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Social Research: Issues and Debates

3. Values

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In this lecture, we think about the role of values in research, focusing in particular on: (i) Max Weber’s argument that sociology should be value-free – researchers can select their topics based on their personal commitments but must not allow them to influence the conduct or analysis of research; (ii) critiques of Weber’s position offered by Alvin Gouldner and Howard Becker; (iii) critical research, which has an explicit value-position that the purpose of sociology is to expose inequalities and power structures; (iv) debates around the relationship between values and objectivity – if researchers allow personal values to influence their work, does that mean that they cannot be objective?


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.


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 - Values [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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

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