Conflict Theory and Research


The theory of conflict has deep origins in the perspective of sociology, especially in regards to power differentials in the levels of society, known as class conflict. Through history, this power struggle has been evident in major events through clashes of competing social interests, and has often taken many forms. The method by which this particular topic can be researched, and its implications, are discussed herein.

Conflict Theory and Class Conflict

As society continually progresses, the conflict theory illustrates such changes in terms of society responding to the power exerted over them. In the past, class conflict could be seen during the Industrial Revolution and the rise of socialism, when society found ways to rebel against authority and think for themselves. However, in current times, much of society seems to fight through aversion; mainly in regards to government legislations and the tax system. Such class conflict has had mixed results, as it is more difficult to discern what is more ethical and less lawful.

Though there are many examples of conflict theory that can be seen through historic events, the power struggle between levels of society, notably between the class of society in power, and the class of society struggling for power, is an ongoing struggle that ends in the most relentless class of society, which ultimately becomes the most dominant. Although the power clashes within society often make society what it is, it can also cause the destruction of certain social classes and the rebellion of others.

For conflict theory to be researched rigorously, there are certain methods that can be utilized. Each research approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, but one is clearly more useful in regards to the discussion of conflict theory and class conflict. The impacts of such class conflict can be researched by one of two methods.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

For the purposes of conflict theory and its impact on society, either a quantitative or qualitative approach can be taken. The former relies on statistical evidence and reliable claims; whereas the latter emphasizes direct observation or textual analysis, subjectivity being preferred over generalization.

Qualitative is the preferred research method concerning conflict theory, in that it is analysed according to the context of the society which met with conflict, and is not strictly objective about facts and figures. The differences between the types of research methods are quite distinct, and a qualitative approach can be seen as the best research method in this context of conflict theory.

There are certain guidelines for good research, such that should be considered when discussing such a topic. Firstly, research should not be undertaken with preconceived ideas or failure to recognize contrary evidence. Secondly, differences in viewpoints should be identified and considered early in research, in order that it is not overlooked later. Thirdly, observation is key when undertaking thorough research into important topics, and should not be taken lightly.

Fourthly, identical analyses for differing points of view should be analyzed for important details, especially when making clear distinctions. Fifthly, change should be undertaken when needed, even if it shows a viewpoint which is not readily acceptable. Sixthly, the impact of research findings should be highlighted clearly. Lastly, the method which is utilized during research should be applied within the context of the research itself, and not apart from it.

Society often adapts to power struggles inherent within itself; and this is seen through the implications of action taken and the environmental changes surrounding them (Speakman and Ryals, 2010). Research methods indicate that observing such conflict and drawing implications from them is the key to understanding it. Unlike quantitative, which requires tangible proof of resistance, a qualitative approach seeks to explore such issues in the interests of both classes and their struggle for power. It clearly shows the power imbalances without any bias or conclusive partiality.

Despite the differences between the research methods, it can be clearly seen that a quantitative approach tends to take a scientific viewpoint; and the qualitative approach takes a sociological perspective. The latter is instrumental in achieving a thorough analysis into the behavioural aspects of society, and the former details the major factors of data and draws conclusions from such findings (Woolley, 2008). Nevertheless, for conflict theory to be analysed using an approach that takes into consideration the sociological implication of class conflict, a qualitative approach is most appropriate.


In summary, the qualitative approach is suitable for analyzing and noting the implications of conflict theory, especially in terms of class conflict. Such a sociological research method allows the researcher to subjectively observe the power struggles of any historical and social event, analyse the impact of it on society and the surrounding environment, and take note of the implications of conflict in a contextual manner.


Speakman, J. and Ryals, L. (2010). A Re-Evaluation of Conflict Theory for the Management of Multiple, Simultaneous Conflict Episodes. International Journal of Conflict Management, 21(2), 186 – 201.

Woolley, C. (2008). Meeting the Mixed Methods Challenge of Integration in a Sociological Study of Structure and Agency. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 3(1), 7-25.