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BSOC-134: Methods of Sociological Enquiry

BSOC-134: Methods of Sociological Enquiry

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2023-24

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Assignment Code: BSOC-134/ Asst /TMA /2023-24

Course Code: BSOC-134

Assignment Name: Methods of Sociological Enquiry

Year: 2023-24

Verification Status: Verified by Professor

Assignment - I

Answer the following in about 500 words each.

Q1) What do you mean by social research? How is it different from ‘common sense’?

Ans) Research in the field of social science is a methodical investigational procedure that is carried out with the purpose of acquiring knowledge and comprehension of social phenomena. The use of scientific methods to investigate, characterise, explain, and forecast social patterns and behaviours is a component of this field of application.

For the purpose of data collection and analysis, social researchers employ a wide range of methods, such as questionnaires, studies, interviews, and observations. The objective is to produce information that is trustworthy, objective, and applicable to all human societies, including their structures, dynamics, and the elements that have an effect on them. When it comes to subjects like sociology, psychology, anthropology, and economics, social research is a significant contributor to the development of theories, the formation of policies, and the progress of knowledge.

Differences from Common Sense:

Systematic Methodology:

a) Social Research: Uses a strategy that is both methodical and stringent. For the purpose of assuring impartiality and replicability, researchers plan studies, develop hypotheses, gather data, and analyse it using established techniques.

b) Common Sense: Utilizes personal experiences, observations made on a daily basis, and intuitive judgments. There is a lack of the organised and methodical approach that is included in social research.


a) Social Research: Aims for objectivity by minimizing biases, subjectivity, and personal opinions. Researchers often use statistical techniques and employ controlled conditions to enhance objectivity.

b) Common Sense: Subject to personal biases, cultural influences, and individual perspectives. It may be shaped by personal experiences and lacks the systematic controls to ensure objectivity.


a) Social Research: Attempts to draw broad conclusions that can be applied to more than just the unique situations that were found. When drawing broader conclusions about populations, researchers employ samples that are representative of the population.

b) Common Sense: This approach frequently makes use of specific examples and unique anecdotes. There is a possibility that conclusions made from one's own experiences will not be applicable to a larger group.

Verification and Testing:

a) Social Research: is the process of putting hypotheses to the test and confirming findings via the use of empirical evidence. Control groups, randomization, and statistical analysis are all components of research designs that are utilised for conduct of rigorous testing.

b) Common Sense: Tends to rely on personal beliefs without systematic testing. Conclusions may be based on anecdotal evidence rather than rigorous testing.

Specialization and Expertise:

a) Social Research: Conducted by trained professionals with expertise in research methods, statistics, and specific subject areas. Researchers often have specialized knowledge and skills.

b) Common Sense: Widely accessible to everyone, regardless of expertise. It is not bound by professional training or specialized knowledge.

Scope and Scale:

a) Social Research: Often conducted on a larger scale, involving extensive data collection and analysis. It may encompass diverse populations and settings.

b) Common Sense: Typically applies to personal, local, or limited contexts. It may lack the scope and scale of social research studies.

Formal Documentation:

a) Social Research: Results are formally documented in research papers, reports, and publications. Findings are subject to peer review and scrutiny.

b) Common Sense: Informal and often not documented. Conclusions are shared through casual communication and may not undergo formal scrutiny.

Q2) Discuss Gouldner’s view on reflexivity.

Ans) Alvin W. Gouldner, a prominent sociologist, made significant contributions to the field of sociology, and one of his key concepts was reflexivity. Gouldner's ideas on reflexivity emerged in the context of critiquing conventional sociological practices and advocating for a more self-aware and critical approach to research.

Reflexivity in Sociology:

Reflexivity in sociology refers to the researcher's awareness of their positionality, biases, and influence on the research process. It involves acknowledging the subjectivity inherent in the researcher's perspective and recognizing the potential impact of their social background, values, and experiences on the research outcomes. Gouldner's advocacy for reflexivity challenges the traditional notion of an objective, detached researcher and emphasizes the need for a more self-conscious and critical engagement with the research process.

Aspects of Gouldner's View on Reflexivity:

a) Rejecting Objectivity: Gouldner criticized the idea of complete objectivity in sociological research. He argued that sociologists are not neutral observers but are embedded in social structures and have subjective experiences that shape their perspectives.

b) Social Location: Gouldner emphasized the importance of understanding the social location of the researcher. Social location includes factors such as race, gender, class, and personal experiences, which influence how researchers perceive and interpret social phenomena.

c) Power Relations: Gouldner highlighted the power dynamics inherent in the research process. Researchers hold power over the researched, and reflexivity involves recognizing and addressing these power imbalances to ensure ethical and transparent research practices.

d) Double Hermeneutic: For the first time, Gouldner presented the idea of the "double hermeneutic," which proposes that social scientists understand the meanings that individuals attach to their experiences. Recognizing that researchers interpret not only social phenomena but also the interpretations of the people they examine is a necessary step toward achieving reflexivity.

