Positivism vs Interpretism

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Why positivists prefer quantitative data while interpretivists prefer qualitative data

In sociology, there are two different groups of researchers in the study of human behaviour and society. There are the positivists and interpretivists. They both use different methods for their research. Positivists view that sociology can and should use the methods of the natural sciences like physics and chemistry. “It therefore involves applying the methods and principles of the natural science to the study of society” (Nasser Mustapha). Positivists believe that society should be measure with the use of quantitative data. Auguste Comte, the founding father of sociology was also a positivist. Interpretivists, argue the opposite view. They believed scientific methods are inappropriate for the study of society. “They view people as living in a world of meaningful objects” (Nasser Mustapha). Unlike objects, humans can change their behaviour if they know they are being observed. They also argue that if we want to understand social action, we have to research the reasons and meanings of people’s action. They use qualitative data in the study of human society. Quantitative method is the collecting of data which is statistics or have numerical figures. Positivists prefer quantitative data for different reasons. Firstly they believed that “the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified”. Positivist tend to assumed that quantitative produce reliable data that can be checked by other researcher by repeating the research and getting the same results. Official data is often the starting point for sociological research. From statistical data positivists believed “it was possible to classify the social world in an objective way. Using these classifications it was then possible to count sets of observable social facts and so produce statistics”. (www.historylearningsite.co.uk)  

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