Philosophical Foundations of Social Research Methods

Philosophical Foundations of Social Research Methods

  • Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

Philosophical considerations and positions underlie all of the natural and social sciences. In the latter case philosophical foundations and their emergent issues have a profound impact on methodology and empirical practice. Design decisions will usually depend on philosophical perspectives or assumptions, such as the very fundamental decision to employ a quantitative design or an interpretive design. The ‘philosophy of social research’ is thus a subset of the philosophy of social science, but also an important subject area that spans methodology and method.

The articles making up this timely collection are the best exemplars of key positions in a very wide disciplinary field. The selection is designed to begin each section with an ‘entry level’ article to introduce the reader to the topic area and to ground the approach a research problem. Topics covered include science and art in the history of social research, positivism and antipositivism, language and the linguistic turn, realism and anti-realism, theory and theory choice, logic and models, prediction and laws, interpretation, probability and complexity.

With the study of the philosophical foundations of methods and methodology gaining increasing priority in university courses, this will be a valuable resource for academics and researchers across the social sciences.

Editors' Introduction


The Place of Philosophy in Social Research

Philosophical considerations and positions underlie all of natural and social science, but in the latter case philosophical foundations and the emergent methodological issues have had a profound influence on empirical practice. Natural scientists have often exhibited indifference or disdain toward their more philosophically inclined colleagues, but in social science the division of labour between philosopher and social scientist is much more blurred. However, not all social science is philosophically informed and much of day to day empirical social science, broadly described as social research, is no more philosophically sensitive than its natural science equivalent. Ye t philosophical issues lie just under the surface. Good research practice, manifested in the methodological goals of validity, reliability, reflexivity etc., is ...

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