Sociology and the Scientific Method

Jun 27 / Dr Russell Moore
This blog post is my attempt to justify the 'scientific' stamp on sociological research.

As a social science, sociology employs scientific practice/method to analyse society and societal behaviour. The logical and methodical scientific practice seeks to gain knowledge and applies observations, experiments, and analyses to test hypotheses. Sociology maintains this practice ensuring rigorous, impartial, and replicable research.

So let's approach stepwise to raise the curtain of sociological research's 'science' stamp.

How Does Sociology Use the Scientific Method?

1. Identifying the research problem: 

The first scientific step identifies a research problem or a question for sociological investigation. This problem may involve social phenomena, interactions, institutions, or other sociological aspects.

2. Reviewing existing literature:

Sociologists need an intensive research-problem-focused literature review of existing theories and previous findings prior to hypotheses formulation or method designing. This step helps researchers to establish an existing knowledge base and research gaps with further investigation needs.

3. Formulating a hypothesis:

Next, sociologists formulate hypotheses considering the research questions and established knowledge base. The hypothesis is a tentative statement to suggest variable correlations. It is the research-directive starting point for data collection and analysis.

4. Designing the research study:

The fourth step determines the most appropriate hypotheses-testing research design, considering the research question, resource availability, and ethics. Common research designs include surveys, experiments, observational studies, and interviews.

5. Collecting data:

Afterward, the sociologists collect research-focused data involving administering questionnaires, interviews, observations, or analytics. A systematic and reliable data collection process ensuring accuracy and validity signifies the scientific properties.

6. Analysing the data: 

Next, sociologists analyse collected data with statistical and qualitative analytics. That involves mathematical techniques to identify patterns, correlations, and the variables' associations for quantitative research. Qualitative analysis involves textual interpretation or data visualisation, extracting consequential perceptions and themes.

7. Drawing conclusions:

Sociologists now draw analysis-based conclusions for their hypotheses. They evaluate the strength of the evidence, statistical significance of findings, and consider alternative explanations with contextual and conceptual sociological interpretations.

8. Reporting and publishing findings:

Finally, the research findings are communicated to the research community and the public. That implies writing research papers or journal articles with the mentioned research steps. Sociologists publish them in peer-reviewed journals ensuring quality and credibility.

9. Peer review and replication: 

The scientific community and other experts' respective involvement in peer review and critical evaluation further analyse the research steps. That ensures research reliability and validity too. Additionally, study replications by other researchers confirm and verify the validity of the findings.

To Sum Up

By following scientific practice, sociology produces reliable societal knowledge. This approach testifies for hypothesis testing, sociological theory development, and informed insight generation for social policies and interventions. Sociologists systematically inquire about social phenomena-based objectivity and significant empirical evidence pieces with this.
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