Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises


Columbia School (of Sociology)

core definition

The Columbia School of Sociology was a leading sociology department in the inter war years, located at Columbia University in the United States; it is associated with quantitative analysis of sociological issues.

explanatory context


analytical review

Wiley (2006, p. 26) states :

The Columbia department, called a ‘social science’ department until 1941, was established in 1904 and its founder was F.H. Giddings. Whereas the Chicago department was kindred to pragmatism and the closely related German historicism, Columbia was closer to positivism and British empiricism. Much as Chicago centered its methods on cultural interpretation and the case study, Columbia centered its style on the causal model of physical science and the statistical study. In addition the Columbia approach was more sympathetic to biogenic explanations of human behavior, which Giddings managed to combine with the statistical method. I should add that after 1927, when Giddings retired, the Columbia department, now under Robert McIver, reduced its emphasis on statistics, became even more qualitative than Chicago, and also dropped the sympathy for biogenic explanations. And after 1950, under Merton, it became a bastion of another qualitative theory, that of functionalism. So the Columbia I am talking about came to an abrupt end in 1927. Subsequent incarnations of that department became much more culture-oriented in theory, liberal in politics and diversified in method.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Chicago School of Sociology


Wiley, N., 2006 ‘Peirce and the founding of American sociology’, Journal of Classical Sociology, 6(1), pp. 25–50, available at, accessed 3 June 2013, still available 26 November 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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