The view above is supported by the positivist. They argued that sociologist should not be concerned with the internal meanings, motives, feelings and emotions of individuals which are the aspects looked from a participant observations method. Since these mental states exist only in the person’s consciousness, they cannot be observed and they cannot be measured in any objective ways. This shows that positivist supports the view above and provides a more suitable method for sociological research, quantitative method.
According to Auguste Comte, scientific study of the society should be done by collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified. By data, patterns can be found thus lead to explanation for sociological understanding. That is why they prefer the quantitative research method such as the questionnaires since it can covers wide group of society in short space of time and prevents researcher’s bias. Hence, their method has high objectivity and high representativeness rather than compared to qualitative method. This is evidence in Emile Durkheim in his suicide study by using the quantitative methods.
He conducted a study on suicide in European countries and he recorded them in a form of statistics. Some of the results he found are suicide rates were higher in predominantly Protestant countries than in Catholic ones and married people were more prone to suicide than those who were single. Hence we can see that through the use of quantitative methods, we can obtain useful information with high objectivity, reliability and representativeness. However being too objective in their methods, positivists are greatly criticized for the validity of their data.
This is exhibited by critics on Durkheim’s study by Steve Taylor with the view that suicide statistics cannot be taken at face value. In his study ‘Persons under trains’ of person who met their death hit by tube trains on London Underground, he found that over 12 month period, they were 32 cases with no strong clues as to reason for the death. It is impossible to say whether a suicide had taken place or not. 17 cases resulted in suicide verdict, 5 were classified as accidental deaths and remaining 10 produced open verdicts.
Thus we can see that the methods used by quantitative research methods are questionable because of being too objective in their study to produce useful information with high validity. Questionable because the statistics are not as objective as claimed. This will also make the quantitative method have less value. Close the paragraph with correct link to question. Interactionist supports the participant observation in producing useful sociological explanation. According to Max Weber explanation of social action necessitated an understanding of the meanings and motives that underlie the human behavior.
The sociologist must interpret the meaning given to actions by the actors themselves. According to them, people react, reflect on their own behavior, and have awareness and consciousness of their lives, and therefore explanation for the pattern of their lives can never be found using the cold objective approach of the scientist. Hence to obtain their data, the Interactionist prefers methods like participant observation since it can uncover the true motives of each action taken by human. This method has great validity. This is evident in Erving Goffman study of mental hospitals, published as Stigma in 1968.
Goffman worked in an asylum for the mentally ill as Assistant Athletic Director. His research was mainly covert, with only a couple of staff being privy to the knowledge of his research, and via this method he was able to uncover the ‘unofficial reality’ of life in a mental institution. Thus, this evidence contradicted the view above which proves that participant observation method is useful for sociological research. However, Interactionist methods are greatly criticized by the positivist. Positivist claims that this type of research method are lack of practicality and unethical.
For instance, in Nigel Fielding study of the National Front, covert participant observation has to be conducted due to the members’ hostility towards sociology. This is ethically incorrect. Similarly, Patrick 1973 had to keep his name secret as he feared for his personal safety when studying violent Glasgow gangs, as did William Chambliss  whilst studying organized crime in Seattle. Simply said, researcher put themself in a dangerous situation. This is unpractical for a researcher. Positivist also questioning the validity of an overt participant observation’s results due to Hawthorne effect.
For instance, a National Research Council initiated a set of experiments at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Plant in Cicero, Illinois in 1924, to study whether better lighting enhances workers’ productivity. The result is the workers’ productivity increases. However, the factor of the increasing productivity is being questioned since its possibility for Hawthorne effect to takes place; workers-knowing that they are being supervised for an experiment, maintain their productivity. Thus, participant observation has many disadvantages for its unethicality and impracticality.
Also, Hawthorne effect may takes place if participant observation is being conducted as a research method which then proves that the view above might be correct. Lack of ethical and less practical approach Lastly we will assess the approach of triangulation by Norman Denzin. Triangulation or methodological pluralism is the approach by some sociologist where they are willing to use a range of methods while at the same time refusing to have themselves simplistically pigeon-holed as belonging to one or other of the perspectives in sociology.
By combining the two methods, there will not be a too subjective or too objective issues taking place because they are balance at both side. According to Bryman, though it is not guaranteed that combining both quantitative and qualitative method can solve all research problems, he say it may provide a better understanding of a phenomenon than if one method had been used and thus offers great potential in many instances. In a study of the Unification Church, or Moonies, Eileen Barker used participant observation, questionnaires and in depth interviewing.
She claimed this combination methods allowed her to ‘see how the movement as a whole was organized and how it influenced the day-to-day actions and interactions of its member’. She tried to test hypotheses formulated from qualitative data using questionnaires. Hence here we can see that through triangulation, a better understanding of the whole situation. This is supported by a study done by Delmont. She used the Flanders Interaction Analysis Categories in her studies of classroom interaction.
These allowed her to categorize the different types of interaction and to time them in order to determine differences in the educational experience of the boys and girls. She used qualitative data to explain the reasons for the quantitative relationships she found. Thus it is combining the two methods can really give a more useful information in our study with better objectivity, representativeness, reliability and validity. Give more value to the study.