Theory & Method: Positivism

  • Created by: nelliott
  • Created on: 10-05-21 09:23

Sociology as a Social Science

• Positivists see sociology as the ‘science of society’- believe that human beings can be scientifically measured in the same way of the natural sciences.

• Argue that sociologists should adopt the logic and methods of natural sciences when they study social structure and how it shapes people’s behaviour/actions.

• This means they make observations about the world, that lead to hypotheses and informed guesses.

• They then test these by collecting data and evidence.

• They do this by conducting experiments and surveys.

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Features to Test Hypotheses

•  Positivists argue that the sociological research methods used to test hypotheses should have the following ideal features if they are to be classed as scientific:

1.Easy to replicate


3.Objective (neutral, not allow their beliefs to get in the way)



6.Quantitative data (numbers, graphs, bar charts)


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Positivism & Social Research

1.Most sociologists believe you must remain objective (not bias) and a scientific approach means this can happen. The BSA (British Sociological Association) say in their ethical guidelines that sociologists need to be clear ‘about their detachment from and involvement in their areas of study’. 

2.The government tend to favour positivist-style research as generalisations can be made. Less bias, useful when coming up with new policies.

3.Science still has great status in society. Techniques that claim to be scientific attract prestige, status, and respect.

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What Positivists Prefer

• Primary research methods (gain research first-hand themselves)

• Quantitative data (numbers, graphs, charts)

• When using secondary data (data already collected by others) they would also prefer this to be quantitative. 

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