NCERT Textbook - Doing Sociology: Research Methods Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

Sociology Class 11

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Doing Sociology: Research Methods Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


 82 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
I
INTROUDUCTION
Have you ever wondered why a subject
like sociology is called a social science?
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are
already familiar to most people.  All of
us live in society, and we already know
a lot about the subject matter of
sociology— social groups, institutions,
norms, relationships and so on—
through our own experience.  It seems
fair, then, to ask what makes the
sociologist different from other
members of society.  Why should s/he
be called a social scientist?
As with all scientific disciplines, the
crucial element here is method, or the
procedures through which knowledge
is gathered.  For in the final analysis,
sociologists can claim to be different
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,
but because of how they acquire their
knowledge.  This is one reason for the
special importance of method in
sociology.
As you have seen in the previous
chapters, sociology is deeply interested
in the lived experience of people. For
example, when studying social
phenomena like friendship or religion
or bargaining in markets, the
sociologist wants to know not only
what is observable by the bystander,
but also the opinions and feelings of
the people involved. Sociologists try to
adopt the point of view of people they
study, to see the world through their
eyes.  What does friendship mean to
people in different cultures?  What
does a religious person think he/she
is doing when performing a particular
ritual? How do shopkeeper and
customer interpret each other’s words
and gestures while bargaining for a
better price?  The answers to such
questions are clearly part of the lived
experience of actors involved, and they
are of great interest to sociology.  This
need to understand both the outsider’s
and the insider’s points of view is
another reason why method is
particularly important in sociology.
CHAPTER 5
DOING SOCIOLOGY : RESEARCH METHODS
2019-20
Page 2


 82 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
I
INTROUDUCTION
Have you ever wondered why a subject
like sociology is called a social science?
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are
already familiar to most people.  All of
us live in society, and we already know
a lot about the subject matter of
sociology— social groups, institutions,
norms, relationships and so on—
through our own experience.  It seems
fair, then, to ask what makes the
sociologist different from other
members of society.  Why should s/he
be called a social scientist?
As with all scientific disciplines, the
crucial element here is method, or the
procedures through which knowledge
is gathered.  For in the final analysis,
sociologists can claim to be different
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,
but because of how they acquire their
knowledge.  This is one reason for the
special importance of method in
sociology.
As you have seen in the previous
chapters, sociology is deeply interested
in the lived experience of people. For
example, when studying social
phenomena like friendship or religion
or bargaining in markets, the
sociologist wants to know not only
what is observable by the bystander,
but also the opinions and feelings of
the people involved. Sociologists try to
adopt the point of view of people they
study, to see the world through their
eyes.  What does friendship mean to
people in different cultures?  What
does a religious person think he/she
is doing when performing a particular
ritual? How do shopkeeper and
customer interpret each other’s words
and gestures while bargaining for a
better price?  The answers to such
questions are clearly part of the lived
experience of actors involved, and they
are of great interest to sociology.  This
need to understand both the outsider’s
and the insider’s points of view is
another reason why method is
particularly important in sociology.
CHAPTER 5
DOING SOCIOLOGY : RESEARCH METHODS
2019-20
 83 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
II
SOME METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
Although it is often used simply as a
substitute for (or synonym of) ‘method’,
the word ‘methodology’ actually refers
to the study of method.  Methodological
issues or questions are thus about the
general problems of scientific
knowledge-gathering that go beyond
any one particular method, technique
or procedure.  We begin by looking at
the ways in which sociologists try to
produce knowledge that can claim to
be scientific.
Objectivity and Subjectivity
in Sociology
In everyday language, the word
‘objective’ means unbiased, neutral, or
based on facts alone.  In order to be
objective about something, we must
ignore our own feelings or attitudes
about that thing.  On the other hand,
the word ‘subjective’ means something
that is based on individual values and
preferences.  As you will have learnt
already, every science is expected to be
‘objective’, to produce unbiased
knowledge based solely on facts.  But
this is much harder to do in the social
sciences than in the natural sciences.
For example, when a geologist
studies rocks, or a botanist studies
plants, they must be careful not to let
their personal biases or preferences
affect their work.  They must report the
facts as they are; they must not (for
example) let their liking for a particular
scientific theory or theorist influence the
results of their research.  However, the
geologist and the botanist are not
themselves part of the world they study,
i.e. the natural world of rocks or of
plants.  By contrast, social scientists
study the world in which they
themselves live — the social world of
human relations.  This creates special
problems for objectivity in a social
science like sociology.
First of all, there is the obvious
problem of bias.  Because sociologists
are also members of society, they will
also have all the normal likes and
dislikes that people have.  A sociologist
studying family relations will herself
be a member of a family, and her
experiences are likely to influence her.
Even when the sociologist has no direct
personal experience of the group s/he
is studying, there is still the possibility
of being affected by the values and
prejudices of one’s own social context.
For example, when studying a caste
or religious community other than her
own, the sociologist may be influenced
by the attitudes about that
community prevalent in her own past
or present social environment. How do
sociologists guard against these
dangers?
One method is to rigorously and
continuously examine one’s own ideas
and feelings about the subject of
research. More generally, the sociologist
tries to take an outsider’s perspective
on her/his own work — she/he tries to
look at herself/himself and her/his
research through the eyes of others.
This technique is called ‘self-reflexivity’,
or sometimes just ‘reflexivity’. The
sociologist constantly subjects her own
2019-20
Page 3


 82 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
I
INTROUDUCTION
Have you ever wondered why a subject
like sociology is called a social science?
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are
already familiar to most people.  All of
us live in society, and we already know
a lot about the subject matter of
sociology— social groups, institutions,
norms, relationships and so on—
through our own experience.  It seems
fair, then, to ask what makes the
sociologist different from other
members of society.  Why should s/he
be called a social scientist?
As with all scientific disciplines, the
crucial element here is method, or the
procedures through which knowledge
is gathered.  For in the final analysis,
sociologists can claim to be different
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,
but because of how they acquire their
knowledge.  This is one reason for the
special importance of method in
sociology.
As you have seen in the previous
chapters, sociology is deeply interested
in the lived experience of people. For
example, when studying social
phenomena like friendship or religion
or bargaining in markets, the
sociologist wants to know not only
what is observable by the bystander,
but also the opinions and feelings of
the people involved. Sociologists try to
adopt the point of view of people they
study, to see the world through their
eyes.  What does friendship mean to
people in different cultures?  What
does a religious person think he/she
is doing when performing a particular
ritual? How do shopkeeper and
customer interpret each other’s words
and gestures while bargaining for a
better price?  The answers to such
questions are clearly part of the lived
experience of actors involved, and they
are of great interest to sociology.  This
need to understand both the outsider’s
and the insider’s points of view is
another reason why method is
particularly important in sociology.
CHAPTER 5
DOING SOCIOLOGY : RESEARCH METHODS
2019-20
 83 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
II
SOME METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
Although it is often used simply as a
substitute for (or synonym of) ‘method’,
the word ‘methodology’ actually refers
to the study of method.  Methodological
issues or questions are thus about the
general problems of scientific
knowledge-gathering that go beyond
any one particular method, technique
or procedure.  We begin by looking at
the ways in which sociologists try to
produce knowledge that can claim to
be scientific.
Objectivity and Subjectivity
in Sociology
In everyday language, the word
‘objective’ means unbiased, neutral, or
based on facts alone.  In order to be
objective about something, we must
ignore our own feelings or attitudes
about that thing.  On the other hand,
the word ‘subjective’ means something
that is based on individual values and
preferences.  As you will have learnt
already, every science is expected to be
‘objective’, to produce unbiased
knowledge based solely on facts.  But
this is much harder to do in the social
sciences than in the natural sciences.
For example, when a geologist
studies rocks, or a botanist studies
plants, they must be careful not to let
their personal biases or preferences
affect their work.  They must report the
facts as they are; they must not (for
example) let their liking for a particular
scientific theory or theorist influence the
results of their research.  However, the
geologist and the botanist are not
themselves part of the world they study,
i.e. the natural world of rocks or of
plants.  By contrast, social scientists
study the world in which they
themselves live — the social world of
human relations.  This creates special
problems for objectivity in a social
science like sociology.
First of all, there is the obvious
problem of bias.  Because sociologists
are also members of society, they will
also have all the normal likes and
dislikes that people have.  A sociologist
studying family relations will herself
be a member of a family, and her
experiences are likely to influence her.
Even when the sociologist has no direct
personal experience of the group s/he
is studying, there is still the possibility
of being affected by the values and
prejudices of one’s own social context.
For example, when studying a caste
or religious community other than her
own, the sociologist may be influenced
by the attitudes about that
community prevalent in her own past
or present social environment. How do
sociologists guard against these
dangers?
One method is to rigorously and
continuously examine one’s own ideas
and feelings about the subject of
research. More generally, the sociologist
tries to take an outsider’s perspective
on her/his own work — she/he tries to
look at herself/himself and her/his
research through the eyes of others.
This technique is called ‘self-reflexivity’,
or sometimes just ‘reflexivity’. The
sociologist constantly subjects her own
2019-20
 84 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
attitudes and opinions to self-
examination. S/he tries to consciously
adopt the point of view of others,
specially those who are the subjects of
her research.
One of the practical aspects of
reflexivity is the importance of carefully
documenting whatever one is doing.
Part of the claims to superiority
of research methods lies in the
documentation of all procedures and
the formal citing of all sources of
evidence. This ensures that others can
retrace the steps we have taken to arrive
at a particular conclusion, and see for
themselves if we are right.  It also helps
us to check and re-check our own
thinking or line of argument.
But however, self-reflexive the
sociologist tries to be, there is always
the possibility of unconscious bias.  To
deal with this possibility, sociologists
explicitly mention those features of their
own social background that might be
relevant as a possible source of bias on
the topic being researched. This alerts
readers to the possibility of bias and
allows them to mentally ‘compensate’
for it when reading the research study.
(You could go back to Chapter 1, and
re-read the section (pp. 7-8) which talks
about the difference between common
sense and sociology).
Another problem with objectivity in
sociology is the fact that, generally,
there are many versions of the ‘truth’
in the social world.  Things look different
from different vantage points, and so
the social world typically involves many
competing versions or interpretations
of reality.  For example, a shopkeeper
and a customer may have very different
ideas about what is a ‘good’ price,  a
young person and an aged person may
have very different notions of ‘good
food’, and so on.  There is no simple
way of judging which particular
interpretation is true or more correct,
and often it is unhelpful to think in
these terms.  In fact, sociology tries not
to judge in this way because it is really
interested in what people think, and
why they think what they think.
A further complication arises from
the presence of multiple points of view
in the social sciences themselves.  Like
its sister social sciences, sociology too
is a ‘multi-paradigmatic’ science.  This
Activity 1
Can you observe yourself as you observe others? Write a short description of
yourself as seen from the perspective of : (i) your best friend; (ii) your rival; (iii)
your teacher.  You must imagine yourself to be these people and think about
yourself from their point of view.  Remember to describe yourself in the third
person — as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’. Afterwards, you can share similar
descriptions written by your classmates. Discuss each others’ descriptions —
how accurate or interesting do you find them? Are there any surprising things
in these descriptions?
2019-20
Page 4


 82 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
I
INTROUDUCTION
Have you ever wondered why a subject
like sociology is called a social science?
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are
already familiar to most people.  All of
us live in society, and we already know
a lot about the subject matter of
sociology— social groups, institutions,
norms, relationships and so on—
through our own experience.  It seems
fair, then, to ask what makes the
sociologist different from other
members of society.  Why should s/he
be called a social scientist?
As with all scientific disciplines, the
crucial element here is method, or the
procedures through which knowledge
is gathered.  For in the final analysis,
sociologists can claim to be different
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,
but because of how they acquire their
knowledge.  This is one reason for the
special importance of method in
sociology.
As you have seen in the previous
chapters, sociology is deeply interested
in the lived experience of people. For
example, when studying social
phenomena like friendship or religion
or bargaining in markets, the
sociologist wants to know not only
what is observable by the bystander,
but also the opinions and feelings of
the people involved. Sociologists try to
adopt the point of view of people they
study, to see the world through their
eyes.  What does friendship mean to
people in different cultures?  What
does a religious person think he/she
is doing when performing a particular
ritual? How do shopkeeper and
customer interpret each other’s words
and gestures while bargaining for a
better price?  The answers to such
questions are clearly part of the lived
experience of actors involved, and they
are of great interest to sociology.  This
need to understand both the outsider’s
and the insider’s points of view is
another reason why method is
particularly important in sociology.
CHAPTER 5
DOING SOCIOLOGY : RESEARCH METHODS
2019-20
 83 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
II
SOME METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
Although it is often used simply as a
substitute for (or synonym of) ‘method’,
the word ‘methodology’ actually refers
to the study of method.  Methodological
issues or questions are thus about the
general problems of scientific
knowledge-gathering that go beyond
any one particular method, technique
or procedure.  We begin by looking at
the ways in which sociologists try to
produce knowledge that can claim to
be scientific.
Objectivity and Subjectivity
in Sociology
In everyday language, the word
‘objective’ means unbiased, neutral, or
based on facts alone.  In order to be
objective about something, we must
ignore our own feelings or attitudes
about that thing.  On the other hand,
the word ‘subjective’ means something
that is based on individual values and
preferences.  As you will have learnt
already, every science is expected to be
‘objective’, to produce unbiased
knowledge based solely on facts.  But
this is much harder to do in the social
sciences than in the natural sciences.
For example, when a geologist
studies rocks, or a botanist studies
plants, they must be careful not to let
their personal biases or preferences
affect their work.  They must report the
facts as they are; they must not (for
example) let their liking for a particular
scientific theory or theorist influence the
results of their research.  However, the
geologist and the botanist are not
themselves part of the world they study,
i.e. the natural world of rocks or of
plants.  By contrast, social scientists
study the world in which they
themselves live — the social world of
human relations.  This creates special
problems for objectivity in a social
science like sociology.
First of all, there is the obvious
problem of bias.  Because sociologists
are also members of society, they will
also have all the normal likes and
dislikes that people have.  A sociologist
studying family relations will herself
be a member of a family, and her
experiences are likely to influence her.
Even when the sociologist has no direct
personal experience of the group s/he
is studying, there is still the possibility
of being affected by the values and
prejudices of one’s own social context.
For example, when studying a caste
or religious community other than her
own, the sociologist may be influenced
by the attitudes about that
community prevalent in her own past
or present social environment. How do
sociologists guard against these
dangers?
One method is to rigorously and
continuously examine one’s own ideas
and feelings about the subject of
research. More generally, the sociologist
tries to take an outsider’s perspective
on her/his own work — she/he tries to
look at herself/himself and her/his
research through the eyes of others.
This technique is called ‘self-reflexivity’,
or sometimes just ‘reflexivity’. The
sociologist constantly subjects her own
2019-20
 84 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
attitudes and opinions to self-
examination. S/he tries to consciously
adopt the point of view of others,
specially those who are the subjects of
her research.
One of the practical aspects of
reflexivity is the importance of carefully
documenting whatever one is doing.
Part of the claims to superiority
of research methods lies in the
documentation of all procedures and
the formal citing of all sources of
evidence. This ensures that others can
retrace the steps we have taken to arrive
at a particular conclusion, and see for
themselves if we are right.  It also helps
us to check and re-check our own
thinking or line of argument.
But however, self-reflexive the
sociologist tries to be, there is always
the possibility of unconscious bias.  To
deal with this possibility, sociologists
explicitly mention those features of their
own social background that might be
relevant as a possible source of bias on
the topic being researched. This alerts
readers to the possibility of bias and
allows them to mentally ‘compensate’
for it when reading the research study.
(You could go back to Chapter 1, and
re-read the section (pp. 7-8) which talks
about the difference between common
sense and sociology).
Another problem with objectivity in
sociology is the fact that, generally,
there are many versions of the ‘truth’
in the social world.  Things look different
from different vantage points, and so
the social world typically involves many
competing versions or interpretations
of reality.  For example, a shopkeeper
and a customer may have very different
ideas about what is a ‘good’ price,  a
young person and an aged person may
have very different notions of ‘good
food’, and so on.  There is no simple
way of judging which particular
interpretation is true or more correct,
and often it is unhelpful to think in
these terms.  In fact, sociology tries not
to judge in this way because it is really
interested in what people think, and
why they think what they think.
A further complication arises from
the presence of multiple points of view
in the social sciences themselves.  Like
its sister social sciences, sociology too
is a ‘multi-paradigmatic’ science.  This
Activity 1
Can you observe yourself as you observe others? Write a short description of
yourself as seen from the perspective of : (i) your best friend; (ii) your rival; (iii)
your teacher.  You must imagine yourself to be these people and think about
yourself from their point of view.  Remember to describe yourself in the third
person — as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’. Afterwards, you can share similar
descriptions written by your classmates. Discuss each others’ descriptions —
how accurate or interesting do you find them? Are there any surprising things
in these descriptions?
2019-20
 85 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
means that competing and mutually
incompatible schools of thought
coexist within the discipline (Recall the
discussion in Chapter 2 about
conflicting theories of society).
All this makes objectivity a very
difficult and complicated thing in
sociology.  In fact, the old notion of
objectivity is widely considered to be an
outdated perspective.  Social scientists
no longer believe that the traditional
notion of an ‘objective, disinterested’
social science is attainable; in fact such
an ideal can actually be misleading.
This does not mean that there is no
useful knowledge to be obtained via
sociology, or that objectivity is a useless
concept.  It means that objectivity has
to be thought of as the goal of a
continuous, ongoing process rather
than an already achieved end result.
Multiple Methods and Choice of
Methods
Since there are multiple truths and
multiple perspectives in sociology, it is
hardly surprising that there are also
multiple methods.  There is no single
unique road to sociological truth.  Of
course, different methods are more or
less suited to tackle different types of
research questions. Moreover, every
method has its own strengths and
weaknesses.  It is thus futile to argue
about the superiority or inferiority of
different methods.   It is more important
to ask if the method chosen is the
appropriate one for answering the
question that is being asked.
For example, if one is interested in
finding out whether most Indian
families are still ‘joint families’, then a
census or survey is the best method.
However, if one wishes to compare the
status of women in joint and nuclear
families, then interviews, case studies
or participant observation may all be
appropriate methods.
There are different ways of
classifying or categorising various
methods commonly used by
sociologists. It is conventional, for
example, to distinguish between
quantitative and qualitative methods:
the former deals in countable or
measurable variables (proportions,
averages, and the like) while the latter
deals with more abstract and hard to
measure phenomena like attitudes,
emotions and so on. A related
distinction is between methods that
study observable behaviour and those
that study non-observable meanings,
values and other interpretational things.
Another way of classifying methods
is to distinguish the ones that rely on
‘secondary’ or already existing data (in
the form of documents or other records
and artefacts) from those that are
designed to produce fresh or ‘primary’
data.  Thus historical methods typically
rely on secondary material found in
archives, while interviews generate
primary data, and so on.
Yet another way of categorisation is
to separate ‘micro’ from ‘macro’
methods.  The former are designed to
work in small intimate settings usually
with a single researcher; thus the
interview and participant observation
are thought of as micro methods.
Macro methods are those that are able
2019-20
Page 5


