Outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10)

How to score 10/10!

This 10 mark (no item) question could appear at the end of either paper 1, or paper 3.

In this post I consider a ‘top band’ answer (both are provided by the AQA here) which achieved 10/10.

NB – If you would like to attempt this question BEFORE looking at the full mark response below, then you can review the topic first by clicking here >>> ‘Is sociology a science?‘.

The Question (no item!)

‘Outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science’ (10)

The Mark Scheme:


Note: there are no marks for evaluation on the 10 mark no item questions (there are for the ‘analyse with the item’ 10 mark questions!)

Student Response:

Highlighted to show the different stages of development

Interpretivism is the view that sociology is not a science. Interpretivists argue that, because humans think and reflect, scientific methods are inappropriate as they do not allow us to truly understand and dig beneath the surface of behaviours and actions. Unlike objects, which can be analysed using scientific methods, Interpretivists argue that human beings change their behaviour if they know they are being observed, called the Hawthorne Effect, therefore if we want to understand social action, we have to delve into meanings using qualitative, unscientific methods. Interpretivists are subjective, meaning science is not appropriate for sociology in their opinion as it gives objective results and data. Interpretivists argue that the purpose of sociology is to understand human behaviour, no quantify it using scientific methods, therefore it cannot possibly be a science.

Kuhn stated that science is paradigmatic, meaning there is a fixed set of rules and principles which science uses. It is like a set of norms and values and is accepted by all scientists. Therefore, according to Kuhn, sociology is pre-paradigmatic and hasn’t reached the stage where there is a general paradigm shared by most social scientists. This is seen by the fact that sociology has a range of views and theoretical perspectives and there is no agreed set of norms and values. Feminists will always disagree with functionalists. Sociological perspectives may also have internal disagreements such as Merton’s criticism of other functionalists. Those who criticise Kuhn, however, would question whether science itself has a paradigm. Many sciences exist with different sets of paradigms such as psychology

Examiner Commentary: (10/10 marks)


KT’s Commentary

If you’re freaked out by the above response, don’t be: if this wasn’t written by an examiner, it’s written by an outstanding candidate.

Students typically find this topic one of the most difficult, and most answers will come NO WHERE NEAR this standard.

Technically, I don’t think the last sentence should get any marks, because it is not focused on the actual question.


AQA 2015

Student responses with examiner
7191 AND 7192

Reproduced here for educational purposes!




4 thoughts on “Outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10)”

  1. I agree with you. But this is straight from the AQA who say it got full marks.

  2. This is the most basic answer I’ve ever seen. This would not get 10/10 but a mere 5 or 6. The student introduces many new statements but fails to explain them which would overall back and strengthen the argument. For example in the second paragraph the student wrote “feminists will always disagree with functionalists”. Yes this is true but how? Even though the examiner might know the answer and will understand, we’re taught to write in a sense that the examiner knows nothing and that we should explain each point and not simply state facts.

    And to answer the question above, yes popper does agree with Kuhn but they both have their own different ideas as to how sociology isn’t a science. Popper talked about the idea of falsification and Kuhn talks about paradigms and how science can be seen as a social construction

  3. Hi – You officially win the ‘best question of the year so far’ award….

    Basically, he would say certain aspects of sociology are not scientific because they rest on ‘unfalsifiable theories’ – e.g. Marx’s theory that we have not yet reached communism because of false consciousness (you can’t really prove this right or wrong because of the difficulties of measuring false consciousness).

    However, more middle range questions such as ‘the introduction of Sure Start led to an increase in equality of opportunity’ can be studied scientifically because the concepts are measurable and thus this is a provable question/ ‘hypothesis’.

  4. Sorry to ask, but does Karl Popper agree with Kuhn that Sociology is not a science?
    Thank you.

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