Sociological research methods

Essay by jun2006University, Master'sC, June 2006

download word file, 9 pages 4.2

a) What is meant by the terms positivism and anti-positivism?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each position?

Positivism looks at things scientifically. Positivists believe that society can be studied like the natural world using scientific quantitative methods. Positivism research is based mainly on statistics. A great believer of the positivist approach was Emiele Durkhiem (1858-1917). Durkhiem conducted a study on 'suicide' using quantitative data. He obtained this data from coroner's reports, Durkhiem then put the data into groups comprising of religion, location, age and family situation. Once he had established correlations between the groups he then went on to find causal connections. Durkhiem believed that different levels of social integration caused suicide rates. He had come to this conclusion through accepting that the coroner's reports may have been correct in their findings. It would depend upon how a coroner would look at the evidence as to what conclusion they reached to whether it was suicide or not.

For example if a person had drowned a coroner may only determine that it was suicide by the way the clothes had been left when removed by the individual. If the clothes had been left in a messy pile then a coroner would come to the conclusion that the person had just been taking a dip, and drowned by accident. Therefore if the clothes had been folded into a neat pile then the person intended to commit suicide. There may have been other factors as to why the individual left the clothes the way they did, the person may have been a naturally messy person. Therefore a coroners report isn't always a reliable source, and Durkhiems study today would be redeemed as worthless.

Anti-positivism would have studied suicide differently; they would of looked into the coroner's reports in more detail,