empirical sociologyany form of sociology which places emphasis on the collection and analysis of data. However, more specifically the term refers to forms of sociology using SOCIAL SURVEYS or carefully documented PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION.
Sociology of this latter type has represented a major strand within the discipline as a whole, especially within US sociology (e.g. empirical studies of SOCIAL STRATIFICATION, CLASS, VOTING BEHAVIOUR). This general approach to sociology has sometimes been criticized as failing to explore important questions of theory (see ABSTRACTED EMPIRICISM), or, in the case of questionnaire-based and statistical research, as involving MEASUREMENT BY FIAT (see ETHNOMETHODOLOGY, OFFICIAL STATISTICS). However, these charges can be countered as far too sweeping, by pointing to the existence of much empirical sociology in which significant theoretical hypotheses are explored (see EMPIRICISM, LAZARSFELD, THEORIES OF THE MIDDLE RANGE).