Review the six (6) rules of critical thinking (Chapter 1) and the steps of “Doing Sociology:
To think critically, it is useful to follow six simple rules (adapted from Wade & Tavris, 1997):
- Be willing to ask any question, no matter how difficult. The belief in small government is a cherished U.S. ideal. But sociologists who study the role of government in modern society must be willing to ask whether there are circumstances under which more—not less—government is better. Government’s role in areas such as homeland security, education, and health care has grown in the past several years—what are the positive and negative aspects of this growth?
- Think logically and be clear. Logic and clarity require us to define concepts in a way that allows us to study them. “Big government” is a vague concept that must be made more precise and measurable before it provides for useful research. Are we speaking of federal, state, or local government, or all of these? Is “big” measured by the cost of government services, the number of agencies or offices within the government, the number of people working for it, or something else? What did Jefferson mean by “best,” and what would that “best” government look like? Who would have the power to define this notion in any case?
- Back up your arguments with evidence. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is a formidable person to quote, but quoting him does not prove that smaller government is better in the 21st century. To find evidence, we need to seek out studies of contemporary societies to see whether there is a relationship between a population’s well-being and the size of government or the breadth of services it provides. Because studies may offer contradictory evidence, we also need to be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of arguments on different sides of the issue.
- Think about the assumptions and biases—including your own—that underlie all studies. You may insist that government has a key role to play in modern society. On the other hand, you may believe with equal passion that big government is one root of the problems in the United States. Critical thinking, however, requires that we recognize our beliefs and biases. Otherwise we might unconsciously seek out only evidence that supports our argument, ignoring evidence to the contrary. Passion has a role to play in research: It can motivate us to devote long hours to studying an issue. But passion should not play a role when we are weighing evidence and drawing conclusions.
- Avoid anecdotal evidence. It is tempting to draw a general conclusion from a single experience or anecdote, but that experience may illustrate the exception rather than the rule. For example, you may know someone who just yesterday received a letter mailed 2 years ago, but that is not evidence that the U.S. Postal Service is inefficient or does not fulfill its mandates. To determine whether this government agency is working well, you would have to study its entire mail delivery system and its record of work over time.
- Be willing to admit when you are wrong or uncertain about your results. Sometimes we expect to find support for an argument only to find that things are not so clear. For example, consider the position of a sociologist who advocates small government and learns that Japan and Singapore initially became economic powerhouses because their governments played leading roles in promoting growth of a sociologist who champions an expanded role for government but learns from the downturn of the 1990s in the Asian economies that some things can be better achieved by private enterprise. The answers we get are sometimes contradictory, and we learn from recognizing the error of our assumptions and beliefs as well.
A Student’s Guide to Research” (Chapter 2).
Student Success Tip: As you review the steps, jot a few notes or thoughts down. Relax and prepare to write a concise and accurate essay.
Write a one to two (1-2) page essay in which you:
- Identify the first step in the student’s guide to research.
- Define the first step of research in your own words.
- Identify the major assumptions and bias of the drug industry that underlie drug research.
- Identify the personal bias that you, as a consumer, have on the drug industry’s influence over research.
Your assignment must follow these formatting requirements:
- Be typed, double spaced, using Times New Roman font (size 12), with one-inch margins on all sides. Check with your professor for any additional instructions.
- To keep this essay short and manageable, your only sources for the essay should be the article from The Washington Post and the sections noted in your text. For this reason, APA citations or references are not required for this assignment.
- Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page is not included in the required assignment page length.
The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:
- Define the basic concepts used in the discipline of sociology.
- Define the various methodologies for sociological research.
- Use technology and information resources to research issues in sociology.
- Write clearly and concisely about sociology using proper writing mechanics.