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Critically discuss the links between social theory and social research.

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Introduction

SOC 103 Exploring Social Research Critically discuss the links between social theory and social research Student: Jennifer Gartland Student no: 032805136 Module tutor: Andrew Hope This essay will identify the links between social research and social theory. Social theory can be defined as 'a set of ideas or abstract knowledge to explain the social world'1, likewise, research can be defined as, 'an investigation to discover facts or collect information'2 again this is in relation to the social world. Firstly we will consider the schools of thought; objectivity, subjectivity, realism and idealism, and say how these influence the aims, methods and processes of social research. Next this essay will identify the links between social theory and social research, identifying the approaches of inductivism, deductivism, paradigms, critical theory and ethnomethodology. An important school of thought in social research is objectivity. It refers to the lack of bias or prejudice when carrying out research. May (2001) identifies that if our own values do not interfere with the research it is objective. ...read more.

Middle

It argues that different people warrant different perspectives when considering an object. The realistic view of an underlying mechanism shaping societies is not comprehended. It is not cause and effect, but investigates people's interpretations of events. Like subjectivity methods of research involve focus on understandings and meanings that people give to their environment. Methods such as participant observation and focused interviewing are used, where results are opinions and tend not to be quantifiable. This essay has thus far looked at the debates surrounding the research process and how different disciplines affect the way in which research is done. The next part of the essay examines the relationship between theory and research. It is generally agreed that there is a two-way relationship between social theory and social research. Social theory informs our understanding of issues, which in turn assists us in making research decisions and in making sense of the social world. Likewise, the experience of doing research and its findings influences our theorising.6 The approach of inductivism involves first compiling the data from the research and then the theory is derived from these results. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is always evidence that both supports and refutes them. He believes that theories form into scientific paradigms. Unlike inductivism and deductivism, these paradigms do not provide rules for research methods, but provide examples of good practice. Scientists share assumptions, concepts and theories and agree on research methods. If evidence were found to falsify a theory it would be the researchers capability called into question. These dominant paradigms are only challenged as a result of what Kuhn terms, 'scientific revolutions'. These may involve the retirement of a dominant scientist or a younger scientist with new ideas entering the field. Kuhn's ideas of a single dominant paradigm are refuted within the social sciences. It is believed that it is characterised by several paradigms reflecting the divisions with regard to different research aims and methods. These are said to in turn reflect the many divisions within our society. Therefore it has been identified that social science is a dynamic discipline, with which some of the perspectives have been identified within this essay. Within these perspectives there is a strong link between social research and social theory, each determining the other depending on which discipline is followed. ...read more.

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There are some really good bits in this essay - but no coherent argument. I wasn't quite sure why certain bits were being introduced or what the overall answer to the question was. This is partly because there's no real engagement with what a 'theory' is - just lots of different theories, with little consideration of the different analytical levels they occupy.

Marked by teacher Grace Thomas 24/04/2012

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