 82 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
I
INTROUDUCTION
Have you ever wondered why a subject
like sociology is called a social science?
More than any other discipline,
sociology deals with things that are
already familiar to most people.  All of
us live in society, and we already know
a lot about the subject matter of
sociology— social groups, institutions,
norms, relationships and so on—
through our own experience.  It seems
fair, then, to ask what makes the
sociologist different from other
members of society.  Why should s/he
be called a social scientist?
As with all scientific disciplines, the
crucial element here is method, or the
procedures through which knowledge
is gathered.  For in the final analysis,
sociologists can claim to be different
from lay persons not because of how
much they know or what they know,
but because of how they acquire their
knowledge.  This is one reason for the
special importance of method in
sociology.
As you have seen in the previous
chapters, sociology is deeply interested
in the lived experience of people. For
example, when studying social
phenomena like friendship or religion
or bargaining in markets, the
sociologist wants to know not only
what is observable by the bystander,
but also the opinions and feelings of
the people involved. Sociologists try to
adopt the point of view of people they
study, to see the world through their
eyes.  What does friendship mean to
people in different cultures?  What
does a religious person think he/she
is doing when performing a particular
ritual? How do shopkeeper and
customer interpret each other’s words
and gestures while bargaining for a
better price?  The answers to such
questions are clearly part of the lived
experience of actors involved, and they
are of great interest to sociology.  This
need to understand both the outsider’s
and the insider’s points of view is
another reason why method is
particularly important in sociology.
CHAPTER 5
DOING SOCIOLOGY : RESEARCH METHODS
2019-20
 83 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
II
SOME METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
Although it is often used simply as a
substitute for (or synonym of) ‘method’,
the word ‘methodology’ actually refers
to the study of method.  Methodological
issues or questions are thus about the
general problems of scientific
knowledge-gathering that go beyond
any one particular method, technique
or procedure.  We begin by looking at
the ways in which sociologists try to
produce knowledge that can claim to
be scientific.
Objectivity and Subjectivity
in Sociology
In everyday language, the word
‘objective’ means unbiased, neutral, or
based on facts alone.  In order to be
objective about something, we must
ignore our own feelings or attitudes
about that thing.  On the other hand,
the word ‘subjective’ means something
that is based on individual values and
preferences.  As you will have learnt
already, every science is expected to be
‘objective’, to produce unbiased
knowledge based solely on facts.  But
this is much harder to do in the social
sciences than in the natural sciences.
For example, when a geologist
studies rocks, or a botanist studies
plants, they must be careful not to let
their personal biases or preferences
affect their work.  They must report the
facts as they are; they must not (for
example) let their liking for a particular
scientific theory or theorist influence the
results of their research.  However, the
geologist and the botanist are not
themselves part of the world they study,
i.e. the natural world of rocks or of
plants.  By contrast, social scientists
study the world in which they
themselves live — the social world of
human relations.  This creates special
problems for objectivity in a social
science like sociology.
First of all, there is the obvious
problem of bias.  Because sociologists
are also members of society, they will
also have all the normal likes and
dislikes that people have.  A sociologist
studying family relations will herself
be a member of a family, and her
experiences are likely to influence her.
Even when the sociologist has no direct
personal experience of the group s/he
is studying, there is still the possibility
of being affected by the values and
prejudices of one’s own social context.
For example, when studying a caste
or religious community other than her
own, the sociologist may be influenced
by the attitudes about that
community prevalent in her own past
or present social environment. How do
sociologists guard against these
dangers?
One method is to rigorously and
continuously examine one’s own ideas
and feelings about the subject of
research. More generally, the sociologist
tries to take an outsider’s perspective
on her/his own work — she/he tries to
look at herself/himself and her/his
research through the eyes of others.
