Methodology is a system of rules, principles and procedures, which forms. scientific investigation. Comment
Science is the field concerned with discovering and describing the world around us by observing and experimenting. Scientific methodology is a system of rules, principles, and procedures that form the basis of the scientific investigation. It can be divided into theoretical methodology and experimental methodology. Scientific investigation require some basic but necessary rules, principles and procedures such as well defined question, the research needs to be based on, need of a hypothesis and other.
The Scientific Method
Sociologists make use of tried and true methods of research, such as experiments, surveys, and field research. But humans and their social interactions are so diverse that these interactions can seem impossible to chart or explain. It might seem that science is about discoveries and chemical reactions or about proving ideas right or wrong rather than about exploring the nuances of human behavior.
However, this is exactly why scientific models work for studying human behavior. A scientific process of research establishes parameters that help make sure results are objective and accurate. Scientific methods provide limitations and boundaries that focus a study and organize its results.
The scientific method involves developing and testing theories about the world based on empirical evidence. It is defined by its commitment to systematic observation of the empirical world and strives to be objective, critical, skeptical, and logical. It involves a series of prescribed steps that have been established over centuries of scholarship.
But just because sociological studies use scientific methods does not make the results less human. Sociological topics are not reduced to right or wrong facts. In this field, results of studies tend to provide people with access to knowledge they did not have before—knowledge of other cultures, knowledge of rituals and beliefs, or knowledge of trends and attitudes. No matter what research approach they use, researchers want to maximize the study’s reliability, which refers to how likely research results are to be replicated if the study is reproduced. Reliability increases the likelihood that what happens to one person will happen to all people in a group. Researchers also strive for validity, which refers to how well the study measures what it was designed to measure. Returning to the crime rate during a full moon topic, reliability of a study would reflect how well the resulting experience represents the average adult crime rate during a full moon. Validity would ensure that the study’s design accurately examined what it was designed to study, so an exploration of adult criminal behaviors during a full moon should address that issue and not veer into other age groups’ crimes, for example.
In general, sociologists tackle questions about the role of social characteristics in outcomes. For example, how do different communities fare in terms of psychological well-being, community cohesiveness, range of vocation, wealth, crime rates, and so on? Are communities functioning smoothly? Sociologists look between the cracks to discover obstacles to meeting basic human needs. They might study environmental influences and patterns of behavior that lead to crime, substance abuse, divorce, poverty, unplanned pregnancies, or illness. And, because sociological studies are not all focused on negative behaviors or challenging situations, researchers might study vacation trends, healthy eating habits, neighborhood organizations, higher education patterns, games, parks, and exercise habits.
Sociologists can use the scientific method not only to collect but also to interpret and analyze the data. They deliberately apply scientific logic and objectivity. They are interested in—but not attached to—the results. They work outside of their own political or social agendas. This doesn’t mean researchers do not have their own personalities, complete with preferences and opinions. But sociologists deliberately use the scientific method to maintain as much objectivity, focus, and consistency as possible in a particular study.
With its systematic approach, the scientific method has proven useful in shaping sociological studies. The scientific method provides a systematic, organized series of steps that help ensure objectivity and consistency in exploring a social problem. They provide the means for accuracy, reliability, and validity. In the end, the scientific method provides a shared basis for discussion and analysis (Merton 1963).
Qualitative and quantitative methods
Method is a tool or a technique used to collect data. Methodology is concerned with both the detailed research methods through which data are collected and the more general philosophies upon which the collection and analysis of data are based. Issues of this type are referred to as epistemology.
It adopts the methods of natural sciences in studying the social world. The earliest attempt to use such methods in sociology is known as positivism.
Comte was confident that scientific knowledge about society could be accumulated and used to improve human existence so that society could progress and run rationally. Durkheim advocated a similar methodology and is seen as a model of positivist research.
1. Social facts – Researcher should restrict to collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified. He should not be concerned with internal meanings, motives, feelings and emotions of individuals as they cannot be observed or measured objectively. Durkheim proposed that the belief systems, customs and institutions of society – world.
