“A systematised body of knowledge” is what science is. The fact that scientific knowledge is built on “sensory observation or empirical data” is one of its most important features. Next, the knowledge gathered through sensory observation was given meaning and made easier to use. So, science tries to come up with “law-like explanations of general truths.” A “method” is used in science to collect real-world data and turn it into claims that sound like laws. These are the main parts of the scientific method:
• Looking at something that makes you think.
• Defining or grouping the terms or events that are being thought about.
• Coming up with the question or hypothesis for the study.
• Coming up with a theory or proposition, which is a broad statement that could be an answer to the study question.
• Making a research plan to find out if the idea or hypothesis is true.
• Collecting data and making observations based on the study design.
• Looking at the facts
• Coming to conclusions and judging how well the idea works
The physical and scientific sciences were the first to grow. Because of how well they studied the physical and natural world and how close they got to universal rules, they became models for other sciences to follow.
The physical and natural sciences try to use facts that can be measured and counted. Quantification adds accuracy and makes it possible to make exact comparisons. Sociology, which came later, was also affected by and built on these positive studies. The first sociologists thought that Sociology was a good study. For example, Herbert Spencer, who was interested in biology, thought of society as a living thing, like a creature, with parts that all fit together. He thought that tools from the hard sciences should be used to study social phenomena.
Sociology is a good study, even in the eyes of Durkheim. He said that Sociology is about facts about people and society. He came up with a way to describe social facts so that they could be seen with the senses and positive science methods could be used to find out more about them. After that, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski, and even Parsons still saw Sociology as a positive study, as did most of the Chicago School sociologists.
“The scientific method is a methodical and objective way to look at a problem in order to find general rules.” Robert Burns says it is “a methodical look into a problem to find a solution.” The study is based on information that has already been gathered. Man’s knowledge grows when he looks at what is already known and changes what he knows based on what he learns now.
• When we talk about research, we sometimes talk about empirical (scientific) research and sometimes we talk about library research, history research, social research, etc. For empirical study, you have to look at facts or talk to people. Research in a library is done in a library. Historical research is the study of history, such as how the caste system worked at different times in history, or personal research, such as studying Mahatma Gandhi’s life and times. Social research is the study of groups of people or the ways that people connect with each other. Scientific study is the gathering of facts that can be checked through experience. The word “verifiable” means “something that can be checked by others to see if it is true.”
• Royce A. Singleton and Bruce C. Straits have said that “scientific social research is the process of coming up with questions about the social world and looking for answers to those questions.” How come, for example, men beat their wives? Why do people try to get high? What are the effects of a huge increase in the number of people? …et cetera. In the same way, the questions of inquiry could be about poverty in rural areas, slums in cities, crime among young people, government corruption, taking advantage of the weak, environmental pollution, and so on. Social scientists have come up with basic rules, principles, and methods to solve these questions. In a broad sense, scientific sociological research is about finding, organising, and making reliable knowledge about society or social life, social action, social behaviour, social relations, social groups (like families, castes, tribes, communities, etc.), social organisations (like social, religious, political, business, etc.), and social systems and social structures.
• Theodorson and Theodorson have said that the scientific process is “building a body of scientific knowledge through observation, experimentation, generalisation, and verification.” Their argument is that scientific inquiry leads to knowledge that can be experienced with the senses, or knowledge that is based on empirical proof. Manheim says that scientific study is based on a method that is objective, accurate, and organised. Objectivity means that there are no personal preferences in gathering and interpreting facts. Accuracy means that things are exactly as stated. Systematisation tries to make things consistent and easy to understand.
• The idea is that any statement about a social phenomenon that is based on scientific research and can be tested in the real world can be taken as true and meaningful. So, people’s unique observations that not all experts agree with are not seen as “scientific facts.” For example, the claim that “skilled workers are less disciplined than non-skilled workers” is not supported by evidence, so it is not a “scientific fact.” But if someone says, “The most important cause of a child’s bad behaviour is a disorganised family,” people will take that as a scientific fact because it has been proven true in a number of studies. “About whom” the facts will be gathered in a scientific investigation depends on the researcher’s “focus of the discipline.” If the researcher is a sociologist, he or she will gather information about the social world or social phenomena.
• Even though the scientific study method is based on gathering facts, facts by themselves do not make a science. For facts to make sense, they need to be put in some kind of order, studied, generalised, and linked to other facts. So, building theories is an important part of scientific study. Since the facts gathered and discoveries made through the scientific method are linked to the facts and discoveries made by other scholars or theories from the past, scientific knowledge is built up over time.
• Either the inductive method or the logical method could be used in the scientific method. The inductive method is used to build generalisations from specific facts or to find general principles from specific examples. The deductive method, on the other hand, is used to test generalisations. This is done by reasoning from general principles to specific examples.
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Characteristics of Scientific Research
Horton and Hunt have said that the scientific process has the following traits:
1. Verifiable proof, or facts that can be seen and checked by other people.
2. Accuracy, or telling the truth about how things are. It means that a statement is true or right, or that you describe things exactly as they are and don’t jump to unjustified conclusions by exaggerating or making things up.
3. Precision means to make something as exact as possible or to give an exact number or figure. Instead of saying “I talked to a lot of people,” people say “I talked to 493 people.” Instead of saying “most people were against family planning,” one could say “72% of people were against family planning.” So, if you want to be precise in science, you should avoid colourful language and ambiguous ideas. How precise you need to be in social science depends on what you are trying to do.
