• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Evaluation of the difference between Positivist and Interpretivist methodologies

Extracts from this document...


In what ways and to what extent are the positivist and interpretive approaches to sociological research different? The sociological ideals followed by the positivist are the antithesis of those chosen by the interpretivist. The positivist expects to always find that, as Condorcet described, "everywhere one must reach the same results with the same methods for the truth is one for everybody, because nature is everywhere subject to the same laws" [1]. Whereas for the interpretivist "reality really is in the eye of the beholder".[2] The Positivist standpoint is really that of the early sociologists who tried to attach social laws to humanity in the same way Newton's experiments gave us the theory of gravity. As Auguste Comte claimed in 1842, "instead of systems of belief in which the destiny of an individual was in the unintelligible hands of God or rulers, scientific knowledge would make it possible for an individual to understand nature and society, and with this knowledge to determine, in freedom, their own future."[7] These newly formed social scientists tried to use statistics and precise measurements to answer the problems of society. Karl Popper saw that a very precise hypothesis must be made1, that can be tested and re-tested to "make precise predictions on the basis of the theory." ...read more.


They will use peoples words and expressions of feelings without generalisation or representation. They work with small numbers of people and hope to achieve validity6 in their data. The Interpretivists prefer to ingratiate themselves into their subject's society and allow members to tell their own story in their own way, such as when "Karen Sharpe studied the lives of prostitutes by acting as a "secretary" for them."[21] By gradually befriending these women and putting herself in a position where they would learn to trust her she assumed she would have had more success in finding what she wanted to know than by approaching her research in a more structured manner. It is, perhaps, strange that when the two methodologies are so different, their main criticism should be the same: that both forms are subjective. The surveys and questionnaires of the Positivist fall foul of the mind-set of the writer. The questions set will not always have a relevance to all who take part in the research and the multiple choice answers cannot possibly take into account that which is appropriate to every individual, therefore the researcher's view of social reality has influenced the outcome of the research. The very choice of subject has to have been influenced by the researcher's viewpoints. ...read more.


5 Milgram's experiment consisted of a number of teachers and 1 learner. The teachers were told that the learner knew the answers to their questions but refused to give them, and was to be shocked by anything from 15 - 450 volts. The learner was an actor and no real shocks were given, but most subjects gave what they thought was a 450 volt shock, without hesitation as they had been told to do so by an authority figure. 6 Validity = "The ability of a test or research method to measure what it sets out to measure. For example, IQ tests are often contested with regard to their validity, as there is no consensus over what IQ tests are actually measuring."[20] 7 Elton Mayo analysed the results of an experiment at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company in 1933. Worker Productivity was being tested by the manipulation of variables such as lighting, temperature and length of breaks. However, it appeared that, as productivity increased in all cases, it was the employees knowledge that such tests were taking place that was the main catalyst. 8 Psychiatrist, Topeka Kansas, 1893-1990. He argued that crime was preventable through psychiatric treatment.[23] 9 "British social theorist, born 1938. Theory of "saturation" solved problem of whether individual acts, or major social forces, shape society, by asserting that it is human agency which continuously reproduces social structure."[18] ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. The classical and positivist approaches to criminological theory

    it is seems to be focused mainly on social reforms, conducted on the predictions resulting from societal characteristic studies. So, from the start, one can notice that the classical approach sought to limit punishment, and pace punishing authorities within rather tight boundaries, whereas the positivist theory sought to remove or reduce the factors found to be causative of crime.

  2. Does Boxing have a future?

    Recently Labour MP Paul Flynn has called for a Bill, to ban blows to the head, and also a change in the law regarding assault laws and boxing. He wants boxers to be charged with assault or manslaughter if their opponents are critically injured or killed.

  1. evaluation of methods

    AIM 3 My final aim was to prove or disprove my hypothesis. From these results I have collected, I conclude that arranged marriages are decline amongst Indian communities in UK. This is due to assimilation, culture and primary and secondary socialisation.

  2. Max Weber: Basic Terms (The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology)

    Exactly which cause looks like a matter of belief (117). Some kind of faith must exist in a politician, ''otherwise it is absolutely true that the curse of the creature's worthlessness overshadows even the externally strongest political successes'' (117). Then is a discussion of two ethics, the ethic of ultimate ends and the ethic of responsibility.

  1. Gender difference

    The advantage of using this method is that it is easier to analyse because there is only a limited choice of answers, not allowing huge variation which can be difficult to depict at the analysis change. Furthermore, I am able to spot trends more easily and pick out patterns relevant to my aims.

  2. Describe discuss and evaluate the research methodologies you used to investigate your question

    This was a difficult task as I the Internet provided me with an endless number of sources and information to browse through. Ultimately I did gain a lot of the information I required through a combination of the website http://www.people.virginia.edu/~pm9k/libsci/womFilm.html and the sociology book "Haralambous and Holborn 'Sociology'.

  1. Positivism: "Love, Order, Progress" - Auguste Comte (1795 - 1857) and Emile Durkheim (1858 ...

    The basis of true knowledge is to be found in sense experience prior to concept and theory formation. 2. Scientific knowledge accumulates through the accretion of more and more independent facts. 3. There is a method of inference, induction, by which scientific laws are logically entailed by particular sets of facts.

  2. The Horror and Sci-fi genres: General Theoretical Approaches.

    It is a clean, precision-like process, producing a parentless offspring that can never attain an interactive relationship with others of its kind. They are all replicas of one another, and merely follow the programming of the computer systems which produced them.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work