Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Science and the Scientific Nature of Research in the Social Sciences

Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Science and the Scientific Nature of Research in the Social Sciences

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The generic term, social sciences, covers most or all the disciplines that have, as their subject matter, the study of society, human behaviour and social relationships. These disciplines are designated social sciences mostly because of the implications and understanding among the proponents that they are variously and collectively comparable in important ways to the natural science disciplines (Marshall, 1998). All the social science disciplines, to various degrees and content, are engaged in debates concerning the concept and nature of science, the scientific nature of the social sciences and the application of science to the study of society and human relationships (Berger, 2010; Mertens, 2003). The scientific debate has carried the disciplines thus far to the extent that there is the controversy regarding their comparability with the natural sciences. In that case, an examination of the subject matter and objects of study of these sciences becomes relevant.

An issue of controversy is that, since the object of study of the social sciences is human being, an intractable object, the social sciences are likely to be different from the natural sciences. This has, however, occupied and carried the (classical) theorists onwards and, up to the present, in their investigative and classification efforts on the disciplines as regards which is scientific. The pre-occupation has also delved into the analyses of the methods and the general approaches of the social science disciplines to empirical research, their access to evidence decisions and conclusion about facts.

In an attempt to investigate into the scientific nature of the social sciences and research, this paper discusses what science is probably by looking at its distinct characteristics. The paper also aims at identifying this body of the social science discipline. It has the objective of exploring the aims and purpose of science as a method of inquiry in a bid to identifying how the social sciences apply same in their process of knowledge building. It looks at the tenets and scope covered by the social science disciplines. The discussion knits the social sciences into a scientific enquiry with the understanding that the identified characteristics of science apply to or are shared by the social sciences in one way or the other. It discusses the common tools and methods of research and experiment in the social sciences, the research design and the stages of research. The essence of this organization is to establish a case for the classification of the social sciences as scientific endeavour and in knowledge building.

SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRY

Fundamentally, science is seen as an organized human approach, and enterprise and research towards the discovery of the unknown; a theoretical exposition that applies order and logical assessment aimed at developing a body of knowledge about a particular subject or phenomenon. Giddens (2006) sees science as the "use of systematic methods of empirical investigation, the analysis of data, theoretical thinking and logical assessment of arguments to develop a body of knowledge about a particular subject matter". Science, in its original sense, has its etymology from the Latin and Ancient Greek words Scientia and episteme which respectively, literally mean Knowledge. Science attempts to have an understanding of the world or the natural realm through an ordered systematic observation and knowledge that are based on empirical evidence, facts and explainable ideas. Wikipedia (2013) defines science as "a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe". Science is seen as a body of knowledge itself that can be rationally explicated and reliably applied. In other words, science is knowledge that is obtained or gained from an organized, ordered and systematically arranged manner through the processes of observation, verification and experimentation (Wilkins, 1979; McGee, 1980; Marshall, 1998; Giddens, 2006; Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). …

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