Skip to content
June 9, 2013 / C H Thompson

Are sociological methodologies scientific?

Is sociology a science? The answer to such a question continues to cause debate. Yet one thing for certain is early sociologists were certain the subject was a science. Comte’s (1998-1857) position was sociology needed to be based on the methodology of the natural sciences. This was because he saw the world as being governed by ‘laws’ or ‘facts’ which must objectively measured and quantified. This meant social scientists could identify causes and their subsequent effects on the social world.

Durkheim’s ‘Rules of Sociological Method’ (1895) effectively developed Comte’s argument by setting out his reasoning (methodology) for the need of sociologists to adopt the methods of the natural sciences. This was because Durkheim viewed the social world as being governed by ‘facts’. In the same way the natural world is governed by facts, such as gravity, society is governed by what he termed ‘social facts’. For Durkheim these social facts are “objectively real,” and therefore measurable.

Durkheim’s study of suicide exemplified his rules of sociological method. Suicide rates are social facts, in the sense suicide is a product of social facts (real, living forces which act on individuals to determine an individual’s behaviour in the same way gravity determines (constrains our behaviour).

The first image below provides a broad overview of all the methodologies. The middle image explores one way of answering the role of values in sociology. While the last image examines the scientific method sometimes used in sociology.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: