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Start Here: Social Ontology and Research Strategy

NCJ Number
Theoretical Criminology Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2002 Pages: 255-278
Jack Katz
Date Published
August 2002
24 pages
This article discusses the relationship between theory and research.
Theory usually means historically and geographically generalized assertions about what is most important in understanding why things occur. It is proposed that a different kind of theory is needed, a theory of social ontology that indicates the lines of inquiry required to produce a complete description of the phenomena as they exist for people living them. The questions posed here relate to the intellectual foundations for a theory of social ontology; the implications for shaping research projects; and how a naturalistic commitment to theory orient contemporary research on crime. The three inquiries required by a naturalistic social ontology are interaction, the pragmatics of social conduct, and the visibly unconscious embodiment of action. The role of theory may be to summarize findings and predict what one is likely to find in the future. With regard to the most pressing questions about crime today, a different kind of theory is needed, one that will warn of the uniqueness of the current moment. A guided imagery is needed that offers a warning for multi-method ethnographic and historical inquiries that would try to situate a comparative ethnic understanding of receding and emerging responses to gaps in the social life of urban America. If research is started by describing the nature of social phenomena as they are experienced, it will make a difference in structuring data gathering; in developing research, interaction maneuvers, and shaping a research agenda. 9 notes, 21 notes


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