Assess the view that interpretivist methods are the most appropriate methods for researching society. A GRADE ANSWER

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  • Created by: Lorna
  • Created on: 07-06-13 09:57

Interpretivist sociologists would argue their ideas of methodology are the most appropriate methods for researching society. They believe behaviour is influenced by situations in society, and use qualitative data gathered by unstructured questionnaires, unstructured interviews and participant observation. They believe in verstehen- the process of putting yourself into the participant’s shoes. They prefer validity to reliability; they collect qualitative data that creates statistical evidence. There methods include unstructured interviews, questionnaires, and participant observation.

There are many strengths but interpretivist methods also can be criticised other perspectives such as positivism.  They argue that people cannot be studied like inanimate objects, and they look at the deeper means and motives behind people’s actions. They argue that people cannot be studied unless you put yourselves in that persons or actors shoes. Going along with Webers’ theory of verstehen-, this is observing through participant observation. Through verstehen  the researches places themselves into the life of the person they are studying/researching, by doing this they can collect qualitative data and get a deeper meaning and understanding of peoples actions. They are also more likely to get a better understanding of people’s means and motives, and also why things happen and they will get a better understanding of how society influences people’s actions. It is also filled with rich data, and allows the researcher to fully submerged themselves into the lives of the people they are studying therefore they can get a better understanding, more importantly it is highly valid which is what interpretivist’s look for. However, there is a problem with verstehen, it is subjective and lacks reliability, it also has its limitations due to being time consuming, and it means the study is done on a micro (small) scale because there is not enough time to study loads of groups at one time. On the other hand, interpretivists would argue that this is a good way of really understanding why people do things, because behaviour is influenced by society. Brown and Clare (2005) for example looked into prisoner’s autobiographies and picked out quotes that illuminate their experiences of inmates past and present. A criticism of this study is that there could be bias opinions, also the study is subjective and it is open to interpretation- different sociologists could interpret the same piece differently. There could also be sensationalism on the part of the author- meaning the author changes the stories to make them more exciting or shocking, at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. This means the data they are collecting could be inaccurate and this will affect the study in question.

They use the method of participant observation- a technique of research, in which an investigator (participant observer) studies the life of a group by sharing in its activities. It is used to gain qualitative data by researchers. This is an appropriate technique because it enables the researcher to gain real insight into people and the reasons behind their actions. Advantages to this method are




You've got reliability and validity mixed up a few times but some good points in there none the less.

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