sociological methods

  • Created by: loupardoe
  • Created on: 30-07-18 13:55
  • methodology- concerned with research methods and the philosophies underlying them; tries to establish accepted ways of getting the best possible data about the social world
  • some sociologists support using scientific methods and quantitative data
  • others see such methods as inappropriate in the study of human society and prefer qualitative data

key issues in research and methods

aims when collecting and using data

  • validity and reliability- research is valid when it gives a true picture of what's being measured; research is reliable if other sociologists using the same methods get the same data
  • representativeness- can't research the whole population; sample should represent the population; if a sample is representative then sociologists can generalise
  • objectivity, avoiding bias

data from different sources

  • primary sources of data involve first hand research- interviews, focus groups, questionnaries, observations
  • secondary data- official statistics

quantitative and qualitative data

  • quantitative data- numbers and statistics; can be easily put into a graph or chart
  • qualitative data- gives a detailed picture of what people do, think and feel; subjective, opinions, meanings, interpretations


  • behaviour is influenced by external social factors
  • sociology should be scientific and analyse social facts
  • social facts- things that affect behaviour and can be easily measured
  • external e.g. laws
  • positivists measure human behaviour using qualitative data
  • use statistics to measure the relaionships between different factors; interested in cause and effect relationships
  • use sources like questionnaires and official statistics, objective, reliable
  • early influential approach advocated by comte, 1840s and Durkheim, 1897
  • multivariate analysis can help to find what the true causes of things are
  • it is possible to discover laws of human behaviour
  • human behaviour is shapred by external stimuli
  • it is unscientific to study people's emotions, meanings or motives

popper- falsification and deduction

  • popper 1959
  • you cannot ever be sure that you have found the truth
  • what is considered true today may be disproved tomorrow
  • a scientific theory is one that can be tested
  • from the theory you can deduce hypotheses and make precise predictions
  • if repeatedly tested and found to be correct, a theory may be provisionally accepted
  • there is always the possibility that it will be proved wrong in the future
  • scientific theories are ones that make precise predictions
  • some sociology is unscientific because the predictions are not precise enough
  • uses a deductive approach- you deduce hypotheses from a theory and check that they are correct


  • believe that you can only really understand human behaviour using empathy
  • important to uncover and understand the meaning individuals give to their actions and to the actions of others
  • use methods that let them discover the meanings, motives and reasons behind human behaviour and social interaction
  • the scientific methods used in positivist research don't tell you much about how individual people act in society
  • you can't count meaning and opinions and turn them into statistical charts
  • sociology isn't scientific because humans can't be measured
  • people don't always understand questions in questionnaires, they don't always tell the truth
  • use methods that produce qualitative data
  • try to understand human behaviour from…


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