This technique is called ‘self-reflexivity’,
or sometimes just ‘reflexivity’. The
sociologist constantly subjects her own
2019-20
 84 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
attitudes and opinions to self-
examination. S/he tries to consciously
adopt the point of view of others,
specially those who are the subjects of
her research.
One of the practical aspects of
reflexivity is the importance of carefully
documenting whatever one is doing.
Part of the claims to superiority
of research methods lies in the
documentation of all procedures and
the formal citing of all sources of
evidence. This ensures that others can
retrace the steps we have taken to arrive
at a particular conclusion, and see for
themselves if we are right.  It also helps
us to check and re-check our own
thinking or line of argument.
But however, self-reflexive the
sociologist tries to be, there is always
the possibility of unconscious bias.  To
deal with this possibility, sociologists
explicitly mention those features of their
own social background that might be
relevant as a possible source of bias on
the topic being researched. This alerts
readers to the possibility of bias and
allows them to mentally ‘compensate’
for it when reading the research study.
(You could go back to Chapter 1, and
re-read the section (pp. 7-8) which talks
about the difference between common
sense and sociology).
Another problem with objectivity in
sociology is the fact that, generally,
there are many versions of the ‘truth’
in the social world.  Things look different
from different vantage points, and so
the social world typically involves many
competing versions or interpretations
of reality.  For example, a shopkeeper
and a customer may have very different
ideas about what is a ‘good’ price,  a
young person and an aged person may
have very different notions of ‘good
food’, and so on.  There is no simple
way of judging which particular
interpretation is true or more correct,
and often it is unhelpful to think in
these terms.  In fact, sociology tries not
to judge in this way because it is really
interested in what people think, and
why they think what they think.
A further complication arises from
the presence of multiple points of view
in the social sciences themselves.  Like
its sister social sciences, sociology too
is a ‘multi-paradigmatic’ science.  This
Activity 1
Can you observe yourself as you observe others? Write a short description of
yourself as seen from the perspective of : (i) your best friend; (ii) your rival; (iii)
your teacher.  You must imagine yourself to be these people and think about
yourself from their point of view.  Remember to describe yourself in the third
person — as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’. Afterwards, you can share similar
descriptions written by your classmates. Discuss each others’ descriptions —
how accurate or interesting do you find them? Are there any surprising things
in these descriptions?
2019-20
 85 DOING SOCIOLOGY: RESEARCH METHODS
means that competing and mutually
incompatible schools of thought
coexist within the discipline (Recall the
discussion in Chapter 2 about
conflicting theories of society).
All this makes objectivity a very
difficult and complicated thing in
sociology.  In fact, the old notion of
objectivity is widely considered to be an
outdated perspective.  Social scientists
no longer believe that the traditional
notion of an ‘objective, disinterested’
social science is attainable; in fact such
an ideal can actually be misleading.
This does not mean that there is no
useful knowledge to be obtained via
sociology, or that objectivity is a useless
concept.  It means that objectivity has
to be thought of as the goal of a
continuous, ongoing process rather
than an already achieved end result.
Multiple Methods and Choice of
Methods
Since there are multiple truths and
multiple perspectives in sociology, it is
hardly surprising that there are also
multiple methods.  There is no single
unique road to sociological truth.  Of
course, different methods are more or
less suited to tackle different types of
research questions. Moreover, every
method has its own strengths and
weaknesses.  It is thus futile to argue
about the superiority or inferiority of
different methods.   It is more important
to ask if the method chosen is the
appropriate one for answering the
question that is being asked.
For example, if one is interested in
finding out whether most Indian
families are still ‘joint families’, then a
census or survey is the best method.
However, if one wishes to compare the
status of women in joint and nuclear
families, then interviews, case studies
or participant observation may all be
appropriate methods.
There are different ways of
classifying or categorising various
methods commonly used by
sociologists. It is conventional, for
