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Social sciences. Positivist and interpretive approaches to social science - Essay Example

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The social sciences, in studying subjective, inter-subjective and objective or structural aspects of society, are sometimes referred to as soft sciences. This is in contrast to hard sciences, which may focus exclusively on objective aspects of nature…
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Social sciences. Positivist and interpretive approaches to social science
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Social sciences. Positivist and interpretive approaches to social science

Download file to see previous pages... Social reality can be approached in different ways, and researchers will have to select between varieties of research approaches. While often making a choice on practical grounds, they must also understand the philosophical reasons on which it is based. The initial choice is not easy. Approaches to social inquiry consist not only of the procedures of sampling, data collection and analysis, but they are based on particular ideas about the world and the nature of knowledge which sometimes reflect conflicting and competing views about social reality. Some of these positions towards the social world are concerned with the very nature of reality and existence.
There are two aspects of social sciences : The positivist approach and the interpretive approach. The positivist approach in sociology argues that sociology can and should be scientific. This means that it should have similar aims as the natural sciences i.e. it should try to develop general explanations of human behavior and use similar methods to natural science. Sociologists should ask why people behave as they do and try to come up with answers which enable them to predict how people will behave. Crime is an example of how this approach has been used in social science.Official statistics suggest that young working class men are the most criminal group in our society. Positivist sociologists would ask why this is and try to identify a small number of factors which would explain this. From the nineteenth century onwards, the traditional and favoured approaches to social and behavioural research were quantitative. Quantitative research has its base in the positivist and early natural science paradigms that influenced social science throughout the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. Positivism is an approach to science based on a belief in universal laws and insistence on objectivity and neutrality (Thompson, 1995). Positivists follow the natural science approach by testing theories and hypotheses. The methods of natural science in particular physical science stem from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the French philosophers who created the terms positivism' and sociology', suggested that the emerging social sciences must proceed in the same way as natural science by adopting natural science research methods.

Albert Cohen suggested that delinquency enabled young working class men who failed at school to restore their self esteem by inventing alternative activities at that which they could be successful. Crime was a solution to problem of status frustration. Young men were frustrated in their attempts to gain status in conventional ways. By becoming delinquents and engaging in activities such as smashing up telephone boxes and fighting they gained status in the eyes of their mates. Cohen also argued that girls did not need to restore their self esteem by this kind of achievement because girls were judged as housewives and mothers not as achievers.
Positivists have wanted to use the same methods as natural scientists. The most popular method in science is the experiment, preferably carried out in a laboratory. An experiment is a controlled environment set up by a researcher to test a hypothesis. This enables the scientist to control different aspects of a situation. He or she can ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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