Written by Dr. Hannes Nel
Is prostitution all bad?
Are all prostitutes bad people?
When is a person a prostitute?
In laymen’s terms, one would probably call subjective answers to questions like these “labelling the individual”.
The label can easily become a concept for academic research.
Concepts are the elements of which theories are composed.
Also, concepts are symbolic and abstract elements that represent objects, or features of objects, processes, or phenomena.
If prostitution is the topic of your research, you might need to identify characteristics that will define such a person.
Concepts may introduce new ideas or perspectives.
They may also be a means of explaining a broad generalization.
You might, for example, discover through your studies that prostitutes are not all bad, which might question the rather general perception that a prostitute can only be defined in terms of bad characteristics.
In terms of ideas, concepts are important because they are the foundation of communication and thought.
Concepts provide a means for people to let others know what they are thinking and allow information to be shared.
By conceptualizing a set of behaviors or ideas as part of a coherent package, we can describe a range of possible ideas, relations and outcomes with a single term.
Examples of such terms are sociopaths, delinquents, criminals, rapists, altruists, serial murderers, etc.
Conceptual studies are largely based on secondary sources that you, as a researcher, may consult to gain an understanding of concepts.
They aim to add to your existing knowledge and understanding.
An in-depth critical analysis of the literature is intrinsic to concept analysis.
Apart from books and documents, maps and air photos can also be sources of data for concept analysis.
Conceptual cartography takes the process of critical analysis further because maps are both analytical tools and products of concept analysis.
Conceptual studies can comfortably use the interpretivist paradigms, for example, ethnomethodology, hermeneutics, interpretivism.
Some critical paradigms, for example, feminism, can also be used.
The classical concepts analysis-type studies follow a step-by-step procedure.
The following are possible steps:
Step 1: Select the concept.
The concept may be prostitutes, whom you would describe in terms of certain characteristics.
Step 2: Identify the purpose of the analysis.
The purpose of your analysis might, for example, be to determine real and objective characteristics of what defines a person as a prostitute.
Step 3: Analyze the concept’s range of meanings.
You will need to keep an open mind when doing research through conceptual studies.
Kill your preconceived perceptions.
Do not be judgmental.
Let your research discover the range of meanings for you.
Step 4: Determine the critical attributes of the concept.
Critical attributes can also be subjective if you do not wipe out your perceptions and believe the data that you collected.
You will need to consult unbiased sources of information.
Step 5: Select a paradigmatic approach.
Interpretivist paradigms are mostly best for conceptual studies because they accept conversation and personal opinions as data.
Step 6: Construct additional cases.
It would not be a good idea to study just one prostitute, although this is also possible, depending on the purpose of your research.
However, corroboration can be found best by comparing case studies and consulting a variety of data sources.
Step 7: Identify antecedents and consequences.
Real-life experiences can often be the best evidence in social research.
Even natural scientists look for actual cause and effect occurrences in their research.
- Tend to be abstract, philosophical and rich in theoretical underpinnings.
- Are the foundation of communication and thought.
- Are largely based on secondary sources of data.
- Follow a step-by-step research procedure.
Concepts are the building blocks from which theories are constructed.
They can also be the symbolic and abstract elements of theories.
Conceptual studies aim to:
- Add to existing knowledge and understanding.
- Introduce new ideas and perspectives.
- Explain broad generalizations.
- Describe a range of ideas in a single term.