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One of two criteria (the other being reliability) by which researchers judge their results or measurement tools. A valid result is one that accurately measures what it claims to be measuring. Using shoe size as a measurement of intelligence is not a valid measure of intelligence. It lacks face validity since it is not obvious that it is measuring what it claims to measure. One test of validity might be the extent to which your measurements allow you to make predictions about future behaviour. If your measurement of intelligence does not predict how people perform on exams then perhaps it is not a valid measurement of intelligence. See: EXTERNAL VALIDITY / INTERNAL VALIDITY / RELIABILITY / .

Relatively general cultural prescriptions of what is right, moral and desirable. Values provide the broad foundations for specific normative regulation of social interaction. See: NORM / .

A 1996 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada clarifying Aboriginal rights. The case came to the court because a lower court had convicted Van der Peet, of the Stolo peoples of British Columbia, of violating a section of the B.C. Fishery Regulations for selling fish caught under a food fish license. Van der Peet was arguing that Aboriginal rights (section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) gave Natives the right to sell their fish food since this was an aspect of traditional life. The Supreme Court did not overturn the Van der Peet conviction but did clarify the test that must be met to establish Aboriginal right. Briefly, the Aboriginal defendant must demonstrate that the practice in question was an aspect of Native life prior to European contact.

A term central to quantitative sociology and to macro-structural sociology. The term refers to that which varies, rather than being constant. In particular its reference is to structural features that vary (things like gender, age, race, social class) and have an influence on behaviour or attitudinal variables (discrimination or attitudes about abortion). Researchers work out ways to measure these variables (often by asking questions) and determine their importance in understanding human behaviour. Those variables thought to be causal variables are called independent variables and those thought to be effects are called dependent variables. A variable has two or more values; the variable of sex, for example, has the values of female and male. See: DEPENDENT VARIABLE / INDEPENDENT VARIABLE / .

Associated with the writing of Max Weber (1864-1920), verstehen is now seen as a concept and a method central to a rejection of positivistic social science (although Weber appeared to think that the two could be united). Verstehen refers to understanding the meaning of action from the actor's point of view. It is entering into the shoes of the other, and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of your observations. It also implies that unlike objects in the natural world human actors are not simply the product of the pulls and pushes of external forces. Individuals are seen to create the world by organizing their own understanding of it and giving it meaning. To do research on actors without taking into account the meanings they attribute to their actions or environment is to treat them like objects. See: ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH / POSITIVISM / .

A term introduced by John Porter (1921-1979) to describe Canadian society. The term ‘mosaic’ is used to capture the multiethnic and multiracial character of the society and the term ‘vertical’ implies that these ethnic and racial groups are arranged into a hierarchy. A similar term would be ethnic stratification.

A survey of a random sample of the population in which people are asked to recall and describe their own experience of being a victim of crime.

The conventional conception of crime implies that there is a victim of the criminal behaviour who experiences harm. There are, however, criminal behaviours like illegal gambling, drug use, and selling sex, where the victim does not experience harm and is indeed a willing participant. Many argue that crimes of this nature are victimless and should not be regulated by criminal law.

This group of offenders is particularly found among sexual offenders, a group who appear to be hunters or predators and violently sexually assault citizens. This group tends to be thought of as ‘psychopaths’ but not all psychopaths are violent offenders.

Passed by the United States Congress on October 28, 1919, this legislation prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States. Since a ready market existed for this prohibited good, organized crime in America gained a ready foothold. Many Canadians also became rich during the subsequent prohibition era making fortunes from illegal cross-border traffic in liquor, however, rather than going into organized crime they became successful businessmen.

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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