The methoology approriate to the subject matterf the natural sciences is not neccessary appropriate to the subject matter of sociology.Discuss
The methoology approriate to the subject matter of the natural sciences is not neccessary appropriate to the subject matter of sociology. Discuss.
The key point about the methodology used in the natural sciences is that they can strive for, and often achieve, genuine objectivity. This is because they are dealing for the most part with inanimate matter. As a result, they are able to conduct experiments under controlled conditions in laboratories. They are able to hold all other factors constant when testing a hypothesis, which will generally be designed to show the relationship (which may be causal) between A and B. They can monitor their results, and repeat the experiment over and over again to verify their conclusions. Hence this approach generates scientific theories.
Sociology is generally seen as a social science, and to some extent also employs the scientific method, though it is seldom possible to conduct direct experiments on human beings, and it is also remarkably difficult to hold all other factors constant when conducting an investigation and testing a hypothesis. Nevertheless, the sociological approach does have some claim to being scientific, and the ultimate aim of sociological research is not dissimilar to that found in the natural sciences. Society is a community of individuals; sociology studies the interaction between individuals, and between individuals and their environment. In most societies there is a broadly shared culture. The benefits of studying society are: we learn more about the factors that have shaped the modern world and our own identities; we can understand how systems and institutions work, and how they influence individuals; we can analyse key issues such as stratification, deviance, power, inequality and crime.
A key distinction in sociology is made normally between the positivist (macro) and the interpretivist (micro) approaches. The macro approach (or positivist or structural) looks at systems, structures and institutions, viewing behaviour as largely the product of forces outside our control, and stresses common values and shared norms. It focuses upon the use of questionnaires, statistical analysis, standardised tests and structured interviews. The micro (or interpretist or social action) approach, by contrast, focuses upon the interpretation of the world by individuals, and argues that sociologists must be able to identify with this view in order to understand an individual’s actions. It sees our behaviour as largely the product of choice. Hence the stress is upon the influence of interaction with others (and thus with different subjective realities), and on how people manage social institutions, There is recognition of subjectivity in analysis, which often specialises in participant observation and open-ended interviews and discussions. Both approaches are needed, since each cannot exist without the other – people can only make choices within a social framework. The macro approach is perhaps more akin to that used in physics or chemistry, since it seeks to be objective, and makes use of at least some of the techniques found in natural scientific research.
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