What Is the Positivist Approach?

According to the City University of New York at Baruch College, the positivist approach involves the implementation of the scientific method to investigate social issues. The positivist approach is popular in the social sciences, as it allows researchers to assess results without personal value judgments. Research methods that involve the use of quantitative data are popular among researchers who align to a positivist approach.

The positivist approach requires the use of the scientific method. A researcher makes an observation about a social behavior or condition, constructs a hypothesis as to the reason or outcome of the observation, tests the hypothesis and then analyzes the results. Positivists believe that this method removes researcher bias and provides legitimate causality for the research study. Experimental designs are an important part of positivist study, as it creates controls to remove further bias from the results. The analysis of results takes the form of data analysis in which researchers employ statistics to derive succinct answers of causality or correlation.

Some researchers prefer a combination of quantitative and qualitative research for a post-positivist approach. This assumes that social research is value-laden, and a mix of methodologies creates a more holistic picture of research results to solve complex social problems.