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June 9, 2013 / C H Thompson

What are methodologies?

In sociology there are various methodologies, positivism, interpretivist, feminist and postmodernist. Each of these methodologies argues that knowledge about the social world around us is best discovered by using a particular research method. You can explore the role of the various methodologies in the image below.


Methodology is the study of methods used, not the research methods themselves. Therefore a methodology is the idea (philosophy) behind the chosen research method, what is known as epistemology. For example a sociologist might be keen on using a scientific approach (positivist) in his or her research. Therefore their chosen method could be to apply the research methods (quantitative methods) in the natural sciences and use the laboratory method.

Their use of the laboratory method is because this particular sociologist is argue that knowledge about the world is best discovered via science – this is known as their methodological justification (the philosophy behind their chosen method, in this case the experimental or laboratory method). It’s worth pointing out that Comte was the first sociologist to advocate the use of scientific methods in sociology. His methodology was based on the idea that physical laws governed the world and these laws were measurable – which warrantied the use of scientific research methods to discover them.

The clip below runs through the principles of positivism.

In contrast to positivists interpretivists argue gaining understanding is the job of the sociologist rather than the collection of data through a scientific process.

The clip below runs through the principles of interpretivism.

Feminist methodology argues exist methodologies are androcentric. Therefore to combat androcentricism feminist research such as Oakley advocated the use of ethnographic research methods (qualitative methods) in order accommodate more sensitive interviewing techniques and gaining understanding about the world from a female perspective (an approach which is questioned by those sociologists preferring a scientific approach).


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