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  • Created on: 22-04-18 14:03


Positivits prefer quantitative data. This is because they assume that society has an objective factual reality. Society exerts an influence over its members, systematically shaping their behaviours. Therefore use of quantitaive data allows them to uncover and measure patterns of behaviour.  The quantitaive data allows positivists to discover cause and effect relationships.

Methods favoured:

  • Questionnaires
  • Structured interviews
  • Experiments
  • Official statistics

Data produced is reliable and representative.

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Interpretivists reject the idea of an objective socail reality. They say that we construct reality through the meanings we create in our interactions with others. Our actions are based on meanings that we give to situations. They use qualitative data in research as it allows them to uncover and describe the social actors 'universe of meaning'. They seek to gain a subjective understanding of actors meanings and life worlds.

Methods they prefer:

  • Participant obs
  • Personal Documents
  • Unstructured interviews

Valid data is produced

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Positivists favour lab experiments this is because it achieves their main goal of relability:

  • Control over experiment conditions mean that reliable data produced so could be replicated.
  • Allows researcher to identify and measure behaviour patterns quantitatively in order to establish cause and effect relationships

However disadvantages:

  • Impossible to control the vairables
  • Small scale study so cant generalise

Interpretivits reject the use of lab experiments as it fails to be valid because it produces unnatural behaviour. Therefore they favour more natural experiements like Field experiments.

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Positivists favour the use of questionnaires this is because they acheive the main goals of reliability, generalisability and representativeness:

  • Standardised questions produce reliable data as it could be replicated
  • Pre-coded answers produce quantitative data so could establish cause and effect relationships
  • Large scale so more reprsentative

Interpretivists reject questionnaires this is because it imposes the researchers ideas on respondents. Questionnaires fail to achieve the main goal of validity.

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Positivists favour structured interviews because they achieve the main positivist goals of relability,generalisability and reprsentativeness:

  • Standardised questions so reliable data produced so could be replicated
  • Pre coded responses produce quantitative data
  • Structured interviews are large scale so more representative

Interpretivists favour unstructured interviews because they are valid:

  • Absence of a pre-set structure means interviewees can discuss what is important to them
  • Open ended questions give us an insight into interviewees meanings as they are able to express themselves
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Positivists favour structured non- participant observation because it achieves their main goals.

  • Standardised behaviour categories produce reliable data as it could be replicated by others
  • Pre-determined observational categories allow quantitative data to be produced,identify and measure behaviour patterns and establish cause and effect relationships
  • Structured observation takes less time so larger sample studied which means representative

Interpretivists favour unstructured participant observation because it achieves their main goal of validity:

  • Gives researcher a true picture because it shows us what people do,rather than simply what they say they do.
  • Participant in the group gives the researcher a insight into social actors meanings and behaviours.
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Official statistics

Positivists favour official stats as objective social facts that achieve the main positivist goal of reliability,generalisability and representativeness.

  • They provide reliable data because their standardised categories and collection techniques can be easily replicated
  • Collected at regular intervals so shows trends in behaviour over time
  • Large scale so representative

Interpretivists reject official stats especially soft ones such as crime stats because they are seen as social constructs and not social facts.

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Interpretivists favour documents because they acheive main interpretivist goal of validity:

  • Not written with research in mind so can be authentic statement of author's views
  • Provide qualitative data that gives us a insight into authors worlds and meanings

Positivists reject documents:

  • Often unstandardised. every diary is unique so cant generalise
  • Unrepresentative
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