Study notes

Sociological Research: Objectivity and Subjectivity

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, OCR

To be objective, a researcher must not allow their values, their bias or their views to impact on their research, analysis or findings. For research to be reliable and to be considered scientific, objectivity is paramount.

However, some question whether sociology can ever be entirely objective, as researchers' views and values are likely to affect their choice of topic.

Weber argued that while sociologists should be interested in the subjective views of their subjects, they should remain objective in their research; others (such as postmodernists) argue that objectivity is impossible at all stages of research.

Many sociologists – not just those who consider their activities to be scientific – argue that sociological research needs to be objective; that their biases and values should never influence their research design, interpretation or analysis.

But interpretivist sociologists are interested in the subjective views and interpretations of their subjects, believing that it is impossible to objectively establish social facts. Nonetheless, most would still urge sociologists to be objective in their research, even though postmodernists argue that all research is inevitably subjective.

Reflexivity is the act of a researcher constantly reflecting on the extent to which they themselves are impacting on their research and their findings. Some interpretivists and particularly postmodernists note that the researcher is not able to be genuinely objective because they are as much a part of the society being studied as the subjects of the research. As such the researcher needs to consider and acknowledge their own bias and the values that might inform their interpretations and analysis.

Objectivity and Subjectivity in Sociological Research

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