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Objectivity in Social Research

1. What is Objectivity?

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the concept of objectivity as it developed in the social sciences during the twentieth century. In particular, we focus on: (i) the idea of objectivity in the early twentieth century as a commitment to documenting the world as it really is, not how people think it should be; (ii) the emergence of criticisms of this notion of objectivity in the 1960s; (iii) some central questions associated with objectivity in sociology; (iv) some key perspectives on what objectivity means and its role in social research.


In this course, Professor Martyn Hammersley (The Open University) explores the concept of objectivity within sociology and social research. In the first module, we think about the development of the concept from the early twentieth century and some key questions associated with it. In the second, we examine Max Weber’s notion of value freedom, before looking in the third at the objectivist version of objectivity as the adoption of standardised, replicable research methods. In the fourth and fifth modules, we consider Alvin Gouldner’s critique of value freedom and his idea of objective partisanship, and standpoint epistemology through Sandra Harding’s work on strong objectivity. In the final two modules, we explore arguments that reject objectivity in its entirety, before concluding with a summary of key debates.


Professor Martyn Hammersley is Emeritus Professor of Educational and Social Research at the Open University. His work focuses on issues in sociological research methods, particularly relating to objectivity and bias. His recent publications include The Concept of Culture: A History and Reappraisal (2019), The Radicalism of Ethnomethodology: An Assessment of Sources and Principles (2018) and The Limits of Social Science: Causal Explanation and Value Relevance (2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hammersley, M. (2021, August 24). Objectivity in Social Research - What is Objectivity? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hammersley, Martyn. "Objectivity in Social Research – What is Objectivity?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Aug 2021,

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