Introduction to Positivism and Interpretivism
Positivism and interpretivism are known as the two approaches to the methods of research in the area of sociology. These two approaches have some key differences between them such as the use of scientific quantitative methods and humanistic qualitative methods in positivism and interpretivism respectively. This paper will first give a brief insight of positivist and interpretivist approaches to research methods in sociology and mainly it will focus on the differences between the two approaches to research methods.
Definition of Positivism
First of all, according to (Denscombe, 1998), social research has the goal of exploring the motives of the social world by the aid of scientific quantitative method. This explanation of (Denscombe, 1998) is a brief definition of the positivist approach to social research in sociology. Thus, according to the positivist approach, science is seen as the key way in order to reach the truth and have an understanding of the world.
Definition of Interpretivism
On the other hand, (Livesey, 2006) makes an explanation about the interpretivist as using observations or interviews and some other qualitative data which will help the researcher to reach the aim of the social research. According to Institute for Frontier Studies “Interpretive research focuses on analytically disclosing those meaning-making practices, while showing how those practices configure to generate observable outcomes” (IFS, 2015). As explained above, there is a difference between the interpretivist and positivist approaches in terms of using different methods. While positivist approach believes in the scientific ways of research, in the interpretivist approach, it is believed that instead of using scientific methods, it is better to use how the activities are perceived and interpreted by the human beings as it is amethod used in sociology which works on human beings. In addition to that, interpretivist approach uses observations or interviews but in positivist approach mostly experiments and surveys are used in order to reach the aim of the research. Besides all these, we can define the positivist approach as objective while defining the interpretivist approach to be more subjective. This is because of the fact that, as explained earlier in this paper, positivist approach uses scientific ways such as surveys and experiments, which gives more objective results, but interpretivist approach uses methods such as observations or interviews for which the results of the research can hugely be affected by the observer or the interviewer. To put it in other words, in interpretevist approach of social research, the truth is relative depending on the understanding and perceptions of the researchers but in positivist approach of social research the truth does not change depending on the researcher etc.
Conclusion to Positivism and Interpretivism
To conclude, positivist and interpretivist research approaches are the two approaches for research methods in sociology. The two approaches differ in some ways. Firstly, positivist approach attaches importance in scientific quantitative methods while the interpretivist approach uses humanistic qualitative methods. Because of this reason, positivist approach uses methods like surveys and experiments while interpretivist approach uses observations, interviews etc. Lastly, positivist approach is more objective as it uses science while interpretivist approach is subjective.
Denscombe, M. (1998). The Good Research Guide. Open University Press.
IFS. (2015). Our Approach. Taken from ifsnepal.org: http://ifsnepal.org/category/our-approach/
Livesey, C. (2006). The Relationship between Positivism, Interpretivism and sociological research methods. Taken fromsociology.org.uk: http://www.sociology.org.uk/revgrm5.pdf