Positivism is one of the two main approach to sociology. Positivism assumes there exist objective sociological facts just as objective scientific fact, and employ systemic, objective method to discover these facts. Because of such assumptions, structural theories develop from this methodological approach.

Although often considered to be an approach opposite to interpretivism, such an division is often criticized for establishing an false dichotomy; normally the sociologists will conduct experiments using both methodological approach without taking sides.

Social facts

Quantitative research

Statistical data

See main article: Quantitative data

Key Sociologists

Auguste Comte

Emile Durkheim


1. Quantitative researchers fail to distinguish people and social institutions from 'the world of nature'. (Schutz (1962)) As Schutz argues, social scientists who employ a natural science model with treating the social world are turning a blind eye to the differences between the social and the natural world. More particularly, it means ignoring the riding roughshod over the fact that people interpret the world around them, whereas this capacity for self-reflection cannot be found among the objects of the natural sciences ('molecules, atoms and electrons')

2.The measurement process possesses an artificial and spurious sense of precision and accuracy.

3.The reliance on instruments and procedures hinders the connection between research and everyday life.

4.The analysis of relationships between variables creates a static view of social life that is independent of people's lives.

Key Studies

Durkheim's suicide study (1807)