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BSOC-134: Methods of Sociological Enquiry

BSOC-134: Methods of Sociological Enquiry

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

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Assignment Code: BSOC –134/Asst /TMA /2021-22

Course Code: BSOC –134

Assignment Name; Methods Of Sociological Enquiry

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment – I


Answer the following Descriptive Category questions in about 500 words each. Each

question carries 20 marks.

2 x20=40


1. Briefly narrate sociological perspectives on qualitative research.

Ans) The sociological perspectives on qualitative research are as follows:

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research in social sciences basically depends on observation and interaction in the field where the research is being conducted. The interaction with the subjects is done in the language of the subjects and this tradition of doing research owes a lot to anthropology. Anthropologists like Franz Boas, Evans-Pritchard have contributed immensely towards the development of this tradition of doing research. In sociology this way of doing research gained prominence under the guidance of Robert E. Park. He encouraged his students to observe in detail the diversity, heterogeneity and complexities of the city. Qualitative research is naturalistic, participatory and ethnographic in its approach. Qualitative research employs several methods of data collection but the most important is the participant observation, which entails the involvement of the researcher among those whom (s)he seeks to study with a view to generate a rounded in-depth account of the group, organisation etc.

Qualitative research is an approach to the study of the social world which seeks to describe and analyse the culture behaviour of humans and their groups from the point of view of the those being studied. Along with the participant observation unstructured interview, in which the researcher provides a minimal guidance and allows considerable Research in Social Sciences latitude for interviewees, is also a favoured technique. Life history method, which entails the reconstruction of the lives of the one or more individuals is also another method used in qualitative research. The sources of data are varied and includes diaries and autobiographies, the two most important sources of for generating histories. Group discussion is another method used by qualitative approach. It is essentially a form of unstructured interview but involves more than one subject. This method is gaining importance gradually these days.

The Intellectual Underpinnings of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research derives from a different intellectual underpinning than the quantitative research. The main intellectual undercurrents which tend to be viewed as providing qualitative research with its distinct epistemology are phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, verstehen, naturalism and ethnogenesis.


Phenomenological perspectives in sociology reject many of the assumptions of positivism. It involves a systematic investigation of the consciousness which is the only phenomenon that we can be sure off. They argue that the subject matter of the social and natural sciences is fundamentally different. Therefore, they assume that the methods and assumptions of the natural sciences are inappropriate to the study of man. They are of the opinion that natural sciences deal with matter and to understand it, it is enough to observe them from outside as they do not have consciousness, meaning and purpose which direct their behaviour. They react to external stimuli.

Phenomenologists believes that unlike matter man has consciousness thoughts, feelings meanings, intentions, and an awareness of being. Because of this his actions are meaningful; he defines situations and gives meanings to his actions and those of others. As a result, he does not simply react to external stimuli, he does not simply behave but he acts. Man does not just react to fire; he acts upon it in terms of the meaning he gives to it. If action comes from the subjective meanings, it follows that sociologists must discover those meaning in order to understand action. Sociologists cannot simply observe action from the outside and impose an external logic upon it. he must interpret the internal logic which directs the action of the actor. Max Weber was one of the first sociologists to outline this perspective.


2. Elaborate various dimensions of comparative methods.

Ans) The various dimensions of comparative methods by various theorists are as follows:

In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with common descent from a shared ancestor and then extrapolating backwards to infer the properties of that ancestor. The comparative method may be contrasted with the method of internal reconstruction in which the internal development of a single language is inferred by the analysis of features within that language.

Although Durkheim attributed immense centrality to comparative method and it was a great achievement of the 19th century, there was a division among its advocates. Some were very enthusiastic while few were sceptical about comparative method. The belief that comparative method could be helpful in discovering scientific laws about society and culture attracted many to use this method and those who favoured the method believed that it was possible to have a natural science of society “that would establish regularities of coexistence and succession among the forms of social life by means of systematic comparisons”. Franz Boas was not convinced with the generalisations made by comparative method and suggested that limited area to be studied with careful attention to facts. He was in favour of the historical method. Boas believed before making any kind of extended comparison the comparability of the material must be proved and was in favour of comparison between ‘neighbouring cultures. Neighbourliness, for Boas was not limited to geographical nearness but it was at the same time important for him.

Neighbourliness was to be identified in terms of cultural and evolutionary artifacts. However, this would lead us to study only the unique characteristics of a single society.

