Theory and Methods A2 Sociology

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     Is sociology a science?
      Positivism: States that human behaviour should be researched through principles of natural         science. Objective facts and theories are produced on the basis of empirical research, which       produces quantitative data. Theories and laws are tested through replication and become             accepted as scientific knowledge.

      Criticisms: Reductionist and deterministic with simplistic conclusions e.g. poverty causes          crime. Critical theory: Fails to explain why correlations exist between variables
     Feminists: Uses universal research methods without tailoring the method to understand              unique experiences of women.

     Comte: A positivist. He argued that the social world should resemble the natural physical            world and they’re both made up of objective facts and are governed by external laws.                  Sociology could be a science of society that discovers the social laws governing human              behaviour.  

     Positivists developed a ‘model’ scientific approach to research called the ‘                                Hypotheticodeductive Approach’, which involves logical steps in carrying out research in lab        settings:

·       Observation: Problem is observed to exist and needs explanation. 

·       Hypothesis: A possible explanation is put forward. 

·       Experiment: The hypothesis is rigorously tested to see if it holds up. 

·       Theorising: If confirmed by the experiment, a law is created which explains the problem. 

     Positivists like objectivity, reliability, quant data, standardised, generalisable, official              statistics and social surveys.

    Popper: Says scientific statements are capable of being falsified by evidence; this is what           allows scientific understanding of the world - build on the achievements of previous scientists     to develop a greater understanding. For a theory to be falsifiable it must be open to criticism         from other scientists. Sociology is unscientific as theories cannot be put to test e.g. Marxism       predicts there will be a revolution but nothing has happened yet- prediction cant be falsified.       Sociology can be scientific as it’s capable of producing hypotheses that can be falsified.

    Kaplan: When scientists write their findings, they fail to account for all the false starts, luck,         blind alleys and guesses, which are part of their everyday science.

    Sayer (Realist):
Says positivists and Popper are mistaken about the nature of science. Many       sciences study unobservable phenomena like evolution. Sciences like seismology are based       on unobserved structures rather than hard empirical data.

Many sciences cant make a precise prediction, seismologist’s cant predict exactly


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