2. Statistical Data – Using the classifications of the social world, it is possible to count sets of rkheim collected data on social facts such as
the suicide rates and memberships of various religions.
3. Correlation – Looking for correlations between different social facts. It is the tendency for two or more things to be found together, and it may refer to strength of relationship between them.
4. Causation –
be causing the other to take place. However, caution must be exercised to avoid spurious correlation. It may be possible that some third factor has a causal relationship to both the phenomena being considered. Example: Being working class crime, or crime makes a person working class, instead gender class location | level of criminality
5. Multivariate analysis – this involves trying to isolate the effect of a particular independent variable upon the dependent variables, to overcome the problem of spurious correlations.
Example: Crime is a dependent variable, gender is an independent variable.
6. Laws of human behavior – if the causal connections are found and checked in a variety of contexts, then researchers can be confident that they have attained the ultimate goal of positivism: a law of human behavior. Example: Durkheim found that suicide rates always rose tages of society.
This is known as inductive methodology. However, while positivism has influenced many, the inductive method has not been accepted by all. Deductive approach is an alternative to it.
B. Falsification: Karl Popper in supports this methodology. It reverses the process of
induction. Falsification starts with a theory and tests it against the evidence, rather than developing a theory as a result of examining the data.
Scientists should start with a hypothesis and on its basis, it should be possible to deduce predictions about the future. It includes both interpolation and extrapolation. The hypothesis can origin even from common sense knowledge. What makes the theories scientific is their ability to be tested by making precise predictions on the basis of the theory.
Apple falls apple seeds will fall | all fruits will fall. Popper denies that it is ever possible to produce laws that will necessarily be found to be true for all time, a researcher should constantly try to find evidence that disproves his theories.
C. Laboratory Experiments:
Experiments enable scientists to test precise predictions, as advocated by Popper. Laboratories are controlled environments in which the researcher can manipulate the various independent variables.
Through control and isolation, the effect of different independent variables on a dependent variable can be established. Laboratories facilitate replication and hence increase reliability.
However, they are not suited to sociological research because:
1. They are unnatural situations. The knowledge of being studied and the artificiality of the situation might affect the behavior of the participants and hence produce distorted results 2. If subjects are not informed of the nature of the experiment prior to its commencement, it raises ethical issues. Payne and Payne recommend getting prior informed consent.
3. Genuine matching of humans to enable other variable(s) to be altered may be impossible. This restricts the sample size and hence reliability.
4. Alan Bryman points out that researchers in sociology cannot manipulate many of the independent variables in the research. Example: gender of the subjects.
5. It is impractical. Neither can a whole community be fit into a laboratory, nor can an experiment be conducted for a sufficiently long time to study social change.
Bandura examined the effects on children of viewing media images of violence. However, critics have pointed that such an unnatural experiment does not give any indication of whether the short-term effects of viewing violence would be repeated in the long term, or in real social settings.
D. Field Experiments:
They are carried out outside a laboratory, and involve intervening in the social world in such a way that hypotheses can be tested by isolating particular variables.
Rosenthal and Jacobson tested the hypothesis that self-fulfilling prophecies could affect educational Sissons observed the reactions of me influenced the dependent variable, risky and criminal behavior.
A natural experiment is an experimental situation that occurs without the intervention of the researcher. Example: when in a remote island St. Helena in the Atlantic, TV was introduced for the first time in the 1990s.
1. Not possible to control variables as closely as in a laboratory.
2. Hawthorne effect as seen by Elton Mayo at Western Electricity Company in Chicago. It showed that the results of an experiment get affected due to the fact that an experiment is taking place.
3. Ethical issues may arise if the subjects are kept unaware, so as to avoid Hawthorne effect.
4. Confined to small-scale studies over a small period of time.
E. The Comparative Method:
It involves the use of comparisons. These may be comparisons of different societies or of groups within one or more societies, and comparisons at the same or different points in time. It involves a comparative examination of different but similar situations, trying to identify crucial features leading to different outcomes.
