by Gary Parkinson, Ph.D. and Robert Drislane, Ph.D.
Conversion to electronic format by Mike Sosteric of Athabasca University


Welcome to the Dictionary of the Social Sciences. We hope that you will enjoy using it and that it will enhance your studies. Our dictionary is designed for undergraduate students and the entries cover basic concepts and events relevant to the study of: anthropology, sociology, criminology, Canadian studies, political science and women's studies. Each entry is designed to provide you with sufficient information to grasp the basic content of a concept, how the term is used and its connection to other concepts. The entries are written to enhance access for students in the early stages of their studies as well as students for whom English is not their first language. An important component of your learning is the acquisition of the somewhat specialized language of the social sciences. Developing a solid grasp of the key meaning of terms will speed and deepen your learning and will lead to greater success.

There are several ways you may use this dictionary. The first and most obvious is to use the dictionary to investigate puzzling words you encounter in your textbooks or readings. When used this way ensure that you attend to how the word was used in the sentence that gave you trouble; determine whether it is used as a noun, verb, adjective, etc. notice if the term is typically used to modify something else or is related specifically to some other concept. Always investigate the words it may be contrasted with or related to. You may also use the dictionary as an independent resource and simply spend time reading it to see how clusters of concepts are linked together (for example: ”ethnomethodology”, ”phenomenology“, ”mundane reasoning“, ”bracketing“, ”membership categorization“, ”conversational analysis“) or how terms contrast with each other (for example: ”endogamy“ and ”exogamy“ or ”universality“ and ”means test“).

Another way to explore is to look for opposing concepts or theoretical perspectives and then investigate how the contrast between them is reflected in many other terms and concepts within the text. For example, consider the entry ”positivism“ as one side and ”postmodernism“ as the other; many other entries will be connected to these two. Or consider ”consensus perspective“ and ”critical perspective“ and determine what concepts would be connected to this contrast. Or consider ”positivism“ and ”symbolic interactionism. You will find more such examples as you examine the text.

Another feature of this dictionary which makes it somewhat like an encyclopedia, is the inclusion of brief descriptions of key events which are important for deepening your analysis of Canadian society. For example you will find descriptions of the ”persons case“ ; ”Meech Lake Accord“; ”confederation“; ”Calder case“ and others. We have also selected events that provide a useful way to demonstrate concepts or theories. As with other entries you may just look these up as you come across them in your reading, or you may read the dictionary to look for some of these interesting events and then search out additional readings so as to deepen your understandings.

Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
The online version of this dictionary is a product of
Athabasca University and

*This social science dictionary has 1000
entries covering the disciplines of sociology, criminology, political
science and women's study with a commitment to Canadian examples and
events and names