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Positivist & Interpretivist approaches


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  • 1. Philosophies of Social Research Positivist & Interpretivist Approaches & Methodologies
  • 2. Conceptions of Social Reality
  • 3. Ontology Is reality objective? External & independent of individuals? Is reality subjective? Constructed by individuals
  • 4. Ontology What is Social Reality?
  • 5. Epistemology How do we know what we know? What is knowledge? How do we gain it? How do we communicate it?
  • 6. Comparing Epistemologies Knowledge is subjective Meaning has action Relies on interpretation Social world different to natural world Knowledge is objective Hard data Can be measured Natural and social world are the same
  • 7. Epistemology How we know what we know
  • 8. Positivism
  • 9. Key Features Scientific Objective Robust Involves identifying causes Tests hypotheses Uses the methods of the natural sciences
  • 10. Auguste Comte Father of Sociology
  • 11. Anti/Post Positivism Interpretivism
  • 12. Key Features Social Action (can be anything, even inaction) has meaning The researcher’s job is to interpret social action Verstehen
  • 13. Max Weber Known to his parents as Karl Emile Maximilian Weber
  • 14. Examples of Approaches
  • 15. Positivist - Scientific External reality - need to collect ‘facts’ Methods of natural sciences Use of statistics (quantitative) Experiments, surveys
  • 16. Emile Durkheim Social Facts Suicide
  • 17. Suicide Establish suicide as a social fact Suicide rate not explained by individual acts Rates remained (relatively) stable Social causes
  • 18. Interpretivist - Social Scientific Subjective, constructed reality Relative truths Need to explore, explain and understand reality Qualitative
  • 19. Suicide Interpretivist perspectives
  • 20. Interpretivists & Social Construction Jack Douglas: Need to interpret meanings given to the action of suicide Notes, diaries, interviews Cultural context Maxwell Atkinson: Problem of statistics Coroner and clues
  • 21. Methodologies
  • 22. Experiment Controlled conditions Manipulation of variable on another
  • 23. Survey Collection of data Measure of a social phenomenon Description of group/ population Testing theories
  • 24. Ethnography Description of people and their cultures Detailed accounts of everyday life Understanding of how people see their world
  • 25. Phenomenology Understanding of the human experience Subjective meanings Attitudes and beliefs
  • 26. Methods of Data Collection Questionnaires Interviews Observation Documents