e) Social Critique: As far as Gouldner is concerned, reflexivity is connected to social critique. With the ability to be reflective, sociologists are able to critically evaluate their own assumptions and call into question the social norms and structures that are already in place. Having this level of self-awareness enables one to conduct a more critical inspection of society.

f) Ethical Considerations: When it comes to research, Gouldner's perspective on reflexivity places an emphasis on ethical considerations. For the purpose of ensuring that their research does not contribute to the perpetuation of existing inequalities or cause harm to marginalised groups, researchers have a responsibility to be aware of the potential biases and ethical implications of their work.

g) Interdisciplinary Engagement: In order for sociologists to have a more complete knowledge of reflexivity, Gouldner encouraged them to engage with insights from other fields of study, such as philosophy and psychology. Through the use of this multidisciplinary approach, it is possible to conduct a more comprehensive and nuanced investigation into the difficulties of social research.

h) Practical Application: The concepts that Gouldner has regarding reflexivity have practical implications for the design of research, the collection of data, and the interpretation of that data. Reflexivity can be utilised by researchers by explicitly identifying their positionality in study reports, recording the impact of their backgrounds on the research, and carrying out a critical examination of potential biases.

Assignment - II

Answer the following in about 250 words each.

Q3) Explain the significance of ideal type.

Ans) Max Weber's ideal type concept is crucial to social science research and theory building. An analytical construct that exaggerates and simplifies a social phenomenon, institution, or concept is ideal.

Clear Theory:

Ideal types isolate and highlight key traits to explain complex social realities. Clear communication helps create and communicate social theories.

Comparative Analysis:

Sociologists compare real-world and ideal circumstances to compare differences. Comparative methods show social patterns and variances.

Tool for diagnosis:

Sociologists diagnose social systems and institutions with ideal types. Researchers diagnose social processes using these constructs.

Theory Building:

Theory construction relies on ideal types. Sociologists describe and forecast social processes using theoretical frameworks. Ideal types arrange social ideas.

Power to Explain:

Ideal types simplify complex sociological truths. Academics can understand social structure dynamics using this simplification.

Methodological Advice:

Ideal types help sociologists formulate questions, design studies, and analyse data. Sociological study is more rigorous and coherent with this methodological direction.

Think critically:

Ideal types encourage sociologists' critical thinking. Researchers might identify biases and limits in their findings by acknowledging these models' construction and simplification.

The significance of ideal types lies in several key aspects:

a) Theoretical Clarity: Ideal types isolate and highlight key traits to explain complex social realities. Clear communication helps create and communicate social theories.

b) Comparative Analysis: Sociologists compare real-world situations to ideal kinds to see how they differ. This comparative technique reveals societal patterns and variations.

c) Conceptual Precision: Ideal types standardise social phenomena, improving conceptual precision. Sociological research is more rigorous, and scholars can communicate better with this precision.

d) Diagnostic Tool: Ideal types help sociologists diagnose social systems and institutions. These constructs help researchers diagnose social processes.

e) Theory Building: Ideal types are fundamental to theory construction. Sociologists establish theoretical frameworks to describe and predict social phenomena using them. Ideal types help organise social theories.

f) Explanatory Power: Ideal types simplify complex sociological truths. Academics can understand social structure dynamics using this simplification.

g) Methodological Guidance: Ideal types help sociologists design studies, ask questions, and analyse data. Sociological research is more rigorous and cohesive with this approach.

h) Critical Reflection: Ideal types foster sociologists' critical thinking. These models are simplified to help researchers identify biases and constraints in their analysis.

Q4) What is the evolutionist method? Discuss.

Ans) The evolutionist method, often associated with 19th-century anthropological and sociological thought, was a framework that sought to explain the development of societies and cultures over time. This method was deeply influenced by the prevailing idea of social evolution, a concept rooted in the belief that societies progress through a series of stages from simple to complex forms.

Characteristics of the Evolutionist Method:

a) Unilinear Progression: The evolutionist method posited a unilinear progression, suggesting that all societies followed a single path of development from "savagery" to "barbarism" and finally to "civilization." This linear perspective implied that societies moved along a predetermined trajectory.

b) Cultural Evolution: Evolutionists applied the principles of biological evolution to cultures and societies, assuming that cultural traits evolved and adapted over time in a manner analogous to natural selection. They believed that certain cultural features represented more advanced stages of development.

c) Ethnocentrism: Evolutionist beliefs were ethnocentric, with Western nations deemed the pinnacle of civilization. Eurocentric views were reinforced by judging other cultures by their evolutionary advancement.

d) Technological Determinism: The evolutionist method often incorporated technological determinism, asserting that technological advancements were key drivers of societal progress. This perspective assumed that as societies developed technologically, they would naturally advance along the evolutionary scale.

e) Stage Theory: Societies were categorized into distinct stages, each characterized by specific attributes and features. For example, Lewis Henry Morgan's "savagery-barbarism-civilization" schema was a popular stage theory within the evolutionist framework.

f) Social Darwinism: The evolutionist method used Darwin's natural selection theory. Social Darwinism believed that "survival of the fittest" would favour more sophisticated societies over less advanced ones.