Victor Jupp shows research techniques using comparative method are:
1. Content analysis – comparison of documents
2. Historical analysis – comparison of time periods
3. Analysis of official statistics – comparison of areas, groups or time periods in terms of social indicators
The data used in comparative method can come from primary or secondary sources. It overcomes some of the problems involved in experimentation like:
1. Lesser ethical issues as the researcher is not interfering in the social world 2. Researcher is less likely to affect the behavior of those being studied, as the data comes from 3. Allows the researcher to study the causes of large-scale social changes over long periods of time, the historical developments of societies can be studied
Marx compared a wide variety of societies to develop his theory of social change and stages of society.
Durkheim used the method in his study of division of labour and the change from mechanical to organic solidarity. In , Weber compared early capitalist countries in the
West with China and India to show a correlation between capitalism and Calvinism. Cicourel juvenile justice in two Californian cities and Fiona Devine on in
the 1990s and similar workers in the 1960s are other examples.
Interpretive and Qualitative Methodology:
Quantitative data are data in a numerical form. Qualitative data are usually presented in the form of words. They are seen as richer and more vital, as having greater depth and as more likely to present a Sociologists who take an interpretive approach are strongest advocates of qualitative data. They argue that the causal explanation of human behavior is impossible without some understanding of the subjective states of the individuals concerned.
However, while some such as Weber regard the understanding of meaning as necessary to make causal explanations possible, others, such as phenomenologists regard understanding as the end product of sociological research, and they reject the possibility of producing causal explanations at all.
A. Social Action Approach of Max Weber:
Weber defined sociology as the study of social action. Action is social when it takes account of other members in the society. The explanation of social action necessitates an understanding of the meanings and motives that underlie human behavior. Understanding motives can be achieved through Verstehen imagining yourself to be in the position of the person whose behavior you are seeking to explain.
Example: In interpret the beliefs and motives of the early Calvinists.
However, he was not simply concerned with understanding meanings and motives for their own sake. Weber wanted to explain social action and social change. He was interested in causality. Example: he systematically compared the characteristics of early capitalist countries and technologically advanced contributed to the rise of capitalism. He saw the moral and religious beliefs and motives of the early Calvinists as one of the main factors accounting for the emergence of capitalism in the West.
B. Symbolic Interactionism:
Symbolic interactionists do not reject the attempt to establish causal relationships within sociology.
However, they tend to believe that statistical data does not provide any great insight into human behavior. Interactionists see human behavior as largely governed by the internal processes by which people interpret the world around them and give meaning to their own lives.
They believe that individuals possess a self-concept, or image of themselves, which is built up, reinforced or modified in the process of interaction with other members of society.
The responses of others to an individual may make it impossible for him or her to sustain a particular self-concept; the self-concept will change, and in turn the behavior of the individual will alter accordingly. Thus, interactionists have tried to show how labelling people as deviant or educational successes or failures, can produce self-fulfilling prophecies.
Herbert Blumer developed the implications of these views for sociological methodology. He rejects simplistic attempts to establish causal relationships that characterize positivist methodology.
As an example, he refers to the proposition that industrialization causes the replacement of extended families with nuclear families. He argues that data on the meanings and interpretations that actors give to the various facets of industrialization and family life are essential before a relationship can be established between the two factors. Isolating variables and assuming one causes the other is an incorrect approach.
force it into predefined categories and concepts. This results in imposition of definitions on the social world. the role of the acting unit whose conducted.
Phenomenology is an anti-positivist, constructionist perspective which was first proposed by Edmund Husserl and then developed along sociological lines by Alfred Schutz.
Its emphasis is upon the internal workings of the human mind and it sees knowledge as a social construct. It denies the possibility of producing causal explanations of human behavior and social action.
According to phenomenologists, individuals only come into contact with the outside world through their senses – touch, smell, hearing, sight and taste. To make sense of these sensory experiences, humans attach meaning to them and characteristics.
