Relationship between theory and methods

Positivism
Behaviour can be measured & explained objectively & can be & should be researched according to the same or similar principles & methods used in natural sciences.
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Methods used
Quantitative data including; official statistics, comparative methods, formal/structured interviews & non-participant observation.
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View on society
Society is an objective reality, made up of social structures that exist independently of individuals living in society. Individuals are constrained by & react to external forces & social structures that exist out of them & cause behaviour.
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Theoretical perspective
Structural theories e.g. functionalism & marxism: how society moulds & controls individual behaviour. Structural theories adopt a macro-approach, studying the role of social institutions/social structures like the law, family & education.
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Methodological approach
Positivist & scientific approaches. Sociology can & should study society using similar methods & procedures to those used in the natural sciences. This may enable discovery of causes of behaviour & predictions of future trends.
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Criticisms
Main criticisms come from the Interpretivist view; suggest methods adopted by positivists do not produce valid or true account of society, as they simply impose researcher's own framework & assumptions.
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More criticisms
Interpretivists argue that the statistics positivists use are simply social constructions. The detachment of the researcher means they do not develop the empathy & closeness necessary to really understand the meanings & interpretations people hold.
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Interpretivism
Concerned with understanding the meanings individuals give to situations. Regard using methods & procedures of natural sciences as wholly inappropriate for the study of society.
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Adopt an inductive approach to form theories, rather than the hypothetic-deductive method used by positivists
An inductive approach is one which develops theories on the basis of evidence that has been collected. Theories emerge from the accumulation of insights, issues & evidence gained through research into meanings people hold.
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Glaser & Strauss (1999)
Refer to theory as arising from an inductive approach as grounded theory, as it is grounded in an analysis of data that have been collected.
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Methods used
Verstehen suggested by Weber as developing closeness & empathy with people to understand the world through their eyes, rather than detachment preferred by Positivists. Unstructured interviews & participant observation & micro-approach.
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View of society
Society is a social construction of meaning, that has no objective reality or existence independent of the meanings & interpretations people hold. Individuals have free will & choice. They actively construct society through their social action.
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Theoretical perspective
Social action or interpretivist theories, like symbolic interactionism & ethnomethodology. Social action theories adopt a micro-approach, studying interaction between individuals in small groups to discover meanings & motivations behind actions.
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Methodological approach
Society is fundamentally different from the natural world. Sociologists have to adopt Verstehen approaches that enable them to gain insight into peoples motivations and meanings by seeing the world as they do & building grounded theories.
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Criticisms
Main criticism comes from the Positivist view; lack of reliability & subjective nature of findings. Suggest findings depend on the researchers own interpretations.
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More criticisms
The close involvement of the researcher means findings may be invalid because of interviewer bias, or the Hawthorne effect changing behaviour. Small scale of research means it can't be generalised.
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Feminist methodology
Main focus on equal position of women in societies, combined with commitment to improve the lives of women.
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Positivism: male bias & malestream methods
1)ignored & excluded women & issues of concern to women. Mies (1983) argues much of positivist research has masculine bias e.g. work only applies to paid employment & ignores unpaid work at home.
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2)simply treated women as appendages or insignificant extensions of men. For example, Stanley & Wise (1993) suggest the findings from research on men are generalised to women.
3)uses 'male stream methods' to research experiences of women.
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Feminism & Interpretivism
Feminists are generally more sympathetic to methods as they are more likely to develop more equal & intimate relationships. Oakley (1981) study of first time motherhood used unstructured interviews.
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Choice of research topic & research methods
-time & money available, who is paying for research e.g. government data often requires quantitative data. -what is already known about the research area. -whether its ethical. -easy to investigate.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Quantitative data including; official statistics, comparative methods, formal/structured interviews & non-participant observation.

Back

Methods used

Card 3

Front

Society is an objective reality, made up of social structures that exist independently of individuals living in society. Individuals are constrained by & react to external forces & social structures that exist out of them & cause behaviour.

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

Structural theories e.g. functionalism & marxism: how society moulds & controls individual behaviour. Structural theories adopt a macro-approach, studying the role of social institutions/social structures like the law, family & education.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

Positivist & scientific approaches. Sociology can & should study society using similar methods & procedures to those used in the natural sciences. This may enable discovery of causes of behaviour & predictions of future trends.

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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