Sociological Definition of Knowledge, methodology and sociological research methods

The relationship of sociological thoughts regarding the definition of knowledge, sociological methodology and sociological research methods


The sociologists study societies and create knowledge about societies and groups how they behave and why they behave in that way in different context. However, the definition of true knowledge differs because of their belief of what is true knowledge and knowledge creation in the social sciences. However, sociological knowledge is superior to common sense knowledge about society because they need a greater level of proof and credible evidence. In this article, I will discuss the definition of true knowledge in different paradigms of what is social science knowledge and definition of Social Science applying positivist, interpretive, realist and feminist approaches. As well, how it is related to social science methodologies and social science research methods.

Definition of Ontology, Epistemology and methodology

Definition of Ontology

In sociological terms ontology refers to the fundamental beliefs individuals holds or as a society about the nature of something. That is, it relates to the belief of a researcher whether it is possible to predict social behavior in the same way it is possible to predict in the natural world. As well, ontology relates to a researchers belief whether society is a living thing or not and the degree of social structures as opposed to individual social actors in shaping social behavior. These ontological questions and the answers will shape the way we believe it is possible and desirable to study the social world.

Definition of Epistemology

Epistemology refers to the types and levels of proofs. In Sociological Knowledge higher level of proofs are necessary to accept something is true. The proofs can be based on trust, faith, personal experience, logic and empirical evidence.

Definition of sociological methodology

Sociological methodology refers to the methods adopted to gain plausible knowledge about the social world. It also defines what reliable and valid knowledge is. In this context, reliability means whether it is consistent, representative of sample of a population and whether it can be replicated. Validity refers in sociological methodology; the extent of the measurement and whether it is an accurate measure of what is studied. If sociological knowledge is plausible then the sociological methodology must be reliable and valid.

That is ontology will determine the epistemology and epistemology will determine the methodology and the methodology will determine the research methods or the data collection methods. It can be seen from the above discussion that all these sociological concepts are interrelated. All these four factors can create different ideas about how to study the social world scientifically and can create varieties of social science.

Major approaches to social science

The social sciences can be approached using approaches such as positivism, interpretive methodology, realism and feminist methodology. All these approaches have different ontology, epistemology and social science methodology which arises from their ontology and epistemology. The social science methodology will then determine the way the data is collected and analyzed or the methods of research.

Positivist Social science

The positivist social science approach was due to early 19th century sociologist Auguste Comte and to lesser extent Emil Durkheim. The key idea of positivist sociology is that the social world is governed by laws just like in natural sciences. There fore, the task of sociologist is to discover the laws of behavior of people for example in a given context. As well, they believe there are laws in the social world just like in natural world or in the physical sciences like gravity, which is independent of human beings. That is the social world can only be studied by systematic observation, rigorous experimentation and repeated testing.