4. Systematisation means trying to find all the relevant information or collecting information in a planned and organised way so that the findings can be trusted. Most of the time, data based on vague memories are incomplete and can’t be used to make good decisions or draw accurate conclusions.
5. Objectivity, which means not having any biases or hidden agendas. It means that the observer’s values, beliefs, and preferences don’t get in the way of observation as much as possible, and he can see and accept things as they are, not as he would like them to be. The researcher keeps his feelings, prejudices, and needs in check and keeps his biases safe.
6. Recording, which means writing down as many facts as possible as soon as possible. Since people’s memories can be wrong, all information is written down. Researchers won’t rely on what people remember, but instead will look at the recorded data to figure out what’s going on. You can’t trust conclusions based on information you remember but didn’t write down.
7. Controlling conditions, which means controlling everything but one variable and then trying to see what happens when you change that one variable. This is the most basic way to do a science experiment: let one variable change while keeping all the others the same. If we don’t control all but one of the factors, we can’t be sure which one caused the results. Even though a physical scientist can control as many variables as he wants in a lab experiment, a social scientist can’t control as many variables as he wants. He has to work with many limits.
8. Training investigators means giving them the information they need to know what to look for, how to read it, and how to avoid getting wrong information. When scientists hear about interesting observations, they first try to figure out how educated, trained, and smart the watcher is. Does he really know what he’s talking about? Scientists are always impressed by stories that can be proven to be true.
Major Steps in Scientific Research
The scientific method, according to Theodorson and Theodorson, is made up of the following steps:
1. The problem has been laid out.
2. The problem is described in terms of a certain theoretical framework and linked to relevant study results from the past.
3. Using well-established theoretical concepts, a hypothesis (or hypotheses) about the problem is made.
4. It is decided how data will be collected to test the theory.
5. The info was recollected.
6. The facts are looked at to find out if the hypothesis is true or not.
7. Lastly, the study’s findings are linked to the original body of theory, which has been changed in line with the new information.
Kenneth D. Baily has broken down social studies into five stages:
1. picking the study question and putting forward the hypotheses;
2. Creating the plan for the study;
3. Getting the information;
4. Analysing the facts; and
5. Testing the theories by figuring out what the results mean
Horton and Hunt pointed out that scientific research or the scientific process of investigation has eight steps:
1. Describe the problem that is important enough to study using scientific methods.
2. Review the literature so that mistakes made by other researchers don’t happen again.
3. Make a theory, which is a set of statements that can be tested.
4. Plan the design of the study, which means writing down how, what, and where the data will be collected, processed, and analysed.
5. Collect the data, which means actually gathering facts and information based on the plan of the study. Sometimes, the design may need to be changed to deal with a problem that wasn’t planned for.
6. Analyse the data, which means to sort, list, and compare it, and do any tests that are needed to get the results.
7. Draw conclusions, such as whether the original theory was true or false and was confirmed or rejected, or if the results were not clear. What do we know more about because of the research? What does it mean for the idea of sociology? What new questions have been asked that need to be looked into more?
8. Do the study again. Even though the seven steps above finish a single research study, research results are confirmed by doing the same study again and again. Only after a lot of study has been done can the results be taken as generally true.
In Sociology, the most important ways that scientific study is used are:
1. It makes it easier to make decisions;
2. It makes things less unsure;
3. It makes it possible to try out new plans;
4. It helps you make plans for the future;
5. It helps figure out what’s going on.
Because of how important scientific study is, there are a lot of sociologists doing research today, some full time and some part time. Many university professors spend some of their time teaching and some doing study. The UGC, the UCSSR, UNICEF, the Ministry of Welfare and Justice, the Indian government, and the World Bank all give money for study.
The scientific investigation shouldn’t be done if there isn’t enough data to back it up.
There is a lack of time, the cost of asking is more than the value, and there are no tactical choices to be made.
Non-Positivists and Anti-Positivists, on the other hand, were against Sociology becoming a positive science. Many questions have been made by critics about this. Here are some of the main problems that keep Sociology from being a Positive Science:
1. Problems with Experiments: Experiments are a key part of scientific observation because they show exactly how different factors are related to each other. Sociology, on the other hand, rarely lets you try things out. There are limits on both a realistic and an ethical level. In a setting like a lab, it’s almost impossible to control how people act, and treating people like guinea pigs is even against their culture. But testing is not necessary for a science to be a science. There are some mature fields of science, like astronomy, where you can’t do tests. So Sociology is not automatically not a science just because it can’t be tested with tests.
2. Problem of Quantification: Even though statistical methods can be used to measure some parts of sociological events. But a lot of it is fundamentally qualitative and can’t be changed with quantitative methods. Even when Neo-positivists tried to use quantitative methods to explain sociological events, they didn’t get very far.
3. Problems with Generalisation: Sociologists haven’t been able to use their studies to come up with law-like generalisations. Sociology, which is the subject of this failure, is not a good fit for this kind of thing. The way people act doesn’t repeat itself like the way things do. Man is a free agent by nature, and free will is an important part of how people act. People’s actions are often one-of-a-kind and can’t be repeated. Because people can’t do experiments, it’s also hard to figure out what causes what. At best, sociologists can find data connections between things. Sociologists often make generalisations in the form of statements that describe trends or tendencies.
4. Problem of Objectivity: Objectivity is a state of mind in which scientists’ personal biases and preferences don’t get in the way of how they collect and analyse data. But it has been found that being objective in sociological study is almost impossible. At most, a sociologist can try to reduce how much bias there is.