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So, a break down on how to answer the two questions:
Assess the view thatinterpretivist methods are the most appropriate methods for researching society
I’d start off introducing interpretivism and the overallperspective that it has in regards to sociology. Then I would go on to talkabout the methods that it favours (qualitative ones, so observations,unstructured questionnaires, etc.) and why it favours them (gain insight intothe individual, gain a valid picture, etc.) Then go on to why they are mostappropriate methods for researching society specifically, similarly to a 15mark methods question on all qualitative methods. Try to keep coming back tothis point, and also (a little but hypocritically) try to criticise as well,e.g. qualitative methods in general are difficult to perform large scalestudies of because a large number of people, all with the same training, mustperform the research which can be difficult to fund/ take a long/ etc. Thiswill get you marks for evaluation.
Then I would go on to talk about the positivist approach. Again,introduce the perspective (include Durkheim and how in his plight to makesociology a science, employed scientific and therefore quantitative methodsthat produced empirical data in order to make it more scientific and acceptedinto the science community). This is essentially why they favour quantitativemethods, so now relate this to researching society, with the benefits anddrawbacks that the methods might ensue.
In the conclusion, weigh up each perspective briefly, andremember to answer the question.
Sociology cannot andshould not be a science?
Strangely I really like this question, and I was actually reallyhappy when I got it in my mock, because there are basically 5 perspectives toaddress, and they can all be used for criticism of each other which makesanalysis and evaluation pretty easy once you’ve got the hang of it!
So, in a break down, you’ll have the 5 perspectives. Essentiallythey follow as:
Interpretivism: sociology is not a science (because it is thestudy of conscious beings – humans – whereas science is the study ofunconscious objects – rocks and chemicals; these unconscious objects react inpredictable ways that scientists can expect, humans can react in numerous waysin the same situation therefore have to be studied as individuals, sorepresentations and generalisations cannot be made)
Positivism: sociology is a science (Durkheim believed that for sociologyto be accepted as a subject, it would have to be accepted by scientists and toensure this would happen, he used “scientific” methods i.e. quantitative,empirical, data-driven, statistics, etc.)
Popper: sociology could be a science, sometimes science isn’t sciencebecause it’s not scientific (his main idea is falsification – the idea that somethingcan only be described as true is if every which way to falsify it (prove itwrong) is completed i.e. all swans were thought to be white, until black swanswere discovered so the claim was falsified; if a discovery is made it science,it is not often falsified straight away in order to prove it true, e.g. everyonethought the world was flat for centuries, until this was falsified – in thissense, science isn’t scientific; sociology could be scientific, however Popperis critical of Marx’s ideas, since one of his main theories revolves around therevolution in which the proletariat rise up and overthrow capitalism – Popperis critical of this, and says in this respect sociology is not scientific,because this theory cannot be falsified – it could happen in the future at anytime, so cannot be disproved
Kuhn: sociology could (but probably not ever) be a science (his ideais paradigms – the idea that science has a paradigm of widely acceptedknowledge that all scientists learn from and then begin research from thispoint. No two paradigms can compete at the same time, so one will eventuallydominate. In the case that a new paradigm emerges, an “overhaul” in a sensewill occur, where the paradigm shifts, e.g. the discovery that the world wasround, not flat, was “paradigm altering” because it affected the way thatscientists conducted research after this point. Sociology, Kuhn believes, isnot scientific because there is no one complete paradigm – there are Marxists,Functionalists, New Realists, etc. that all believe different things. Evenwithin theories there are huge disparities, e.g. Liberal Feminists, MarxistFeminists, Radical Feminists, etc. Therefore he believes sociology cannot be ascience until it develops one single paradigm
Keat and Urry (Realism): sociology is a science (essentially,they note there are a huge number of similarities between the two, so sociologymust be a science, almost by default (but don’t write that, it’s just how Iexplain it!) So there are two types of ways in which researchers can conductstudies: closed systems (researcher controls variables and can make precise predictions)and open systems (researcher cannot control variables and cannot make precisepredictions). So closed system: in a lab, mixing chemicals, that kind of thing.Open system: e.g. meteorologist cannot predict the weather to 100% accuracybecause the process is too complex to measure. So Realists argue sociologistsbasically study open systems. Then Keat and Urry basically say that scientistsresearch things that are unobservable e.g. black holes, like sociologists studysociety (which you can’t see). Then finally is the Realist idea that bothscience and sociology try to explain causes of events in terms of underlyingstructures and processes.