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Positivism and Interpretivism in Social Research

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor William Outhwaite (Newcastle University) explores the positivist and interpretivist approaches to social research. In the first module, we provide an introduction to positivism, before turning in the second module to some of its criticisms. In the third module, we explore the emergence of interpretivism, thinking first about its combination with positivism in the work of Max Weber (1864-1920), before turning in the fourth module to the polarisation of positivism and interpretivism from about 1920 onwards. In the following two modules, we explore two more interpretivist approaches – ethnomethodology and hermeneutics – before turning in the seventh and final module to consider how the social researcher should negotiate all these different approaches. To what extent are they compatible? Are some 'better' than others?

About the Lecturer

William Outhwaite is Emeritus Professor is the Department of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University. His research focuses on social theory and the philosophy of social science, and some of his recent publications include Social Theory (2015), Europe Since 1989 (2016), Contemporary Europe (2017) and Transregional Europe (2020), an edited book on Brexit (2017) and (co-edited with Stephen P. Turner) The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology (2018).

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