example, to distinguish between
quantitative and qualitative methods:
the former deals in countable or
measurable variables (proportions,
averages, and the like) while the latter
deals with more abstract and hard to
measure phenomena like attitudes,
emotions and so on. A related
distinction is between methods that
study observable behaviour and those
that study non-observable meanings,
values and other interpretational things.
Another way of classifying methods
is to distinguish the ones that rely on
‘secondary’ or already existing data (in
the form of documents or other records
and artefacts) from those that are
designed to produce fresh or ‘primary’
data.  Thus historical methods typically
rely on secondary material found in
archives, while interviews generate
primary data, and so on.
Yet another way of categorisation is
to separate ‘micro’ from ‘macro’
methods.  The former are designed to
work in small intimate settings usually
with a single researcher; thus the
interview and participant observation
are thought of as micro methods.
Macro methods are those that are able
2019-20
 86 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY
to tackle large scale research involving
large numbers of respondents and
investigators. Survey research is the most
common example of a ‘macro’ method,
although some historical methods can
also tackle macro phenomena.
Whatever the mode of classification,
it is important to remember that it is a
matter of convention. The dividing line
between different kinds of methods
need not be very sharp. It is often
possible to convert one kind of method
into another, or to supplement one with
another.
The choice of method is usually
dictated by the nature of the research
question being addressed by the
preferences of the researcher, and by
the constraints of time and/or
resources.  The recent trend in social
science is to advocate the use of
multiple methods to bear on the same
research problem from different
vantage points.  This is sometimes
referred to as ‘triangulation’, that is, a
process of reiterating or pinpointing
something from different directions.  In
this way, different methods can be
used to complement each other to
produce a much better result than
what might have been possible with
each method by itself.
Because the methods most
distinctive of sociology are those that
are designed to produce ‘primary’ data,
these are the ones stressed here.  Even
within the category of ‘field work’ based
methods, we shall introduce you to
only the most prominent, namely the
survey, interview and participant
observation.
Participant Observation
Popular in sociology and specially
social anthropology, participant
observation refers to a particular
method by which sociologist learns
about society, culture and people that
h/she is studying (Recall the discussion
on sociology and social anthropology
from Chapter 1).
This method is different from
others in many ways. Unlike other
methods of primary data collection like
surveys or interviews, field work
involves a long period of interaction
with the subjects of research.
Typically, the sociologist or social
anthropologist spends many
months— usually about a year or
sometimes more — living among the
people being studied as one of them.
As a non-native ‘outsider’, the
anthropologist is supposed to
immerse himself/herself in the culture
of the ‘natives’—by learning
their language and  participating
intimately in their everyday life —
in an effort to acquire all the explicit
and implicit knowledge and
skills of the ‘insider’.  Although the
sociologist or anthropologist usually
has specific areas of interest, the overall
goal of ‘participant observation’ field
work is to learn about the ‘whole way
of life’ of a community. Indeed the
model is that of the child: sociologists
and anthropologists are supposed to
learn everything about their adoptive
communities in just the holistic way that
small children learn about the world.
Participant observation is often
called ‘field work’.  The term originated
2019-20
Read More
Offer running on EduRev: Apply code STAYHOME200 to get INR 200 off on our premium plan EduRev Infinity!

Related Searches

past year papers

,

Previous Year Questions with Solutions

,

Viva Questions

,

Semester Notes

,

Objective type Questions

,

mock tests for examination

,

video lectures

,

study material

,

Important questions

,

Sample Paper

,

Free

,

Summary

,

NCERT Textbook - Doing Sociology: Research Methods Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

,

pdf

,

NCERT Textbook - Doing Sociology: Research Methods Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

,

shortcuts and tricks

,

Exam

,

NCERT Textbook - Doing Sociology: Research Methods Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

,

practice quizzes

,

ppt

,

Extra Questions

,

MCQs

;