Positivist and Interpretivist Approach

Positivist and Interpretivist Approach

Positivist and interpretivist approaches are diverse but significant approaches in the sociological study and research. Social science study has advanced numerous ways in which positivist and interpretive social disciplines have emanated with their specialties in the measurement, observation and understanding principle (Crotty, 1998). Each philosophy manages to expound on the human actions by using this perception. Both approaches are based on social science, but positivist social science is understood as being profoundly entrenched as the positivist theory generated interpretivist approach through development and firm ideals of the positivism theory.

Contrasts between Positivist and Interpretivist approach

Positivism is a system of modelling the legality of acquaintance as it is derived from experimental ratification. Positivism generally refers to natural science, and therefore, scientists suggest positivist approach to be a form of science. In contrast, interpretivism was created as an alternate of positivist approach to emphasize on the sympathetic prejudiced understanding as divergent to inflexible details or surveillance. The sole aim of the interpretive approach is to understand the human behaviour from a societal outlook and a specific perspective. An interpretivist approach emphasizes on conducting a broad exploration of text in the gaining a theoretical, deep perception.

Positivism has a preference on quantitative approaches such as social assessments, organized feedback form and certified figures since they are very reliable and portray the aspect of representativeness (Noordin & Masrek, 2016)The positivist approach uses quantitative procedures as they allow the scholar remain detached from the participants. The positivist approach emphasizes on significance of conducting a quantitative study such as large scale assessments to have a general idea of society all together and to discover social inclinations, such as the connection between learning achievements and social class. This kind of sociology is further intent in inclinations and patterns instead of persons. In contrast, Interpretivism aims at using the qualitative techniques such as amorphous discussions and observation of participants. Interpretivism have a preference on qualitative approaches which approve of the close contact with participants. According to Bryman (2016) interpretivist approach persons are sophisticated and intricate and diverse individuals that may encounter and comprehend the similar ‘impartial reality’ in incredibly diverse means. Human beings are perceived to portray their own, different motives for acting in the universe, and as a result, scientific systems are inappropriate.


Positivism and interpretivism are both significant theoretical attitudes in sociology. They portray a similar aspect of assisting in social assessment that evaluates human beings’ behaviour in society.  Both methods encompass the application of observations to tackle questions based on their research, define their information and create expressive opinions from the information (Walliman, 2015). Both approaches choose and utilize systematic methods intended to attain the utmost denotation from the information, and for the outcomes have effectiveness relating to the particular opinions of authenticity. Another similarity is that they both apply methods to confirm their information. For instance they include tenacious surveillance with constant and lengthy exploration of the research survey with considering explanations of the rivals.



Even though there are numerous comparisons and differences in both approaches, in addition to the merits and demerits, several researchers trust that interpretivist method is only better in instances where the technique used in the analysis is narrowly linked to the topic or the subject matter of the study. The positivist approach believes that the community and the conduct of human beings may be reviewed through scientific approaches. Conversely, interpretivist approach indicates that human conduct can only be researched through the use of qualitative and non-scientific techniques. Furthermore, even though positivists consider human conduct can be expounded by social standards, interpretivist approach indicates that an explanation on human beings’ behaviour cannot be conducted using social norms as humans are considered as complex beings.




Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. Oxford university press.

Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. Sage.

Della Porta, D., & Keating, M. (Eds.). (2008). Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences: A pluralist perspective. Cambridge University Press.

Walliman, N. (2015). Social research methods: The essentials. Sage.

Noordin, S. A., & Masrek, M. N. (2016). Adopting the quantitative and qualitative methods in the social science research: Justifying the underpinning philosophical orientation. In Proceeding of the 28th International Business & Information Management Association (IBIMA) Conference Seville, Spain, 9-10 November 2016.

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