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

Can and should sociology be a science?

Extracts from this document...


Can and should sociology be a science? Science is defined as knowledge that is certain, gained by systematic study through observation and experimentation. Examples of sciences are chemistry and physics. While sociology is the systematic study of human society dedicated to the understanding of social interaction as people form groups, communities and societies. However, there is no definition of sociology entirely satisfactory because of the diversity of perspectives that would classify sociology suitable to be a type science or not. Question is, can and should sociology be a science? Positivists argue that sociology can be a science therefore they tend to adopt quantitative research methods such as experiments and close-ended questionnaires. This is because the subject matter of society is similar to natural science. Positivists in sociology believe that like how rocks and gases react to external forces, social facts act as an external force to determine human behavior. Human behavior is patterned and predictable, most social behaviors are learnt and repeated in familiar contexts, and this measure of 'order' means that sociology can be scientific. For instance, beliefs and moral codes of society, which is beyond the individual's control shapes an individual's behavior. Human behavior is seen to be governed by external forces therefore human behavior can be objectively rather than subjectively observed and measured, similar to how a scientist observes and measures the natural world. ...read more.


Moreover, conditions of a research cannot be replicated easily. Natural sciences have the benefit of being able to control its variables, however there are several factors that affect human behavior and it is difficult to isolate them since human possess free will. Therefore, it is difficult to replicate a study. For instance, William Foote Whyte could not possibly repeat his study of the Italian slum with the exact same conditions and activities observed in of the street corner society. Interpretivists see the world as a largely socially constructed place. Interpretivists reject the methods of natural science as objective observation and measurement of the social world are not possible. For example it is difficult to get reliable statistics on health and crime because the data is dependent on members of public reporting their illness or crimes they observe meaning that even statistics are social constructions. Also, statistics are simply the product of categorization. Instead of studying the categories itself, interpretivists study the way that the members of society categorize the world around them. To an interpretivist, reality is too complicated for numbers and quantitative analysis to be made. Qualitative methods are essential for a full understanding of social reality. Scientific objectivity cannot be upheld using these qualitative methods that require a level of subjective thought. ...read more.


Natural science aims at understanding why certain factors bring about an effect. Sociology on the other hand aims at understanding human behavior to improve social life. On the other hand, Sociology should be a science as it can encourage the progress of the subject and adopt many useful methods from natural sciences to observe social life such as the quantitative method to gather information from a questionnaire. It is not a natural science as there is no objective truth in Sociology unlike the natural science where the distinction between right and wrong is very clear. To realist sociologists Keat and Urry, Marxist sociology is scientific as it provides models of underlying structures which are evaluated in the light of empirical evidence. Unlike positivists, realists do not automatically reject interpretive sociology as unscientific because they believe that studying unobservable events are all perfectly compatible with a scientific subject. Durkheim's study of suicide proved that method of natural science, quantifying human behavior can establish laws of human behavior. In conclusion, Sociology cannot be considered as a natural science as it differs in terms of experiment procedures and data collecting. Value free judgments do not apply in Sociology. However, it should be a science but not under the same category. Because human behavior is complex, a more in depth observation analysis is needed. Sociology is an interpretive subject and requires a more in depth analysis. Therefore, it should be considered as a social science. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification 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 AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Discuss the usefulness of Quantative and Qualitative Methods in study of Suicide.

    Case studies are another useful way of looking into suicide and accessing the meaning. This is a heavily interpretist method which is very rich in meaning but is very hard to be generalised. Practically it is very hard to conduct a case study or a series of case studies.

  2. Demography topic revision notes. The study of populations and their characteristics is called ...

    age at which most people are expected or required to stop working and are forced to rely on inadequate benefits that push many into poverty. Policy Implications Donald Hirsch (2005) argues that a number of important social policies and trends will need to change to tackle the new problems posed by an ageing population.

  1. Can and should sociology be science?

    By using statistical data, positivists believe it is possible to classify the social world in an objective way. This is because they argue that statistical analysis can reveal correlations, causation and ultimately laws of human behavior just like laws of nature such as Newton's third Law of Motion.

  2. Key Perspectives in Sociology

    assault 112 10.7 Parent assault 73 7.0 Sibling assault 50 4.8 Mutual assault 6 0.6 Total 1044 100.00 In 1980, R. E. and R. Dobash carried out a study into Violence against Wives. As a part of their research they used the above figures, compiled from statistics gathered in 1974,

  1. An investigation into people(TM)s belief about Hell

    and back in medieval times, even discovering the facts of science, however, in the present day, these roles have been taken over by other, secular, organisations, for example, schools educate young children and a number of these have little, even no involvement in the church, the media provides information about


    However, this does not mean one causes the other. It could be that something else is affecting them for example. Quantitative data are anything that can be expressed in statistical or number form or can be measured in some way, such as age, qualifications, income or periods of ill-health.

  1. Assess the view that sociology can and should not model itself on the natural ...

    Thus they must be caused by other social facts ? forces acting on members of society to determine their behaviour. Durkheim argues the social facts responsible for determining suicide rates were levels of integration and regulation. As Catholics were more successful of integrating individuals they were less likely to commit suicide.

  2. Assess the view that sociology can and should model itself on the natural sciences

    Interpretivists argue that the matter of sociology is meaningful social actions and we can only understand it by successfully interpreting the meanings and motives of the persons involved. In their view, sociology is not a science, because science only deals with laws of cause and effect, and not human meanings.

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