Radcliffe-Brown believed that natural laws of society could be discovered with the use of comparative method based on the observation, description and comparison of societies as they existed. He was in favour of system analysis and was focused on discovering laws related to the structure and functioning of societies rather than to their evolution. In contrast to Boas, he believed that comparison of features of social life for the purpose of historical reconstruction were different from comparison for the purpose exploring the varieties of forms of social life as a basis for the theoretical study of human social phenomena. He wanted comparative method not to be heavily dependent on the organic analogy therefore said that two societies do not resemble or differ from one another in a way two animals of the same species match and from different species differ.

Evans-Pritchard acknowledged the importance of observation, classification and comparison in some form or the other but questioned the achievement of comparative method. He was very critical of the statistical use of the comparative method. He reckoned that the comparative method used by Radcliffe-Brown and many others were little more than the method of apt illustration. Evans- Prichard took social anthropology back to historical method which viewed everything in a context while he thought that the comparative method took things out of their context. He believed comparative method overlooked the richness of the context and they need to be treated with suspicion when statistical techniques are used. Though he favoured, like Boas, small scale comparison than large scale comparisons, but had reservation even for this.



Assignment - II


Answer the following Short Category questions in about 250 words each. Each question carries 10 marks. 3 x 10 = 30


3. Explain the significance empiricism in social research

Ans) Empiricism is the view that all knowledge (apart from purely logical relations between concepts) is based on, or derives from, sensory experience. Some empiricists thus claim that the truth of factual statements can only be established inductively from experience. Empiricism however is unable to specify the nature of the relationship between knowledge and experience. Empiricism denies the idealistic view that the mind is equipped with concepts that owe nothing to experience. Empiricists claim that at birth the mind is a ‘blank sheet’ and only experience can provide ideas. Some empiricists thus claim that the truth of factual statements can only be established inductively from experience.

They thus deny the Cartesian view that supposes that people can grasp general truths about reality independently of experience. There are various approaches to empiricism, but many start from the idea that experimental science is the exemplar of human knowledge. This is in contrast with rationalism which assigned a similar role to pure mathematics. Empiricism tends to a view that knowledge acquisition is a piecemeal, self-correcting process limited by observation and experiment. Empiricism is thus sceptical of general metaphysical systems. The empiricist position raises the problem of how people acquire abstract ideas that are not the result of direct experience, especially mathematical ideas like point and line. Empiricism as applied to theories of the nature of science probably derives from the work of Mach. He did not see the evident failure of mechanical physics at the turn of the century as an indication of the failure of science as a means of understanding. He argued that one should not equate science with a set of cherished principles.


4. Elaborate the relationship between theory and research.

Ans) The relationship between theory and research are as follows:

  1. The Impact of Theory on Research: The term "sociological theory" has been used to describe the outcomes of a number of similar but distinct activities. The various activities have a wide range of implications for empirical social study. Merton identifies six distinct categories of actions that are collectively referred to as a theory.

  2. Methodology: The distinction between sociological theory and methodology is critical. Theories are the substance of scientific operations, whereas methodology is the logic of those techniques. Because methodology isn't particularly linked to sociological issues, they aren't sociological in nature. The application of methodology by researchers must be well-versed.

  3. General Sociological Orientations: Rather than stating the causal links between the variables, such orientations just describe the types of variables that have been considered. They give the framework for empirical inquiry. The purpose of these orientations is to provide a broad environment for study and to make the process of hypothesis generation easier.

  4. Conceptual Analysis: Concepts are definitions of what should be observed, and they are the variables between which empirical correlations should be found. If you choose concepts that don't have any connections, your research will be fruitless. As a result, the type of data included in the concept should be stated clearly in the conceptual clarification.

  5. Sociological Interpretations After the Fact: In sociological research, data is acquired first, and then it is interpreted. These interpretations take place only after the data has been acquired, and there is no empirical testing of a pre-determined hypothesis, which is what research should be doing.

  6. Sociological theory's goal is to arrive at social uniformities through empirical generalisation. When the bearing of previous uniformities on a group of interrelated propositions is tentatively established, the theoretical work and the steering of empirical investigation toward theory begins.



5. Explain the various stages of understating social research.

Ans) The various stages of understating social research are:

  1. Formulation of Research Problem: Such a perception on the part of the researcher, first of all, falls within the general area of interest indicating to locate the problem either in the quest of some intellectual pursuit or for some practical concern.

