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Sociology   >   Social Research: Issues and Debates


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Social Research: Issues and Debates

In this course, Professor Tim May (University of Sheffield) explores several important issues in social research, and the debates which surround them. In the first lecture, we consider key perspectives on epistemology – is it possible for research to uncover objective truths about society, and, if so, how? In the second lecture, we look at the place of theory in research through two contrasting approaches – the hypothetico-deductive model and grounded theory. In the third lecture, we think about the role of values in research, examining Max Weber’s concept of value-free sociology and its critics. Next, we reflect upon ethics and the ways in which constraints of funding, time and resources influence the research process. In the fifth and final lecture, we explore some things to consider when presenting research, and ways in which researchers can make their presentations participatory and engaging.


In this lecture, we think about epistemology and whether it is possible to know objective truths about society, focusing in particular on: (i) positivism, which argues that there are universal truths, and that these can be known through scientific testing; (ii) relativism, which denies the existence of truths independent of context and people’s subjective perspectives; (iii) realism, which recognises objective truths exist but says that subjective interpretations are also significant; (iv) feminist standpoint epistemology, which argues that people’s access to truth is shaped by their social position, and particularly that marginalised groups have a more objective view of societies’ failings.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

May, T. (2022, January 26). Social Research: Issues and Debates - Epistemology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, T. "Social Research: Issues and Debates – Epistemology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Jan 2022,

Image Credits


Prof.  Tim May

Prof. Tim May

Cardiff University