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Can Sociology be objective/ value free? . Theory & methods lesson 3. Starter. Think of 3 topics you would like to research Choose one of the topics and write down 3 questions that you would ask in either an interview or a questionnaire. Swap with your neighbour.

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Theory & methods lesson 3


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    1. Can Sociology be objective/ value free? Theory & methods lesson 3

    2. Starter • Think of 3 topics you would like to research • Choose one of the topics and write down 3 questions that you would ask in either an interview or a questionnaire. • Swap with your neighbour. • From reading your neighbour’s questions, is it possible to identify their opinion about the topic? Why?

    3. Key issues • Is an objective, value-free sociology possible? • Is it desirable?

    4. Objectivity • What does it mean? • The exclusion of values from research.

    5. Key issues • Is an objective, value-free sociology possible? • Is it desirable?

    6. Position 1 • If sociology wants to make any claim to scientific status then it has to be free of personal and political biases. • This is known as value-freedom or objectivity. • Who might take this position?

    7. Position 2 • A second position is that, ideally, our personal values should not intrude into our sociological studies, but in practice, it is almost impossible to keep them out. • This position sees society as value laden. • Who might take this position?

    8. Position 3 • At the other extreme from value freedom are those who argue that anyone involved in doing sociological research should want to make things better for people in society (especially the oppressed). • Sociology should therefore be used as a tool that helps bring about social change • Committed sociology

    9. Positions!?! 3 volunteers please!!!

    10. The early positivists • Comte (1798-1857), Durkheim (1858-1917) (see sociology factsheet) • The creation of a better society was not a matter of subjective values or personal opinions. • Sociology’s job was to discover the truth about how society works & uncover the laws that make it work properly.

    11. So... • By discovering the ‘truth’ about how society worked, sociologists would be able to say objectively and with scientific certainty what was best for society.

    12. Was Marx a positivist? Discuss these 3 questions on your table; • What was Marx trying to achieve? • What was his method? • Was he a positivist?

    13. Marx & Durkheim • Marx & Durkheim both believed that scientific methods could produce data that would tell us what values we should hold. • E.g. Research might establish the fact that divorcees are more likely to commit suicide. This tells us that we should make divorce harder to obtain. • What is wrong with this reasoning?

    14. Max Weber In Weber’s view a value can be neither proved nor disproved by the facts: they belong to different realms. • Weber saw an essential role for values in sociological research. • We can divide his views into 4 stages of the research process. • Take a sheet of paper and fold it into quarters • Write ‘Weber’ in the middle

    15. 1. Values as a guide to research • We cannot study the whole society • We have to select certain facts and study these • How do we choose facts to study? • We can only select them in terms of what we regard as important based on our own values. • E.g. Feminists value gender equality and therefore study women’s oppression

    16. 2. Data collection and hypothesis testing • Whilst values are essential in choosing what to study, Weber argued that we must be as objective and unbiased as possible when collecting the data. • We should not ask leading questions. • Revisit the questions you wrote at the beginning of the lesson – are they leading? Did they reflect your own values?

    17. 3. Values in the interpretation of data • The facts need to be set in a theoretical framework so that we can understand their significance and draw conclusions from the,. • Our choice of theoretical framework is influenced by our values. • Therefore, we must be explicit about them, spelling out our values so that others can see if unconscious bias is present in our interpretation.

    18. 4. Values and the sociologist as citizen • Research findings often have very real effects on people’s lives, but sociologists sometimes ignore the uses to which their research is put. • Weber argues that scientists and sociologists are also human beings and citizens and they must not dodge the moral and political issues their work raises. • They must take moral responsibility for the harm their work may do.

    19. Moral responsibiility? Einstein’s theories in physics helped make the atomic bomb possible. • Einstein voiced his opposition to nuclear weapons. • Read through box 4.4 p 273 Webb How much do you agree with the following statement; ‘Social scientists have a moral responsibility for their work’ What do you think??? Volunteers please – Where do you stand, continuum line

    20. Listen.... • Do not write anything down yet • Really listen and read the following 5 slides!!!! • Ask any questions you need to make sure you understand

    21. Value freedom and commitment • Neo-Marxists, interactionists and feminists have argued for a ‘committed sociology’ in which the sociologist spells out the importance of their personal values to their research.

    22. Modern positivists • Modern positivists argued that their own values were irrelevant to their research for 2 reasons: • The desire to appear scientific • Job is simply to establish the truth about people’s behaviour, not to judge it. • The social position of society • Sociologists as hired hands

    23. Committed sociology • Myrdal (1969) argues that sociologists should not only spell out their values, they should also openly ‘take sides’. • Committed sociologists – it is neither possible nor desirable to keep values out of research. • Impossible because sociologist’s values are bound to be reflected in their work • Undesirable since without values to guide research sociologists are putting their services at the disposal of the highest bidder.

    24. Becker (1970)– ‘whose side are we on’ • Traditionally the powerful • Should be the underdogs – give the less powerful a voice Becker = interactionalist What method does he favour, why?

    25. Gouldner Gouldnercriticises • Becker – romantic and sentimental and 20th century positivist for being subservient (submissive/controlled) to their paymasters • He argues that all research is inevitably influenced by values (personal/money)

    26. Summary of theorists • Complete the gap fill activity – how much do you remember!!

    27. Website activities! www.sociology.uk.net Typical exam question on this topic – • Assess the view that values can and should be kept out of sociological research. 33 marks (45 minutes) p275 Webb

    28. Plenary task Write down on your exit card 3 questions relating to this theoretical topic. We will use them in a quiz in our next theory lesson! Homework reminder!!! Extended writing 1000 words, is sociology a science due FRIDAY- Tomorrow!!!!