Methods of Sociology
Many might assume that sociological studies are unscientific because of the complexities that surround society and its people. Unlike, other scientific studies, the findings or nature of facts may not be presented in the clear-cut form in sociology, but still, the methods used to study and gain knowledge of society consider the same methods such as observation, questionnaire, interview, case study, etc.
Sociology uses these methods and techniques in its study in order to analyze social processes and phenomena (i.e. society) in a systematic way.
Major Methods Used by Sociologists
The major methods used by sociologists in the study of social phenomena (society) are as follows:
One of the methods of sociology is the comparative method. The comparative method is where the researcher collects data about different social groups (e.g. working-class; middle-class and upper-class) or societies and then compares one group with another to show why they are similar or different in certain respects.
For e.g. Durkheim’s study on ‘suicide’ was an example of the comparative method. By comparing official statistics of suicide between various societies he finally argued he was able to identify what was evident in one society and not in another which might cause suicide.
The historical method is that approach of study that draws our attention towards details of the past. The classical sociologists did not have modern transport and communication system to visit various places and naturally they had to rely more on written records than our actual observation of the social phenomena. Darwin’s theory of evolution and Karl Marx’s law of economic determinism are examples of this method.
Statistical method refers to the method that is used to measure social phenomena mathematically. Statistics include a collection of numerical facts relating to any field of inquiry in a systematic matter and their analysis and interpretation.
Case Study Method
A case study is a form of qualitative analysis. It involves a very careful and complete observation of a person, situation, or institution. The idea behind this method is that any case that is being studied is representative of many similar cases and thus it makes generalization possible.
The functional method is based on an assumption that the total social system of the society is made up of parts, which are interrelated and interdependent. It is believed that each function and part has a specialized function any one part of the social system can be understood only in its relationships with other parts as well as with the whole system.
The scientific method is the way of an investigation by which scientific and systematic knowledge is acquired. It yields conclusions, which have far greater reliability than the counsels of common sense do. The primary task of the scientific method is to discover causal relations in the diverse facts under it and to predict about future with the help of the causal relations.