SociologyFactsheet (I) - ress.co.uk Number 52 Positivism -v- Interpretivism What is Positivism and Interpretivism? Positivism The view that Sociology should be studied in a scientific manner. Positivists believe that the social world (as the natural world) is made up of facts which can be studied like the natural world. It is the search for laws of social behaviour using the logic and methods of the natural sciences. Positivists argue that by applying scientific principles of research to the study of society, Sociologists will be able to put forward proposals for social change which will lead to a better society. Interpretivism (also known as anti-positivists or phenomenologists) Interpretivists believe that society cannot be treated as a science. They stress the ability of individuals to exercise control and choices over their actions and because everyone is different with different views and attitudes it is not possible to use scientific methodology to study society. Scientific approaches are not suitable for the study of society because the social world differs to the natural world. Both methods and theory influence Sociological research Why is Positivism and Interpretivism important? Because sociologists have different ideas and different theories about how society should be studied, this will influence what they study, the methods they use to study it, what data is collected, how the data is interpreted and what conclusions are drawn from the study. There is often debate about whether the methodological approach influences the theoretical approach or vice versa. The diagrams below shows how the process works and how there are arguably two different starting points. So what is the difference between theory and method? • Theories are ideas that sociologists come up with, ways of thinking about society. • Methods are the ways sociologists go about collecting the evidence/ideas to create or to back-up theories. • Both are important - Theory with no methods means that ideas have not been tested. Methods with no theory behind them means that data is being collected with no purpose. • More recently, sociologists have become less concerned with having a single approach to social research. It has become more common for sociologists to gather a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. DiagramA: Theory determines methodology Sociologists have different views on society and the processes that occur within society. Sociologists have different approaches in their research J. Different ways of collecting data - questionnaires, interviews, etc. Different types of data collected - quantitative/qualitative Requires different ways of analysing the results. 1. Different results can be found on the same subject.
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- Fall '14
- Stacey Blecker
- Sociology, Interpretivism