Good Essay About The Scientific Method: Social Science
Following the American Psychological Associations Guidelines
The Scientific Method used in evaluating questions of social significates forms the foundation of systematic and methodical exploration by a trained observer or, in layman terms, a scientist. This rational inquiry looks to provide empirical data that may or may not lead to correlation or causation of variables being examined by the trained observer. Though not without its valuable applications, the scientific method within the social sciences has its challenges. Because of human nature and behavior, it is still far better to seek empirical and verifiable data than to simply rely on anecdotal evidence alone. The scientific method allows us to understand the world around us undoubtedly, rather than relying on guesses or mysticism.
The Research Question
A sample survey is a critical methodological question that serves to gather facts and can be useful at comparing the relationships of variables in a study. The survey could be a short questionnaire distributed to all third grade students at ABC School in order to ascertain how many hours of sleep each student receives per night. The results could be compared with how many hours each student receives in correlation to how well each student believes they are able to perform during school. One of the strengths of this approach is the opportunity to accumulate data for a comparison. The researcher would be able to learn how much sleep each student gets as well as gain an idea of how each student rates his or her own performance. A correlation of the two variables may or may not then become apparent. The researcher could begin to establish whether the two variables were related in the students’ minds versus whether they were related in reality. The researcher could also begin to establish whether a prediction could be made. Despite these positive opportunities, several weaknesses to this approach exist. One is the inability to prove causality between one variable and the other. The second weakness, according to John Perry and Erma Perry’s, “Contemporary Society: Introduction to Social Science,” is that surveys do not always reflect attitudes and opinions accurately (Perry, 2012).
A case study is another method that can be used to ascertain calculable data as a way to organize the social science of a research topic. The case study is a tool that examines a whole set of peoples. Case studies allow for a more in-depth evaluation of several aspects of the group being studied. In the case of the relationship between hours of sleep attained in comparison to school performance, a case study could gather more information about the students of Ms. Smith’s 3rd grade class at ABC School. Information such as: how many hours slept per night, how many assignments are completed, and how many assessments have satisfactory results, could all be documented in the study’s results. This method’s strength lies in its greater depths of knowledge about each aspect being studied; case studies are able to explain each aspect more thoroughly with greater units of comparison. A weakness concerning case studies is they can be expensive and difficult to compute quantitatively.
A third methodological strategy used in answering questions is participant observation. This option demands the observer offer research findings from inside the group. The researcher can then build a rapport or friendship that allows for intimate examination of interactions and relationships from within the group. These observations, as well as interactions, would be otherwise impossible without inside observation. In regards to our research question concerning sleep analysis as it relates to school performance, a scientific observer could be placed in a classroom under the guise of being assistant teacher. From this advantageous point, the observer and researcher has the opportunity to study all aspects of the group of students from a more intimate place.
The particpation observation method required the observer be prepared because at all times; group observations can be intimate and research is ongoing . By having a prepapared chart, notes could be taken for each student in Ms. Johnson’s 3rd grade class. A small voice recorder might also be of use. Data collected could include hours slept during the previous night, overall alertness at the start of day, energy levels suring premarked intervals throughout the day, noted performance scores on math tests on pre-decided days of the week, and noted scored on spelling tests on a different, but also predetermined day of the week. Other data could include quality evaluations concerning focus, participation, engagement, grogginess, resilence, contentment, aggression and characteristics associated with children receiving enough or too little sleep the night before.
One strength associated with the observer participation approach is greater insight may be gained from intimate contact with subjects. This insight may lead to later verification by other means of testing. The most notable disadvantage to this form of observation is that with such close proximaty to the subjects being studied, it can be difficult to remain objective. Some researchers can find it hard to not assimilate into the groups they are studying. However, when an adult is researching a group of third graders and, therefore, associating with a group of thrd graders, there is little risk of assimilation. Because the particiapation observation method has the potential to produce great quantities of data, it lends itself to to the possibility of statistical analysis. This proverbial crunching of numbers after observational participation could take many shapes and forms. The manipulation and examination of any numbers and data collected could make recognizing trends and patterns easier to identify.
The Scientific Method
The scientific method takes the same form, as well as uses the same steps regardless of the topic being analyzed or the research question being answered. They are a simple format to follow. To begin, the researcher must define the topic . Any researcher must decide which question is the most worthy of answering and, thus the most in need of investingating. Secondly, the reseracher must review literature on the subject in order to understand if the question has already been answered, as well as to understand which research methods have already been tried, and which have failed. In doing so, researchers can begin to build a body of work while creating a plan to answer their research question. Thirdly, assuming the research question has not already been answered, a hypothesis must be formed. A hypothesis is one’s prediction of the relationship between two variables and is often referred to as an “if, then” statement . It must be clear, and measurable. Fourthly, one must develop a research plan based on the hypothesis and background literature. This involves deciding which research methods will be used in order to answer the research question, as well as deciding if the hypothesis is plausible, or whether it needs any final changes before observations begin. Finally, conducting research can begin according to the plan that has been created. Research must be classified and analyzed, then sorted according to its relevance to the research question. The data can be verified by repeating one’s method of inquiry. After one completes the research and sorts the data, they must evaluate the results. Once this is done, the last step is to validate, reform, or contradict the original hypothesis based on the research data and the findings.
According the the research question postulated previously, it would not be reliable to only offer circumstantial evidence or assumptions about a child’s sleeping habits in correlation to their school performance; parents would be unlikely to accept this and want more concrete evidence. The scientific method would provide this by taking an objective look at the class’ sleeping habits and evaluating empirical evidence through the steps provided. A research question was posed, literature was reviewed, a hypothesis was created, data was collected, and the hypothesis was proven after the data was categorized and evaluated. The results may lead to a better understanding of factors that could create better practices for student success in the future. Having such knowledge can help create the ideal atmosphere for optimum student success, while eliminating things that hold students back.
Unfoortunately, there are challenges social sciences encounter when applying the scientific method. Firstly, social sciences involve people, and people have free will and can think for themselves. Therefore, there is never any “real” answer when it comes to studying humans. The unpredictability of humans and their behavior makes any experiment or research question involving us difficult, even if we use the scientific method. Limiting variables and controls can be difficult no matter which method is used. Moreover, humans are not subject to unchangeable laws . Researchers have a greater difficulty in obtaining verifiable data because of this. In some cases, no absolute conclusions can be formulated, while in others, no cause and effect can be linked. The scientific method is an invaluable tool when attempting to answer a research question, but when humans are involved sometimes even it is not enough to give a full and detailed answer.
Perry, J., & Perry, E. (2011). Contemporary Society: An Introduction to Social Science . Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
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