Q5) Elaborate the comparative methods used by Redcliffe-Brown.

Ans) Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, a prominent British social anthropologist, made significant contributions to the field, particularly in the areas of social structure and kinship. His approach emphasized a comparative method that aimed to identify general principles governing social organization across diverse societies. Redcliffe-Brown's comparative methods included:


Redcliffe-Brown was a key proponent of structural-functionalism, which focused on understanding how social structures and institutions contribute to the functioning and maintenance of a society. The comparative method involved analysing similarities and differences in social structures across various cultures to identify universal principles.

Cross-Cultural Analysis:

Redcliffe-Brown conducted extensive cross-cultural analyses to identify commonalities in social structures and institutions. By comparing societies with similar structural features, he aimed to uncover underlying principles that transcended cultural variations.

Typological Classification:

Redcliffe-Brown engaged in typological classification, categorizing societies into types based on shared structural characteristics. This method allowed him to create analytical frameworks for understanding the similarities and variations in social organization.

Functional Equivalence:

Redcliffe-Brown studied how different societies implemented comparable functions through diverse social structures. He showed that different cultural traditions might sustain social order by recognising functional counterparts.

Comparative Kinship Studies:

Redcliffe-Brown extensively compared kinship systems. He looked for common kinship patterns and principles across societies. Comparative research sought to demonstrate the universal functions of kinship and family.

Linguistic Analysis:

In comprehending social formations, Redcliffe-Brown valued language analysis. He compared kinship and social structure concepts across cultures to find commonalities.

Historical Comparisons:

Redcliffe-Brown used historical analogies to show how social systems changed. This time dimension helped him examine social organization's dynamic nature.

Assignment – III

Write a note on the following in about 100 words each.

Q6) Discuss Feminist empiricism.

Ans) Feminist empiricism is an approach within feminist epistemology that seeks to integrate feminist perspectives with empirical research methods. It emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence and scientific inquiry in understanding and addressing gender-based inequalities. Feminist empiricists argue for the inclusion of women's experiences in research, highlighting the need to produce knowledge that reflects diverse perspectives.

This approach aims to challenge androcentric biases in traditional empirical research, advocating for more inclusive methodologies that contribute to a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of social phenomena, particularly those related to gender, power, and identity. Feminist empiricism thus bridges feminist theory and empirical research to advance gender-inclusive knowledge production.

Q7) Outline the features of ethno-methodological research.

Ans) Harold Garfinkel's ethnomethodological research analyses everyday social interactions and how people understand their surroundings.

A microscopic analysis: Ethnomethodology breaks down social interactions to reveal their underlying rules and practises.

Common Sense: People employ common sense to manage social circumstances and their surroundings.

Experimental Breaching: In "breaching experiments," researchers purposefully undermine social norms to study how people restore order.

Indexicality: Ethnomethodologists emphasise language and behaviour’s indexical nature and context-specific meanings.

Member Methods: It examines how group members preserve coherence and interpret events to understand social order.

Reflexivity: Reflexive ethnomethodology acknowledges the researcher's interpretations and biases in analysis.

Doing it: It emphasises social action's accomplishments and that social order is a process, not a structure.

Q8) Discuss ICT impacts in social sciences research.

Ans) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has significantly impacted social sciences research by enhancing data collection, analysis, and dissemination. Digital platforms, online surveys, and social media facilitate broader and more efficient data gathering. Advanced statistical software and data visualization tools aid in complex analyses.

Collaboration and communication among researchers worldwide are streamlined through virtual platforms. Online publishing platforms increase accessibility to research findings. However, challenges such as digital divides and ethical considerations arise. Generally speaking, information and communication technology (ICT) is a game-changer for the research environment because it opens up new doors for discovery, data management, and communication. However, it also raises concerns about accessibility and ethics.

Q9) What is Experimental research?

Ans) Experimental research is a scientific method used to investigate cause-and-effect relationships between variables. In an experiment, researchers manipulate an independent variable to observe its impact on a dependent variable while controlling for other factors. This controlled and systematic approach allows for the establishment of causal connections between variables. Experimental research often involves random assignment, ensuring participants are equally likely to be in different experimental conditions.

The experimental design enables researchers to draw conclusions about the influence of the independent variable on the dependent variable, contributing to the empirical understanding of phenomena across various disciplines, including psychology, medicine, and social sciences.

Q10) Discuss various sources of history.

Ans) Historical sources are diverse materials providing insights into past events. Primary sources include firsthand accounts like letters, diaries, and official documents. Secondary sources interpret primary materials, such as history books and articles. Archaeological artifacts, structures, and oral traditions are essential sources. Visual materials like paintings and photographs offer visual perspectives. Non-written sources encompass oral histories and traditions.

Digital archives and databases provide accessibility to historical records. A comprehensive view of history is derived from each type of source, and historians use a critical approach to evaluate the credibility of these sources and the context in which they were used. This helps to ensure that a nuanced interpretation of the past is achieved.

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