There are definite differences between positivism and humanistic methods that geographers use. Positivism, which has it’s roots in quantitative theories, excludes the human element and includes such fundamentals as cumulative data. Humanistic geography has it’s roots in qualitative procedures and focuses on the combination of research with the people.
Positivism is a rigorous and formal way to collect and analyze data that was developed around the 1960’s by Auguste Comte (1798-1857) who is also credited with formalizing it. Studies are clear and straight forward and researchers believe that there is only one method that all sciences should rely on. Positivism believes that human geography should be objective and not take into consideration any personal beliefs. Considering that thinking, human and physical objects can be treated in a similar way. This view point uses the scientific method and begins with facts which lead to a theory and a hypothesis. From this, an answer is concluded that becomes “law”. When developing this research, positivistic geologists will use quantitative methods to develop their theories, often also using a spatial analysis approach. The positivism way of collecting data is controversial because it challenges the regional approach to geography. They believe that the world exists as an objective reality that is totally independent of the mind. Positivistic researchers are seeking to generalize findings across all of the subject matter. Most often the positivistic approaches uses field work and observe the happenings in an area to help form a hypothesis. The researchers will measure what they see and use prepared questionnaires so that they can then put the coded responses together and summarize them statistically. The scientific approach offers a more secure, objective knowledge, but limits the researcher to a relatively narrow range of topics.
The humanistic methods... [continues]
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