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Sociology: People


Dr Plamena Panayotova

Dr Plamena Panayotova
Dr Plamena Panayotova
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
History of science, history of statistics, methodology in the social sciences, Quantitative Methods in Social Research, Education, Social statistics


PhD Sociology, The University of Edinburgh

MSc Sociology (with Distinction), The University of Edinburgh

MA Hons Sociology and Psychology (First Class), 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 and since then have improved my statistical skills through teaching and research. 

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.

My PhD thesis was supervised by Professor John MacInnes and focussed on the historical relationship between British sociology and statistics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It showed that the relationship between sociology and statistics in Britain has been been subject to very little change over many years and that it has been distinguished by a negative obsession with statistics on the part of British sociologists who have made consistent efforts to try to prove statistics unsuitable for sociological research and excuse themselves from using it. The study emphasised that the relationship between statistics and sociology in Britain has not been determined on the basis of pragmatic concerns but on the basis of uninformed preferences and deficiency in statistical knowledge. It also showed that the divide that has existed between sociology and statistics was not inevitable but was the product of a particular set of circumstances and a particular set of choices made both within and without British academic sociology. The aim of the doctoral research was to bring to the fore the interplay of these factors and show that the relationship between sociology and statistics ought to be an area of growing concern to British sociologists since it is not merely about British sociology’s methodological choices but about its relationship with the very thing that made possible both it and the society it studies – modern science.

My broader interests include the history of natural and social science; particularly the history of statistics and quantification, and the popularisation of science and its social role. 


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

ESRC 1+3 Doctoral Scholarship, 2014-2018

Colin Bell Prize for Best Sociology Dissertation, 2014

Conferences and Academic Events

Between April 2017 and April 2018, I organised a unique two-day conference on the history of British sociology, which was held in Edinburgh on 16th-17th April 2018. The conference covered a variety of historical themes from the Scottish Enlightenment to the present and brought together distinguished scholars from the UK, USA and France in a range of fields, including sociology, history and statistics.

Conference poster


I have presented at the following conferences and academic events:

Royal Statistical Society Annual Conference 3rd - 6th September 2018, Cardiff, Wales: What can we learn about the teaching of statistics from the historical relationship between sociology and statistics in Britain?

British Sociological Association Annual Conference, April 2018: What Impact did the Methodological Debates of the 70s have on British Sociology? The revelation of the Peel (1968) and Wakeford (1979) Reports

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

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

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

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


Tutor: Doing Survey Research 2018-19

Tutor: Introduction to Statistics for Social Science 2018-19

Tutor: Sociology 1A 2016-17

Tutor: Statistical Literacy 2015-16

Tutor and Lecturer: Statistical Literacy 2016-17, Statistical Literacy 2017-18, Statistical Literacy 2018-19, Data Literacy, 2019-20


Panayotova, P. Forthcoming. ‘Karl Pearson’. In Atkinson, P. and Delamont, S., Sage Research Methods Foundations-An Encyclopaedia. London: Sage.

Panayotova, P. 2019. ‘Beyond Drink, Drainage and Divorce? What the Sociological Society did for British Sociology’, The Sociological Review [Available online]

Panayotova, P. 2019. ‘Realities and perceptions of methodological teaching and debates in post-war British sociology: new evidence from Peel (1968) and Wakeford (1979)’, Sociology 53(5): 826-842.

Panayotova, P. (ed.). 2019. The History of Sociology in Britain: New Research and Revaluation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Panayotova, P. 2019. The Teaching of Research Methods in British Sociology in the Twentieth Century’. In Panayotova, P. (ed.) The History of Sociology in Britain: New Research and Revaluation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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