Such are shared by members of a society and passed on to children through socialization.
This helps build a which allows humans to live and communicate together.
Example: common sense enables us to write and post a letter, such that it reaches the intended person.
These meanings and classifications make up social reality and there is no objective reality beyond these subjective meanings. It is impossible to produce factual data or causal explanations.
Phenomenology is used in two ways in sociology:
1. to theorize about substantive sociological problems and
2. to enhance the adequacy of sociological research methods
The study by Durkheim is criticized by phenomenologists as it was based on the official statistics of suicide, which they believe are nothing more than the interpretations of the coroner or police officials of what is seen to be an unnatural death.
However, critics claim that phenomenology has reduced every social action into a unique phenomenon.
Thus, there is no possibility of replicability or comparative analysis.
Ted Benton and Ian Craib
It aims to understand the meanings and classifications which people use to give order to, and make sense of, the world.
For example, in his study of juvenile delinquents, Cicourel did not find the process of classifying police officers. Hence, the data on convictions for various delinquent acts was a social product based upon the common-sense assumptions of the authorities who created the statistics. Thus, crime statistics have no existence outside the meanings and interpretive procedures that produced them.
From a phenomenological perspective, the job of a sociologist is to simply understand these meanings from which social reality is constructed. Also, there is no way of choosing between different systems of classification and seeing one as superior to another. Hence, data cannot be used to try to establish correlations and causal relationships.
qualitative methods are used by phenomenologists in social research.
Simon Charlesworth used interviews in his study on working class life in Rotherham, Dawn Hobson used observation and informal interviews to study the ethics of nurses working in the cancer ward of a London hospital.
Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology:
Ray Pawson states that the differences between these two broad approaches to methodology are exaggerated and misleading.
1. Even those who have strongly advocated one of the two methodologies have not stuck rigidly to their principle. Durkheim, an ardent positivist, in strayed away from basing his analysis Cicourel, though a
critic of quantitative methods, extensively used statistical data while studying juvenile delinquency.
2. Payne and Payne point out that the conversational analysis used by ethnomethodologists involves quantitative factors as well. Symbolic interactionists like Glaser and Strauss advocate 3. Practical difficulties have at least as much influence on the choice of research methods as theoretical considerations.
4. Many sociologists now advocate methodological pluralism, and others get on with actually doing research without worrying too much about the philosophical basis of that research.
5. Critical social science, particularly feminism, and postmodern sociology offer distinctive perspectives on methodology which do not fit neatly into either camp – positivist or interpretive truce prevails today, and a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods being used is a common sight.
Critical Social Science Methodology:
Critical social science embraces all those approaches in sociology that aim to be critical of society in order to facilitate social change. Lee Harvey is one of its proponents.
so, knowledge can never be
separated from values. However, the aim should be to try and get beyond the dominant values of society and see what beneath the surface.
For example: feminists have been able to show that housework, like paid work, has a crucial role in the economy. Andro-centric common-sense views see housework as unimportant. Thus, by revealing the true nature of housework, feminists have been able to encourage a social change, in which the unpaid work of women is recognized.
Critical research is interested in revealing and changing oppressive structures. Class, gender, ethnicity and race are its major focus areas. The main features of critical social research are: 1. Abstract concepts and ideology – It uses abstract concepts like
simply carrying out empirical studies. Instead, distorted ideological beliefs related to dominant classes are unveiled.
2. Totality, structure and history – totality believes that social phenomena are interrelated and form a total whole. Structures constrain what people can do, but also make social action possible. Structures are not static, and hence a study of society in a historical context is necessary.
3. Deconstruction, essence and reconstruction – in deconstruction, different elements of a Marx says that
insights into the same structure.
4. Praxis – it is a practical reflective activity. It seeks to develop an understanding of their situation, among the oppressed groups. This will make them more likely to resist or challenge the structures that oppress them.
