We Value Your Privacy

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.

Update Consent
Loading ...

Theoretical Principles of Sociology

Updated February 21, 2017

Sociology seeks to understand culture, group dynamics, socialisation, crime, collective behaviour social interaction and social change. Sociology is the study of relationships and how individuals relate to others. Interpersonal and indirect relationships are explored. Behaviours and their causes are evaluated. All evaluations in sociology relate the person to the society or group they are in, and this behaviour cannot be separated from the group of people.

Loading ...


Positivism is the application of scientific method to sociology. Sociologists grouped sociology in with other natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry; they looked for facts, not opinion, tradition or revelation. Positivists believe in the theory of cause and effect, and believe society and societal conditions dictates behaviour, such as a recession causing higher crime rates, not free will. Positivists distinguish between theories and what they observe. The only facts are those that can be directly observed. Here, knowledge is based on experience only. Research is done through structured interviews, surveys, experiments and observations.


Interpretivism criticises positivism, but still considers logic and scientific method for evaluating society; however, they consider natural and social sciences differently, and create separate evaluation methods. Interpretivism believes individuals purposely choose actions and they apply their own meaning to those actions. Society does not make people act in specific ways, but the people interpret social situations and choose their actions. For instance, instead of investigating the cause of crime, criminal behaviour is interpreted from the criminal's viewpoint. Research is more lenient and includes unstructured interviews and participant observation.


Realism agrees with positivism that sociology can be evaluated through the scientific method. The difference is that not all evidence is strictly observed. Realism understands the hidden aspects of individual and societal behaviours. Realism is driven by theory, not by observation, and there is no separation between theory and observation. Theories are created and data is gathered to support the theory. Data that supports the theory is always collected and theories are not tested against one another.


Interdependence illustrates and explores the relationship between an individual's immediate "world" and society as a whole. Interdependence evaluates the connection between these two types of actions; however, there is no "society as a whole." Each individual society, group and country is very different from others, so actions and reactions are not uniform across groups. Government, educational systems and the economy all depend on each other and individuals depend on all three.

Loading ...

About the Author

Rebekah Smith is a writer and editor from Montana and the owner of several businesses. Smith has consulted and worked with businesses in the fields of commercial greenhouses, ecommerce, technology and home improvement. She holds a Master of Business Administration and is working on a Ph.D. in business.

Loading ...