Methods of Sociology

Posted by Prem Shresh , Thursday, April 1, 2010 11:03 PM

Sociology as a social science has been trying to develop its own method of study. Sociology has to face greater problems in evolving a satisfactory method in the comparison with other social sciences. Man' s social life is complex and multi-faceted. It is highly a challenging task for sociologists to collect, analyse, synthesis and finally generalise social data which are too numerous, complex and illusive. Some of the methods are given below :-

1. The Comparative Method : " The methods of comparing different societies or groups within the same society to show wheather and why they are similar or different in certain respects". To tackle the problems of society effectively and to make fruitful discoveries, sociology has to employ precise and well tested methods of investigation.

2. Historical Method : " A study of events, processes and institutions of past civilisations, for the purpose of finding the origins of antecedents of contemporary social life and thus understanding its nature and working". Historical sociology is a particular kind of comperative study of social groups; their compositions, their interrelationships and the social conditions which support or undermine them.

3. The Statistical Method : The term 'Statistics' may be used in two ways:

  • To refer to the application of statistical methods to social or non-social problems, and
  • To refer to the actual numerical data collected in relation to these problems. The term 'social statistics' or 'statistical method' refers to the method that is used to measure social phenomena mathematically. As Bogardus has pointed out " Social statistics is mathematics applied to human facts"

4. The Case Study Method : The 'Case Study' is a practice derived from legal studies. In legal studies a 'case' refers to an event or set of events involving legal acts. In sociology case study method is a holistic treatment of a subject. The case study may make use of various techniques such as interview, questionnaires, schedules, life histories, relevant documents of all kinds and also 'participant observation' for collecting information about the case under study. Thomas and Znaniecki's " Polish Peasant in Europe and America " - (1922) is a classic work in the field of case study.

5. The Functional Method ( Functionalism ) : In functional method or functionalism has been given greater emphasis during recent times in sociological studies. Functionalism refers " to the study of social phenomena from the point of view of the functions that particular institutions or social structures, such as class, serve in a society". Durkheim is the man who first gave a rigorous concept of social function in his " The Division of Labour in Society " and in " The Rules of Sociological Method".

6. The Scientific Method : The basis of study of any science or discipline is its methods. Sciences in general and natural science in particular follow the scientific method. The scientific method is added much to their credibility and objectivity. The scientific method consists of certain steps or procedures which are to be followed precisely and they are as given below:

Formulation of the Problem,

# Formulation of Hypothesis,

# Observation of Collection of Data,

# Analysis and Synthesis,

# Generalisation,

# Formulation of Theory and Law. Scientific method has a few limitations in sociology.

  1. Limitations of the Scientific Methods in Sociology : Science is defined as a systematic body of knowledge. 'System' words refers to the method that is followed. This method is the scientific method. It is commonly followed in the case of physical sciences. Scientific method has few limitations in sociology. The limitations are as follows :- # Difficulty in the Use of Experimental, #Interdependence of Cause and Effect, # Intangibility of Social Phenomena, # Complexity of Social Data, # Unpredictability, # Problems of Objectivity.
  2. The Scientific Viewpoint Method : Scientific outlook is very essential for a learner of a discipline like sociology. A man of science yearns to know. The scientific outlook or viewpoint refers mainly to the way in which an individual looks at the things. To have this scientific outlook or viewpoint or perspective he must have certain qualities and follow certain basic norms and some of them may be mentioned : # The scientist likes and loves truth, # The scientist maintains objectivity, # The scientist follows the a moral approach, # The scientist is free from prejudices or pre-conceived notions, # The scientist generally assumes that knowledge is worthwhile, # The scientist is broad minded in spirit, # The scientist is always analytical.
  3. Sociology As A Science : There is a controversy about the nature of sociology as a science. ' Is sociology a science' is an issue which is highly debated and discussed. W.F. Ogburn, an American sociologist, is of the opinion that sociology is a science. According to him, a science is to be judged by three cretia : # the reliability of its body of knowledge, # its organizations, and # its method. Strictly speaking laboratory experiment is not possible in sociology. We may say that 'science' after all , is a method to dig cover the truth. Experimental method is not the only method of realising the truth.
  4. The Sociological Point of View : The generally accepted meaning of sociology is that it is the science of society. But sociology is not the only science that deals with the human society and social phenomena. Different social sciences such as Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, etc., also select one or the other aspect of society for their study. " Social disciplines are all studying the same external phenomena the facts of social life". As K. Davis points out, " It is rather a difference in the point of view or focus of attention".

5 Response to "Methods of Sociology"


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Jennifer Thompson Says:
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