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Sociology as a Science

What is science?

Science is a method. It refers to the logical and systematic

approach to an investigation.
Empirical proof. Ideas must be supported by empirical
Dealing with facts
Using objective approach to observation
Quantification of concepts

Science assumes that there is some underlying order, or

regular pattern, in the universe. That is, there are predictable
regularities in human behaviour. Thus it is possible to explain
the past and, on that basis, to predict the future
Science also assumes that events in nature are caused by other
natural events.

Whats the goal of science?

To uncover truths (about the social world)

To acquire knowledge (about the social world).
To explain a (social) phenomena with (social) answers that
are consistent with the data (empirical reality).
To provide the best explanation given the data we have at
the time and to revise or replace the explanation when more
data are collected or a better explanation is found.
To develop theories of the unknown through careful
observation and testing.
To make generalizations. A theory is a generalization.

Sociology as a science?

As a social science, sociology differs from the natural sciences

such as physics or chemistry.
Our subject matter is human beings (people), who think,
argue, act and react.
A natural scientist observes his/her subject matter and
manipulates it as he/she desires. Makes experiments in a lab
situation. He/she is objective.
A sociologists lab is the real world, society, community, or

Sociology as a science (cont.)

Our subjects answer questions, provide informationnot

necessarily correct information. They may conceal or distort
facts, get confused, get irritated, don't respond, and so on.
We cannot manipulate our subjects in a lab situation
Thus, we cannot expect rigor or precision in our studies
similar to that in natural sciences.
Is it possible for a sociologist (a human being) to be objective
when he/she is observing another human being?

Considering these limitations, we as sociologists try to

understand human relationships and uncover new truths about
human beings, using scientific methods .

Sociology as a science (cont.)

Because of the nature of their concepts and sociological lab

situation, sociologists do not predict with perfect accuracy.
But neither do, most other natural sciences, including biology,
medicine, geophysics, plant sciences and so on. Most natural
sciences talk in terms of probabilities and so do sociologists.
Sociologists do have a questioning perspectivea critical
point of view. They are sceptical about social phenomenon.
They go beyond the obvious. They recognize that things are
never what they seem.

Sociology and other Social Sciences (cont.)

How does sociology differ from other social sciences?
Sociology studies social interactions that are independent of
individual characteristics.
Sociology holds that peoples actions are largely a response to
the conditions and situations in which they live.
There is no society; only interacting individuals. Society is
made of relationships.
Individuals exist, but they are socially made.
Properties of relationships or social structure determine
behaviours of individuals.
Sociologists look at patterns of social interactions

Scope of Sociology
Scope means the subject matter or the areas of study.
It become difficult to study a science systematically unless its
boundary or scope is determined precisely
There are two main school of thought regarding the scope of
sociology: Formalistic school of thought and Synthetic school of
Formalistic school of thought:
Sociology should be studied only in the form of social relationships
Associated with George Simmel, Max Weber, Leopod Van Wise,
Ferdinand Tonnies and Alfred Vierkandt
This school argued in favour of giving sociology a definite subject
matter to make it a distinct discipline


Sociology need not study all events connected with social

In formalistic school, scope of sociology is very narrow and
Limitations: artificial and un practical division of social
aspects, assumption of only sociology studies social relations,
and special place of sociology in social science
This school is criticized as impractical, because no social
science can be studied in isolation from other social sciences


Synthetic school of thought:

Sociology is a general science, which studies various events
that fall within the scope of study of other sciences
Sociology to be synthesis of the social sciences and thus
wanted to widen the scope of sociology
Sociology is closely related with other social science
Proponents of this school are Emile Durkheim, L.T Hobhouse,
Ginsberg, and P.A Sorokin


Relationship with other social sciences


Sociology is concerned with historical development of the

It studies the various stages of life, modes of living, customs,
manners and their expression in the form of social institutions
Sociology has thus to depend upon history for its material.
History supplies facts which are interpreted and coordinated
by the sociologists.
The study of history would be meaningless without the
appreciation of social significance.


Relationship with other social sciences

If history is to be useful to understand the present and to serve

as a guide for the future, sociological interpretation of facts is
absolutely essential.

History is past sociology, and sociology is present history

(G.E. Howard)


Economics is the study of production and distribution of goods

and services
Economics has dealt almost exclusively with the interrelationship of purely economic variables

Relationship with other social sciences

Sociologists are concerned not only with general economic

relationships among units but also with social relationship
within these units and states of individuals in economic
Sociologists technique of observation and understanding have
an important contribution to make to the study of the most
advanced market economics.
Sociologists and economics emphasize the relations between
parts especially patterns of dependence, dominance etc.
Both sociology and economics are utilizing the mathematical
models as aides in analysing data.

Relationship with other social sciences

Political Science:

Political science is a branch of social science dealing with the

principles of organization and governance of human society.
Political science deals with the social groups organised under the
sovereignty of the state.
Without the sociological background, the study of political
science will be incomplete.
The forms of government, the nature of government organs, the
laws and sphere of the state actively are determined by the social
Sociology has also to depend on political science for its


Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human

through the lens of cultural anthropology
The subject matter of both sociology and anthropology is
common to a great extent
Great anthropologist Alfred Kroeber pointed out that
sociology and anthropology are twin sisters
Sociologists have to depend up on anthropologists to
understand the present day social phenomena from the
knowledge of the past which is often provided by

Sociological topics such as the origin of the family, the beginning

of marriage, private property, the genesis of religion, etc. can
better be understood in the light of anthropological knowledge
Thus sociology and anthropology have very much influenced each


Psychology deals with mental process such as perception,

cognition or learning.
For psychologists the term personality serves as a central
organizing concept in much the same way as society and social
system serves the sociologists

From a psychological point of view, sociology is concerned

with ways in which personality and behaviour are influenced
by a persons social characteristics or his social settings
From a sociological perspective, psychology includes any
study of social process which systematically considers
outsiders, how the psychological properties or personality
dispositions of particular men acting in a situation influences
the outcome of social process.