Concept :It has a basic and central element in scientific method. In our daily life, we express our thoughts by mutual interaction with the use of different words and words are symbols of ideas. In the scientific method, we attach specific meanings to same words which are called concepts. When that word will be used in research, it will have a specific meaning. For example, the word higher education means master degree or PhD. degree and if it is limited to a specific meaning, it will be concept from research point of view.
Concept is a mental thought that represents observation, feeling, etc. In the words of Russel K. 'Schruft, “a mental image that summarize a set of similar observations, feelings or ideas.”
A concept may be a constant and a variable also. For example, in research education may mean medical education and in that case this will be a constant but if it means education from primary to PhD. level, then this concept will be variable.
When a concept is used as a constant, it has fixed meaning for that knowledge. Such concepts are called terms just like concepts are used in sociology like role, role conflict, sanctions, mobility and culture are sociological terms.
Types of Concepts :
i. Explicit concept :
Some concepts are difficult to define. When a concept is familiar and points to a phenomenon known by us or exists clearly in our mind or is used in our daily conversation, it is called an explicit concept. For example, childhood, breakfast, etc.
ii. Abstract concept :
Some concepts are important and challenging because the meaning of the concept used by a researcher may be different to a common man. These concepts have meanings specifically attached with reference to a research and are to be explained in that specific content by a researcher and there are many such
concepts present in sociology just like poverty, strangeness or alienation depression, organic solidarity etc. but these explanations are to make others know the true significance of this meaning of their concepts.
Importance of Concepts :
Concepts are of much importance for scientific knowledge and research :
i. Concept gives an individual position to knowledge and when concepts become terms then that knowledge becomes universal.
ii. Concepts are a source of brief expression of thoughts, feelings and experience and through these more knowledge can be expressed in less time.
iii. With the help of concepts, we can express difficult topics easily and a well-defined distinction between daily thoughts and scientific thought can be maintained. Concepts make scientific knowledge a specific
The re-specification and explanation of a word or concept is called conceptualization, This is important to make some research or a scientific knowledge specific that passes through the following stages :
i. A list of concepts should be prepared in a research or some project, after writing a foreword of a problem. Like segregation or social class etc.
ii. Generalized meaning of the concepts should be analyzed to see which of the proper meaning be taken from our research. For example, there is a concept of martial adjustment which may mean personal happiness, acceptance of fate, being in love with one’s spouse, liking the martial status, monogamy any acceptance and some other social conditions. Now the researcher has to decide to which of the meanings
he should attach with his concept.
iii. It is better to see for the researcher to find the meaning of the concept that has already used or present in knowledge. By getting guidance from this, researcher can mark the limit and use the concept easily and
specific definition can be given to the concept in which its characteristics and limits will be fixed. Thus a concept having specific meaning in the research and scientific knowledge will come into existence.
Facts and Concepts :
The conclusions gained through research are called facts, known as scientific knowledge but these cannot come int? force by the time when the explanation of a social situation is not done through these concepts.
For example, “a hypothesis that love marriage is a cause of good marital adjustment.” The concept is being used in this hypothesis like mutual consent and conjugal adjustment the conceptualization of these will specify the meanings with it and the results gained from research will show relationship and importance with these concepts which will be called social facts. Facts have to rely upon concepts for their existence and expression because facts are incidents, thoughts and feelings and their communication is possible through concepts.
Characteristics of Concept :
A scientific knowledge can be universal when the concepts have the following characteristics :
i. A concept should exist in a clear way and should have comprehensive meanings.
ii. It should be picturesque of a specific concept of specific social condition. For example, divorce is a concept that has a clear meaning and it explains a specific social incident that is the end of conjugal or marital relations.