Critical social science is not tied to a single research method and has used questionnaires, interviews, case studies, ethnography, etc. It prefers methods which allow the social world to be seen from the viewpoint of the oppressed. The emphasis is not so much upon the preferred technique, but upon the purpose of the research.
Martyn Hammerslay states:
1. There are problems in identifying the sources of oppression. Also, many people may be simultaneously oppressed and oppressor. Example: a religious minority might be oppressed due to their beliefs, but the religion may be highly patriarchal and oppressive of women. Hence, it becomes unclear on whom should the research focus.
2. Needs, interests and what constitutes oppression are subjective judgements.
3. Interests of different oppressed groups might clash. Example: Kurds and Shia Arabs are rivals, and both faced oppression in Iraq./Methodology/
4. Oppressed groups may not be able to evaluate the truth of social science theories, due to false consciousness. And even a correctly recognized theory may not automatically be able to produce social change.
Hence, critical social researchers have failed to produce an acceptable alternative to conventional methodology for establishing the truth.
By Phil Carspecken:
It is possible to produce an acceptable critical social science methodology. Researchers should not look only for facts that fit their theories, and should be open to finding evidence that contradicts their theories and challenges their values. They should be open to changing their standpoints in the light of what they find during the course of the research.
There have been numerous attempts to develop feminist ways of doing or approaching research, but these three approaches have been particularly influential:
Rather than trying to construct a completely new feminist approach, it tries to rectify the mistakes of previous, dominant and male-dominated research methodologies. Some cases are:
1. Research findings based on all-male samples are generalized to the whole population. Example: sociology of crime and deviance until the 1970s was exclusively about men, but the findings were assumed to be applicable to females too.
2. Areas and issues of concern to women are overlooked or seen as unimportant. Example: housework, as pointed out by Ann Oakley
3. Women are presented in a distorted and stereotypical way in many researches. Example: Parsons has been accused of providing sexist explanations of female behavior
4. When women are included in a research, it is often – Goldthorpe, in
his class scheme,
B. Feminist research methods:
Ann Oakley argues that there is a feminist way of conducting interviews that is superior to a more dominant, masculine model of such research. She claims that traditional model values objectivity, distance and avoid becoming too involved with respondents. The interviewees are manipulated as encouraged to ask the interviewer any questions./Methodology
Feminist approach to interviewing:
Oakley suggests making the research more collaborative and in developing a relatively intimate and nonhierarchical relationship with the interviewees. While interviewing new mothers, she allowed the participants to ask questions and even gave them help and advice, if asked for. Oakley states that interviewing that breaks down the barriers between researchers and their subjects is preferable to However, Ray Pawson argues that Oakley simply elaborated on conventional ways of conducting unstructured interviews. However, such interviews do not normally involve advising and helping the interviewees, as Oakley suggests.
C. Female standpoint epistemology:
It believes that the way in which women experience social life gives them unique insights into how society works, as men and women experience social life in different ways. Instead of observation of facts and discovery of statistical relationships, this epistemology seeks to find the truth through For example: Liz Stanley and Sue Wise state that black, lesbian and working-class women have different experiences from those of their white, heterosexual and middle-class counterparts.
Ray Pawson argues that such epistemologies run into problem when those being studied continue to see the world in terms that the researcher finds unconvincing. Example: Feminist researchers are unlikely to be dominant. Also, it puts all the emphasis on studying the experiences of the oppressed, without studying the oppressors (in this case, men). Studying oppressors might reveal at least as much about the nature of oppression as studying the oppressed. He is also critical of the plurality of different viewpoints, as sometimes such viewpoints may contradict one another. This may lead to the path of relativism. They are no longer trying to explain the society as it really is, but are reduced to accepting all viewpoints as equally valid.
However, Benton and Craib state that feminist standpoint epistemology adopts a consistent position and offers a socio-historical account of the gendered process of knowledge creation. Feminism has developed concepts like mothering, sexual division of labour and gender socialization, which provide a base for making sense of other cultures. It also has a point when it argues that values should be involved in the production of social science knowledge
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