Social Research Methods/Introduction

There are several main methods that sociologists use to gather empirical evidence, which include Questionnaires, Interviews, Participant Observation, and Statistical Research.

The problem with all of these approaches is that they are all based on what theoretical position the researcher adopts to explain and understand the society he sees in front of him. If he is a functionalist like Émile Durkheim, he is likely to interpret everything in terms of large-scale social structures. If he is a symbolic interactionist, he is likely to concentrate on the way people understand one another. If he is a Marxist, or a neo-Marxist, he is likely to interpret everything through the grid of class struggle and power relations. Phenomenologists tend to think that there is only the way in which people construct their meanings of reality, and nothing else. One of the real problems is that sociologists argue that only one theoretical approach is the "right" one, and it is theirs. In practice, sociologists often tend to mix and match different approaches and methodologies, since each method produces particular types of data.

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