Topic 1 - Research Methods


Topic 1

The relationship between positivism, interpretivism and sociological methods; the nature of 'social facts'

1 of 4

Positivism and quantitative methods

Positivists believe there are 'social facts' that can be studied objectively using similar scientific techniques to those used in the natural sciences. These scientific methods produce quantitative (statistical) data on social patterns and trends which can be used to explain society. These methods include:

  • The laboratory experiment 
  • The comparative method 
  • Social surveys
  • Structured questionnaires
  • Formal/structured interviews
  • Non-participant observation 
  • Official statistics 
  • Content analysis
2 of 4


Remember the difference between quantitative and qualititative methods and data by thinking of quantitative as quantity = number/amount/how many

3 of 4

Interpretivism and qualitative methods

Interpretivism suggests that people have consciousness involving personal beliefs, meanings, values and interpretations, and these influence the way they act. The researcher's job is to gain an in-depth understanding of how people see and understand the world around them by putting him - or herself in the position of those being studies, and trying to understand things from their point of view. This process is called Verstehen. To achieve this, interpretivists use qualitative research method involving description and understanding, such as:

  • Uncontrolled filed experiments 
  • Open-ended questionnaires 
  • Unstructured interviews 
  • Overt or covert participant and non-participant observation
  • Personal accounts, using personal documents like diaries and letters
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Sociological research methods resources »