: Answer any eight of the following twelve questions. You may answer them in any order, but please indicate by number which questions you are answering. Brief, carefully crafted answers highlighting the essential material are better than long rambling answers.
1. Explain the notions “social fact” and “social action” and show how they define the field of sociology.
2. Sociology is often called the “science of society.” Explain some of the ways in which sociology is scientific and some of the ways in which it is not.
3. How would a sociologist respond to the often-expressed idea that “a person should not generalize?”
4. What does it mean to say that a sociologist is really studying the indicators used in research, not the concepts that are purportedly the subject of study?
5. A study showed that students in small classes did better on a standardized achievement test than students in larger classes. Further analysis of the data showed that the better performance of students in smaller classes was really due not to class size but to two other factors. One was that schools with smaller classes attracted better teachers, and better teaching led to higher scores. The other was that wealthier parents can send their children to schools with smaller classes and also can afford tutoring to prepare for the tests. Indicate which variable in this analysis is (a) the main independent variable, (b) the main dependent variable, (c) an antecedent variable, and (d) an intervening variable. Also, indicate (e) whether the relationship between test scores and class size was statistically “direct” or “indirect.”
6. When a research study reports that “45% of the random sample of New Yorkers support the proposed law with a 5% margin of error,” what can we conclude about how all New Yorkers feel about that law?
7. Summarize the controversy between value relativism and value absolutism. What are the main strengths and weaknesses of each position?
8. Illustrate Max Weber’s typology of the bases of authority with concrete examples from history.
9. Explain the sense in which bureaucracy is an “ideal type.”
10. A system of formal democratic rules is not enough to protect democracy; democratic culture, supporting democratic ideals and values, is also necessary. Explain why this is so.
11. Explain how a person‘s sense of “self” is a social construction.
12. Samuel Butler observed (in one of the instructor’s favorite quotes) that “extremes are alone logical, but they are always absurd.” Apply this quotation to the controversy between the “laissez-faire” position and the “welfare state” position regarding the proper role of government
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