Sociology and Science Summary Table

A great table summarising the viewpoints of the relationship between sociology and science, including the following theorists:

  1. Positivists (Durkheim, Comte)
  2. Karl Popper
  3. Phenomenology (Atkinson, Cicourel)
  4. Thomas Kuhn
  5. Realists (Bhaskar, Sayer, Keat & Urry)

The table summarises:

  • Is it possible for sociology to be scientific?
  • Is it desirable for sociology to be scientific?
  • How is science defined?
  • How far does science produce true knowledge?
  • How much sociology is scientific now?

Relevant to students studying AQA, OCR & WJEC A level Sociology

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1 Sociology and Science Summary table
Positivism Popper Phenomenology Kuhn Realists
Theorists Durkheim, Comte Karl Popper Atkinson, Cicourel Thomas Kuhn Bhaskar, Sayer, Keat &
Is it possible for Yes Yes No Yes Yes
sociology to be
Is it desirable for Yes Yes No Possibly not ­ would Yes
sociology to be limit perspectives and
scientific? critical debate
How is science Inductive- based on Precise predictions are Science is socially Science follows Science uses
defined? using objective, derived from theories; constructed; generally accepted observable data to
statistical data to look research attempts to influenced by factors paradigm until a uncover the
for correlations and falsify them other than the search paradigm change unobservable
casual relationships for objective truth takes place structures and
How far does science Science is seen as Science is never final Science is a social Science is what a Science reveals
produce true objective and able to because theories can construction with no particular paradigm underlying structures
knowledge? reveal universal laws be falsified in the greater claim to truth deems to be true; and processes, but
future, but it can rule than any other sort of after scientific cannot make precise
out theories that are knowledge revolutions what is predictions in open
false considered to be true systems
How much sociology Most quantitative Only a small amount No sociology can be No single paradigm so Structural sociology,
is scientific now? sociology of sociology makes truly scientific because sociology is pre- e.g. Marxism, is
precise predictions. human behaviour is paradigmatic and considered scientific
Marxism is not meaningful and therefore pre-
scientific unpredictable; scientific
meanings and motives
cannot be observed
March 1, 2011


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