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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Plamena Panayotova

Plamena Panayotova
Plamena Panayotova
Sociology School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
History of science, history of social science, history of statistics, methodology in the social sciences, Quantitative Methods in Social Research, Education

PhD Title

British Sociology and Statistics


MA Hons Sociology and Psychology (First Class), The University of Edinburgh

MSc Sociology (with Distinction), The University of Edinburgh


I was born and brought up in Haskovo, a small town in southern Bulgaria. I was educated there at a foreign language school and at City and Islington Sixth-Form College, London, England.

In 2010, I took up my university education at the University of Edinburgh, studying for a combined degree in sociology and psychology. I also took courses in philosophy, philosophy of science, statistics, German language and social anthropology. Although not taught as part of the formal curriculum, I found myself developing an intense interest in the history of sociology.

I got my initial training in statistics in psychology; however, what interested me more was the application of this method in the social sciences. In my undergraduate dissertation in sociology I studied the role of statistics in the development of a particular concept of ‘society’ in the work of Adolphe Quetelet, Emile Durkheim and Francis Galton in the nineteenth century. This research impressed upon me the value of evidence, particularly statistical evidence, in sociological research and also, the value of the historical approach to understanding what sociology is and the processes that have led us to where we are today as intellectuals and as sociologists.

I graduated with a first class honours degree in 2014. The experience of researching and writing my undergraduate dissertation motivated me to apply for a scholarship for a PhD in order to pursue in detail the questions that my dissertation had raised in my mind.

Research interests

My wider interests include the history of the natural and the social sciences in general and their mutual influence and interaction. I study the social history of Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the beginnings of both natural and social sciences as we know them today in the nineteenth century. I primarily focus on sociology and statistics, but also do research on the rise of modern economics, biology, geology and eugenics (genetics).

PhD Overview: British Sociology and Statistics

The focus of my research is the relationship between British sociology and statistical methods, as it developed throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It examines the question: why sociology in the UK has never succeeded in establishing a firm, enduring relationship with statistical methods, given that statistical methods would appear to offer the prospect of enhancing many areas of sociological research and potentially add a kind of ‘scientific’ respectability that sociology has often been accused of lacking. By firm relationship, I mean the free and full use of statistical methods by sociologists where they are likely to prove useful and have the potential for enhancing the study being undertaken.

My thesis discusses why a statistically based sociology failed to emerge in the late nineteenth century from the social statistical inquiries conducted within the Royal Statistical Society. Next, it discusses Britain’s first Sociological Society (1903-1907) to investigate why the Society failed to embrace statistical methods. The focus of the next, interwar, period is on the efforts of professional sociologists to establish sociology as a discipline and on what role, if any, statistical methods played in these efforts. Discussion on the post-war period examines what effects the expansion of institutional and funding opportunities, and the spread of epistemological debates on methods, had on the assimilation of statistical methods into sociology.

My thesis aims to show that British sociology’s fraught relationship with statistics, and probabilistic thinking in general, has something very important to tell us about sociology’s association with the sciences as a whole, about the culture in which it emerged and about its concept of society.

My PhD supervisors are Professor John MacInnes and Dr Jan Eichhorn.


ESRC 1+3 Scholarship, 2014

Colin Bell Prize for Best Sociology Dissertation, 2014

Best Presentation, Q-Step Postgraduate Inaugural Event, Cardiff, October 2015

Conferences and Academic Events

Annual New Directions Conference 2015: British Sociology and Statistics: four challenges.

Q-Step Postgraduate Inaugural Event, Cardiff, October 2015: An Historical Overview of the Relationship Between Sociology and Statistics in the UK, 1830s-1980s

Work in Progress Seminar: Statistics, social science and sociology in the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) and in the London Statistical Society (1830s-1890s)

Edinburgh Q-step Seminar, November 2015: Statistics and social science in the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) and
 the London Statistical Society, 1830s-1890s

British Sociological Association Annual Conference, April 2017: British Sociology and Statistics – Historical divides

Annual New Directions Conference 2017: British Sociology and Statistics – Historical divides

Edinburgh Q-step Seminar, June 2017: Sociology and Statistics in Britain, 1903-1979


Tutor: Statistical Literacy, 2015-16

Tutor and lecturer: Statistical Literacy 2016-17

Tutor: Sociology 1A, 2016-17


Panayotova, P. 2015. American Sociology: From Pre-Disciplinary to Post-Normal, by Stephen Turner. Reviewed in The Sociological Review, 63(1):188-191.