A definition will be given for each of the three major sociological perspectives, a brief overview of research interests for each perspective will be examined, and an example of a research project from each will be provided.
Structural functionalism is a theoretical framework based on the view of society as a system of many different parts that work together to generate relative stability (Macionis, 1989, p. 16). In general, functionalist theories in sociology are those which conform to the following principle: "Because societies are open systems--systems that exchange with their environments--it proves useful to explain social structures on the basis of their consequences, or functions, for other parts of the system, especially as these parts come under pressure from the environment" (Stark, 1987, p. 97).
Some of the general research interests of the structural functionalist would be the following: the role of the family (as a microcosm) in the larger society or culture (macrocosm); the role of the delinquent, tagger, gang member, or, in general, societal deviate in the larger society (one could conceive of society as an ever-widening series of concentric circles generating out from the sole deviate--passing from family to neighborhood, culture, etc.); or the role of poverty on the rise of inner-city crime. The above are just a few examples of research topics of interest to structural functionalists.
Looking more specifically at a research topic relevant to structural