➤ What is sociological research?
➤ What different research methods are available to sociologists? ➤ What are the philosophies that underlie the collection and analysis of data? ➤ Why and in what ways have feminists criticized conventional sociological research? Why do sociologists do research?
In every society there are many ways that we know what we know – many of which we take for granted. Scott (2002) identifies six basic categories of knowledge: ● Common-sense knowledge – Refers to something everyone knows to be true, for example fire burns. ● Authority-based knowledge – We tend to give a lot of credence to expert sources, such as doctors. ● Experiential knowledge – We develop knowledge based on our own experiences, which can at times differ from knowledge from experts. For example, some parents believe, from their own experience, that autism is linked to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunization, but most medical experts deny such a link. ● Traditional knowledge – Knowledge can also be based on practices passed down through generations to explain and justify many aspects of their lives, for example the Countryside Alliance, a UK organization supporting working and living in the countryside, often refers to ‘tradition’ in support of its beliefs. ● Non-rational knowledge – Based on faith, for example a belief in God. ● Scientific knowledge – Based on systematic, rigorous testing. The search for truth
Q: How do you get new knowledge?
How do people acquire new knowledge/truth?
People have long been concerned to come to grips with their environment and to understand the nature of the phenomena it presents to their senses. The means by which they set out to achieve these ends may be classified into three broad categories: experience,
Far from being independent and mutually exclusive, however, these categories must be seen as complementary and overlapping, features most readily in evidence where solutions to complex modern problems are sought. EXPERIENCE - In our endeavours to come to terms with the problems of day-to-day living, we are heavily dependent upon experience and authority The limitations of personal experience in the form of common-sense knowing, for instance, can quickly be exposed when compared with features of the scientific approach to problem-solving. Consider, for example, the striking differences in the way in which theories are used. Laypeople base them on haphazard events and use them in a loose and uncritical manner. Whenthey are required to test them, they do so in a selective fashion, often choosing only that evidencethat is consistent with their hunches and ignoring that which is counter to them. Scientists, by contrast, construct their theories carefully and systematically. Whatever hypotheses they formulate have to be tested empirically so that their explanations have a firm basis in fact. And there is the concept of controldistinguishing the layperson’s and the scientist’s attitude to experience. Laypeople generally make no attempt to control.
Finally, there is the difference of attitude to the relationships among phenomena. Laypeople’s concerns with such relationships are loose, unsystematic and uncontrolled. The chance occurrence of two events inclose proximity is sufficient reason to predicate a causal link between them. Scientists, however, display a much more serious professional concern with relationships and only as a result of rigorous experimentation will they postulate a relationship between two phenomena. The second category by means of which people attempt to comprehend the world around them, namely, reasoning, consists of three types: deductive reasoning,
inductive reasoning, and the
combined inductive—deductive approach.
Deductive reasoning is based on the syllogism which was Aristotle’s great contribution to formallogic. In its simplest form the syllogism consists of a major premise based on an a priori or...
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