Sociological Methods

Jack Rabey
Mind Map by Jack Rabey, updated more than 1 year ago
Jack Rabey
Created by Jack Rabey about 5 years ago
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AS Level Sociology Mind Map on Sociological Methods, created by Jack Rabey on 19/03/2015.

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Sociological Methods
1 Positivism, Interpretivism and Sociological Methods
1.1 POSTIVISM and Research Methods
1.1.1 Positivists believe that, just as there are causes of things in the natural world, so there are external social forces, making up a society's social structure that casue or mould people's ideas and actions.
1.1.1.1 Durkheim, a Positivist, called these external forces SOCIAL FACTS.
1.1.1.1.1 Durkeheim said the aim of sociology should be the study of social facts, which should be considered as things, like objects in the natural world, and could in most cases be observed and measured quantitatively - in number/statistical form.
1.1.1.1.1.1 Eamples of positivist approaches might be studies of whether people in some social classes achieve poorer exam results, suffer more illness or are more likely to commit suicide.
1.1.1.1.1.1.1 Durkheim (2002 [1897]) used a positivist approach in his classic study of suicide in 1897, using suicide statistics to try to establish the social causes of suicide.
1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 Similarly, positivist research on relationships in the family might collect statistical data on who does what around the home, the length of time spent by partners on housework and childcare, and so on.
1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 Due to the quantitative data collection methods used by positivists, the studies that people using this perspective are likely to larger scale, or MACRO approach. Examples of these methods include: The experiment, the comparative method, social surveys, structured questionnaires, formal/structured interviews and non-participant obersation.
1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 A MACRO approach is one which focuses on large numbers of people, and the large-scale structure of society as a whole, rather than on individuals.
1.1.1.1.2 SOCIAL FACTS are phenomena which exist outside of individuals and independantly of their minds, but which act upon them in ways which constrain or mould their behaviour. Such phenomena include social institutions like the law, the family the education system and the workplace.
1.1.2 POSITIVISM is an approach that believes society can be studied using similar scientific techniques, such as physics, chemistry and biology.
1.2 Interpretivism and Research Methods
1.2.1 Interpretivists believe that, because people's behaviour is influenced by the interpretations and meanings they give to social situations, the researcher's task is to gain an understanding of these interpretations and meanings, and how people see and understand the world around them.
1.2.1.1 Interpretivists believe that sociology should therefore use research methods which provide an understanding from the point of view of individuals and groups.
1.2.1.1.1 This process called "Verstehen." (Pronounced "fair-shtay-en").
1.2.1.1.1.1 Instead of collecting statistical information like positivists, interpretivists suggest there is a need to discuss and get personally involved with people in order to get at how they see the world and understand it.
1.2.1.1.1.1.1 Examples of this might be studies of whether people in some social classes tolerate or dismiss ill-health more than those in other classes, or are more likely to fail in education or be labelled as criminal because of the way teachers and police see them.
1.2.1.1.1.1.1.1 Atkinson's (1978) study of suicide involves an interpretivist approach which contrasts with Durkheim's study in arguing that suicide statistics are simply social constructions reflecting the behaviour of coroners, doctors, relatives, etc., and their definitions of suicide. They tell us more about the decision-making processes of the living rather than the intentions of the dead and the real number of suicides.
1.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 Similarly, interpretivist research on relationships in the family might carry out in-depth interviews with family members, to find out how they feel about doing jobs around the home, whether they see housework and childcare as shared out equally or not, and whether they'd want them to be.
1.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 The methods of interpretivists therefore collect qualitative data, as people using the interpretivist perspective are likely to use a MICRO approach. This consists of words, documents and images giving in-depth description and insight into the attitudes, values and feelings of individuals and groups, and the meanings and interpretations they give to events. Such qualitative methods include: Participant and (sometimes) non-participant observation, informal (unstructured/in-depth/open-ended) interviews, open-ended questionnaires and personal accounts, using personal documents like diaries and letters.
1.2.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1 A MICRO approach is one which focuses on small groups or individuals, rather than on large numbers of people and the structure of society as a whole.
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