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Social Research: Issues and Debates

2. Theory and Research

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In this module, we think about the place of theory in the research process, focusing on: (i) two contrasting approaches – the hypothetico-deductive model, in which the researcher begins with a hypothesis which the research either confirms or disconfirms, and grounded theory, wherein the researcher begins without preconceptions and formulates their theory later through what they learn; (ii) two important contributions to the deductive approach – Karl Popper’s model of falsification as the main purpose of research, and Thomas Kuhn’s notion of paradigms; (iii) Ways of unifying these two approaches, such as Robert Merton’s concept of middle-range theory and realist abduction.


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 module, we consider key perspectives on epistemology – is it possible for research to uncover objective truths about society, and, if so, how? The second looks at the place of theory in research through two contrasting approaches – the hypothetico-deductive model and grounded theory – and the third module thinks about the role of values in research, examining Max Weber’s concept of value-free sociology and its critics. In the fourth module, we reflect upon ethics and the ways in which constraints of funding, time and resources influence the research process. The final module suggests some things to consider when presenting research, and ways in which researchers can make their presentations participatory and engaging.


Professor Tim May is a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield. He has a wide range of expertise relating to research methodologies, sociological theory, and the philosophy of social science. His recent publications include Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2021, co-authored with Beth Perry), Thinking Sociologically (2019, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman), Reflexivity: The Essential Guide (2017, co-authored with Beth Perry).

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APA style

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

MLA style

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

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