  2. Review of Related Literature: It not only helps the researcher in avoiding duplication and formulating useful hypothesis, but also provides him with the evidence that he is familiar with what is already known and what is still unknown and untested in the field.

  3. Formulation of Hypotheses: This tentative explanation or assumption or proposition refers to a conjectural statement of the relation between two or more variables and its tenability remains to be tested.

  4. Working Out Research Design: After formulating the research problem, reviewing the related literature and formulating hypothesis, wherever feasible.

  5. Defining the Universe of Study: In statistical terms, a ‘universe’ or ‘population’ refers to the aggregate of individuals or units from which a ‘sample’ is drawn and to which the results and analysis are to apply.

  6. Determining Sampling Design: As in practice a complete enumeration of all the items in the ‘universe’ is not possible under many circumstances, due to the requirement of a great deal of time, money and energy.

  7. Administering the Tools of Data Collection: The data may differ considerably keeping in view the financial aspect, time and other resources available to the researcher.

  8. Analysis of Data: This involves a number of operations such as establishment of categories, the application of these categories to raw data through coding, tabulation.

  9. Testing of Hypotheses: Sociological studies do not always generate data that confirm the original hypothesis.

  10. Generalization and Interpretation: After the hypothesis is tested and found valid, it becomes possible on the part of researcher to reach the stage of generalization, which may be construed to be the real value of research.

  11. Reporting the Research: Research report is the end product of a research activity which gives an account of a long journey on the path of finding a new knowledge or modified knowledge.

Assignment – III

Answer the following Short Category questions in about 100 words each. Each question carries 6 marks. 5 x 6 = 30


6. Elaborate the concept of social facts.

Ans) According to Durkheim, social facts have an objective reality that sociologists can study in a way like how other scientists, such as physicists, study the physical world. Social facts are objective and are capable of being perceived from outside. Social facts are understood only by sociological laws. There can be no psychological explanation of these facts. Sociology cannot be explained by the principle of utility or individual’s motivation. Its explanation can only be social. Durkheim took great pain in trying to rid sociology of preconceptions and to make sociology objective. In this endeavour, he put forward the first rule of sociological research. He observed, ‘Consider social facts as things’ Durkheim defined social facts as: A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constrain; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestation


7. Elaborate the place of objectivity on social research.

Ans) 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. 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.


8. Explain the reflexivity in social research.

Ans) Reflexivity is a term with rather different meanings in different contexts: in general, it means 'reflecting' and specifically, as part of the social research, reflexivity is the process by which the researcher reflects upon the data collection and interpretation process. At the simplest level, a relationship is reflexive if the relationship is self-referring, for example, 'the tower is as tall as itself'. Here 'as tall as' is reflexive. At a second level, reflexivity refers to the process of reflecting on rather than just reflecting. The former is an active process the latter passive. So, for example, in ethnography the researcher is expected to be reflexive, that is, to reflect upon the data gathered. Reflexivity is usually regarded as central to all variants of ethnographic research.


9. Explain the features of ethnomethodology.

Ans) Ethnomethodology is the study of how social order is produced in and through processes of social interaction. It generally seeks to provide an alternative to mainstream sociological approaches. In its most radical form, it poses a challenge to the social sciences. Its early investigations led to the founding of conversation analysis, which has found its own place as an accepted discipline within the academy. According to Pashas, it is possible to distinguish five major approaches within the ethnomethodological family of disciplines. Ethnomethodology is a fundamentally descriptive discipline which does not engage in the explanation or evaluation of the particular social order undertaken as a topic of study. However, applications have been found within many applied disciplines, such as software design and management studies

10. Discuss features of feminist methodology

Ans) The feminist method is a means of conducting of scientific investigations and generating theory from an explicitly feminist standpoint. Feminist methodologies are varied, but tend to have a few common aims or characteristics, including seeking to overcome biases in research, bringing about social change, displaying human diversity, and acknowledging the position of the researcher. Questioning normal scientific reasoning is another form of the feminist method. Each of these methods must consist of different parts including collection of evidence, testing of theories, presentation of data, and room for rebuttals. How research is scientifically backed up affects the results. Like consciousness raising, some feminist methods affect the collective emotions of women, when things like political statistics are more of a structural result When knowledge is either constructed by experiences, or discovered, it needs to both be reliable and valid.

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