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Sociology and Values:
Values are: Personal beliefs about what is right and wrong
So for this question: Outline and explain two reasons why values may enter sociolog ical research.
Positivists such as Comte and Durkheim argue that sociologists should be objective and see sociology
as a science. They should not allow their values to influence their choice of research topic or method
and should seek to research phenomena which are clear and observable and can be measured and
classified and on the basis of this theories can be constructed and tested. Therefore they argue that
sociology should be value free. However not all sociologists agree with this approach, Weber argues
personal values will inevitably influence the selection of research topics as we can only decide what
is important to research by considering our own values. Values are essential in deciding what aspect
of society to study; they also allow us to develop concepts with which to understand our chosen
area of research. For example feminists value gender equality which leads them to study women’s
oppression. Values also enable feminists to develop the concepts such as patriarchy which helps
them to understand the oppression they observe or record in their research. For example Ann
Oakley’s choose to study housewives as she saw the family as a sight of oppression and her belief
that this oppression was fundamentally wrong led her study the creation and experience of the
housewife role in greater depth. The Interactionist scholar Becker takes the argument of values
influencing our choice of research topics even further and argues that sociologists should always
consider things from the perspective of ‘the underdog ‘ i.e. those who have a negative label and are
the least privileged in society, the value of highlight the plight of the unheard should always be
present in our choice of research.
While Weber argues that values will enter the choice of research topic he insists that they must not
influence the way gather our research by this he means that we should not design our research in a
way that will produce the results we want to hear, for example by asking leading questions, the
gathering of data should remain objective and value free. However values will enter the research
process again when it comes to interpreting the data as the information needs to be set in a
theoretical framework, for example are we interpreting what we’ve found from a feminist or
interactionist perspective? Weber argues that our choice of theoretical framework is influenced by
our values, and this is perfectly acceptable so long as the sociologist is open about this so that other
can see if there is an unconscious bias present in our interpretation of the data. In summary Weber
believes two ways in which values will enter sociological research is in the choice of research topic
and in the way in which the data gathered is interpreted. This is argues is both inevitable and
acceptable as longer as the researcher is open about their values and the influence they have.