Research Methods (Triangulation & Methodological Pluralism (Why?
Theory and Methods
Views on Sociology Being a Science:
- According to Popper's view on falsification, sociology cannot be a science unless its research changes so that it can be falsified. For example, the Marxists concept of a Communist revolution cannot be falsified as if it happens then its true, but if not then it simply hasn't happened yet because of false consciousness.
- Kuhn suggests that sociology cannot be studied as a science until it has shared paradigms (theories). For example, Feminism, Marxism and Functionalism all have different views on the education system.
- However, Realists suggest sociology can be studied as a science as it allows you to research difficult to observe areas.
- Meanwhile, Postmodernists suggest sociology shouldn't want to be studied like a science, as science does not always mean progress and absolute truth is unattainable.
Sociology and Science:
- Science is the acquisition of systematic knowledge through observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena and to test hypotheses
- Characteristics of a Science:
- Empirical (knowledge gained through practical experience)
- Testable (open to verification & falsification by others)
- Theoretical (using ideas to uncover a casual relationship)
- Cumulative (builds upon, and moves forwards, knowledge)
- Objective (Free from personal opinion)
- Snowball Sampling: Researcher gets someone in target population to suggests more people to help, and they in turn suggest more etc.
- Opportunity Sampling: The researcher picks participants who are available at the time
- Random Sampling: pulling names out a hat
- Systematic Sampling: every X person (e.g. every 3rd person in a target population)
- Stratified Random Sampling: Sub-divide target population into sub-groups then randomly select from those groups
- Quota Sampling: Population divided into very detailed subgroups and researcher has to go and find people who fit these subgroups
- Volunteer Sampling
Theory and Methods
- Favour Qualitative data
- Believe the way to understand society is through the eyes of the individuals
- Micro approach which believes that individuals create society
- Becker believed it is impossible for research to be value free as sociologists will always use their subjective feelings in research.
- Weber believed sociology should not be studied as a science as people are different than inanimate objects.
- Weber also proposed the idea of 'Verstehen', which means empathetic understanding of human behaviour, and claimed that research needs to be subjective to understand the opinions of those being studied.
- Favour subjectivity
- Think quantitative methods lack validity
- Favour quantitative data
- Like cause&effect relationships and proving/disproving hypothesis
- Macro approach, which believes that society influences individuals as external forces known as 'social facts' influence.
- Society should be studied in the same way as a science
- They favour objectivity
- Believe that qualitative data lacks evidence and reliability as it is impossible to repeat studies to check findings, therefore they cannot truly establish as cause and effect relationship.
Theory & Methods
- Subjectivity: Sociologists are part of the society they are studying, and their values will effect the research in some way
- Objectivity: Researchers approach topics with complete detachment from those being researched
- Everyone has values (general beliefs about what is important in life and what is right), however, whether or not values should be separated from research is highly debated.
- Desirable & Possible: Positivists, such as Durkhiem, believe sociology can & should be studied as a science. A value free sociology could help to influence social policies. It can be value free if it uses methods such as lab experiments.
- Not Possible: Without values it is impossible to know what to observe. Interprativists argue individuals act in the way they do by giving meaning to their behaviour & we can only understand these meanings by collecting qualitative data & subjectively interpreting it.
- Not desirable: By pretending to be value free and not taking sides the sociologist simply supports the powerful by not helping the weak. They should not be value free but use their knowledge to tackle social inequalities.