Foundations of Policy Research Methodologies
Chapter 1 contained a brief description of the research methodology of this book, a methodology that integrates features of policy analysis and conceptual analysis. In this chapter, my aim is to provide a rationale for the choice of this methodology and to spell it out in greater detail. Formulating such a rationale, it will be seen, involves consideration of a number of epistemological and logical questions and must at least consider the methods of social science disciplines. The difficulty in doing this is borne of methodological turmoil in these disciplines, turmoil characterized by challenges to the practice and theoretical underpinning of positivism. Discussion of this controversy forms the first section of Chapter 2.
The methodology of policy analysis as conceived of and practiced by the large majority of contemporary researchers in diverse fields such as health care, urban planning, crime, education, communications, and transportation aspires to be "scientific." All share a basic commitment to policy science and its philosophical roots in positivism.
Positivism can be described in reference to three premises, premises that reveal its epistemological assumptions and stance on the role of the researcher vis-a-vis objects of knowledge. First, positivism is a deeply skeptical philosophy embodying the impulse to set aside all claims to truth and value based on the authority of posited belief systems or historical practice. It contends that if human knowledge could only free itself from accumulated belief in dogmas of all kinds, "it could dig down deep to some bedrock of certainty and then logically and methodically rebuild a body of knowledge, [and thus] know the truth."1 Second, scientific discovery, achievement of knowledge of the truth, places severe demands on the activities of the researcher. "Not only must scientists avoid sources of error coming from outside, they must also control or suppress sources of bias