Research and sociological theory

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 14-04-14 15:18

science uses experiments+observation to test theor

science uses experiments+observation to test theories

  • Science collects data through experiments, observation and measurment in order to test hypothesis
  • Science values objectivity(unbiased view). Scientific statements are based on evidence collected using systematic, logical methods.
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different philosophies of science

Logical Positivists - scientists search for scientific laws

  • researcher observes something and decides it needs to be explained
  • researcher creates hypothesis to explain thenomenon
  • hypothesis tested by experiments
  • if experiment agrees with hypothesis then scientific law created

Popper(1959,63) - experiments should try to prove hypothesis wrong - falsification

  • you can't ever prove a hypothesis correct, but you can prove it wrong with just one piece of contradictory evidence
  • it wasn't possible to know absolute truth, because you can't prove things are correct

Thomas Khun(1962) - disagreed with logical positivists and Popper

  • science uses an accepted body of knowledge to solve puzzles. "normal science"
  • scientists took a lot of assumptions about the world for granted. Assumed way of looking at the world is a "paradigm". Scientists are constrained by the paradigm they take for granted
  • big leaps in science come about when evidence which doesn't fit the paradigm builds up to where it can't be ignored. Then new paradigm invented. Scientific revolution(Higgs Boson)
  • Paul Feyeraband(1975) - there aren't any hard and fast rules of scientific method. Scientists "tweak" their methods to make them work. Already accepted theories influence the ways scientists actually observe facts.
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is sociology scientific?

  • Auguste Comte(1798-1857) founding father, said sociology is a science. Sociology should be used to develop a rational theory of society.
  • Popper said some sociological concepts weren't scientific as they couldn't be proven wrong. Sociology is only a science if hypothesis could be falsified
  • Kuhn - Sociology doesn't have a paradigm - no consensus about what it is and how it's done. it isn't a science.
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Sociology more subjective than traditional science

  • objective knowledge is the same no matter what your p.o.v. Objective methods provide facts that can be verified or falsified. Objective research is value free.
  • Subjective knowledge - depends on your p.o.v. Subjective methods give data that can't be easily tested. Subjective research requires interpretation
  • Sociology is more subjective than natural sciences
  • Lyotard(1984) - It's impossible to be objective at all
  • Lyotard - knowledge is something people construct, not something discovered
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positivist sociology - as objective as possible

  • Positivists think sociology should be scientific and analyse facts. Social facts = things that can be directly observed and measured. Social facts are external, and constrain behaviour
  • Look for correlations in data, and cause and effect relationships. They used quantitative methods like questionnaires and official statistics, which are objective and reliable.
  • Interpretivist sociologists(interactionists) say sociology doesn't suit scientific methods. Try to understand behaviour from p.o.v of individual, using methods that discover meanings, motives, and reasons behind behaviour.
  • Weber said it's important to use empathy to figure out why an individual is doing what they are doing. Called this "verstehen"
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can research be value free?

  • value free research = no judgements about good/bad
  • researcher's own beliefs are not allowed to get in the way. No leading questions etc.
  • for value freedom to work, researcher must interpret all data objectively
  • end use of research shouldn't matter. Research should provide knowledge, how it is used shouldn't worry the researcher
  • Positivists -Quantitative methods more value free than qualitative 
  • Qualitative methods mean researcher more involved, more risk of attitudes and feeling will influence respondents
  • Quantitative methods allow rsearcher less opportunity to influence + allow researcher to keep distance
  • Sociology can't be value free
  • decision to research is value-laden. Research for state or business most likely to get funding.
  • difficult to avoid bias
  • Fems + Marx deliberately choose research which has an end-use they approve of. Sociology should make value judgements and suggest ways it could be better
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