D821/D822 Day School, London
November 2009
 In this session we will discuss the dominant views
in social research.
 But our first question should be
◦ ‘What is soc...
 As postgraduate students, many of you have done
degrees.
 However as a Social Science student you will
have some ideas ...
 Do you think that our view of the world will
influence our research?
 When we look at the philosophy of research two
wo...
 The theory of being
◦ concerned with what we believe to exist (Hart, 1998:81)
 Arguments about what there is, ‘out ther...
 Epistemology refers to the theories of knowledge we devise to
help us to understand the real world.
 They are often ass...
 Positivism is an empiricist form of realism
which believes that we can know about the
causes and effects of behaviour.
...
 Studies closed systems e.g. tightly controlled
 Knowledge is value-free
 Uses empirical evidence(that which is gained
...
 Studies open systems e.g. many influences
 Considers a range of factors important to
understanding behaviour
 Values a...
 Aims to explore the range of factors which
contribute to understanding behaviour downplays
the role of explanation
 Pre...
 Studies open systems and acknowledges the
complexity of reality
 Emancipatory: considers that we have the
potential to ...
 Argues that empirical regularities are not essential
for causality.
 Predictions are possible but not infallible. Theor...
Three understandings of reality are invoked
(Burr, 1998):
 Reality as truth – [vs falsehood]
 Reality as materiality – [...
 Which position do you usually take?
 Epistemologically speaking …
 Methodology is the study of methods
 The word "method" has its roots in the ancient Greek
term “methodos”.
 Methodos h...
 Method is often held to follow from epistemology.
 If we feel that individuals hold the key to understanding
social phe...
Validity
 ecological validity, are we testing what we think
we are testing?
◦ do laboratory tests generalise to the real ...
 There are many unobservable factors involved in social
research, as researchers we infer meaning.
 Meanings may change ...
 We are all part of a society with it’s own culture,
therefore it is difficult to remain detached whilst
researching the ...
 Research is reflexive
 Research is an iterative process
 Researchers should be self-critical
◦ We learn as we go along...
E.g.
 Observe behaviour, exclude values through
closure: measures outcomes.
 Grant structures a real theoretical status ...
 People have in-built preferred learning styles (like
visualiser-verbaliser)
 These styles can be objectively measured a...
 There exists a personality trait “learning styles”
 More generally there exist a collection of
personality traits capab...
 Realist and Positivist:
The learning style (personality trait) exists and can
be measured objectively
 The idea of matc...
 Measures of learning styles are notoriously
unreliable
 Matching students to style produces such a small
advantage (it ...
Consider how you would approach some of the
ECA topics with the various positions we have just
discussed in mind.
D821 beliefs and evidence presentation 2010 Martin Le Voi and Eileen Mansfield
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D821 beliefs and evidence presentation 2010 Martin Le Voi and Eileen Mansfield

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  • We all occupy both of these positions at different times, when it suits us.
    E.g. to get here to day, it is best to be a realist when it comes to the relationship between train timetables and trains (even when we simultaneously know the relationship to be tenuous).
    But if our train is late, or we miss it, we can always relativise the importance of punctuality – ‘the important thing is that I DO get there!’
    Important to note that these are ‘ways of thinking’ not ‘identities for life’!
  • Empiricism – emphasis on observable
    Idealism – emphasis on perception
    ---
    Detachment – involvement
    Value freedom – value relevance
  • ·       Many accept relativity of truth (1) – falsificationists, scientific realists, critical realists, and all relativists.
    ·       Few accept relativity of materiality – not even relativists at one level (‘experiential realism’ – Potter; ‘pragmatic relativism’ – Bruner; Burr).
    ·       Main argument is about relationship between essential properties/ structures and their constructions.
  • Empiricism:
    All ideas are derived from experience/observation.
    No proposition can be known to be true without reference to experience/observation.
    Naturalism:
    The assumptions and methods of natural sciences can and should be transferred to the study of social objects.
    Social constructionism:
    All observations and inferences are culturally and historically situated.
    Language is not a transparent medium for conveying thought, but a constitutive instrument of culture.
    Cultures provide frameworks for making sense of the world.
  • D821 beliefs and evidence presentation 2010 Martin Le Voi and Eileen Mansfield

    1. 1. D821/D822 Day School, London November 2009
    2. 2.  In this session we will discuss the dominant views in social research.  But our first question should be ◦ ‘What is social research for?’  Any thoughts?
    3. 3.  As postgraduate students, many of you have done degrees.  However as a Social Science student you will have some ideas about the way you think the social sciences should be studied.  Knowledge and knowing questionnaire  Where do your biases lie?
    4. 4.  Do you think that our view of the world will influence our research?  When we look at the philosophy of research two words emerge amongst the jargon:  Ontology and epistemology
    5. 5.  The theory of being ◦ concerned with what we believe to exist (Hart, 1998:81)  Arguments about what there is, ‘out there,’ to know about.  Can be thought of as a spectrum: realism relativism There REALLY is a REAL world out there! Yeah, right, whatever …
    6. 6.  Epistemology refers to the theories of knowledge we devise to help us to understand the real world.  They are often associated with specific assumptions  Arguments about what it is possible to know about something. We really can get reliable, factual knowledge about the psycho-social world, if we use objective methods of empirical inquiry. But many aspects of the psycho-social world aren’t even observable - and anyway, our ‘objective’ knowledge is always turning out to be subjective – they are contingent upon all kinds of social, cultural and historical contexts. Actually, its rare to come across a real ‘fact’ in the social science! realism relativism
    7. 7.  Positivism is an empiricist form of realism which believes that we can know about the causes and effects of behaviour.  [Critical] realism is a cautious form of realism which believes that we can know about underlying structures.  Interactionism is an idealist form of relativism which believes that we can know about shared meaning-making. Three key ‘in between’ positions for this course
    8. 8.  Studies closed systems e.g. tightly controlled  Knowledge is value-free  Uses empirical evidence(that which is gained through the senses)  Objective; carries out observations using scientific methods  Uses quantitative methods  Aims to establish causal relationships and derive laws  Theories must be falsifiable  Social phenomena should be studied scientifically by making them observable and breaking them into small units
    9. 9.  Studies open systems e.g. many influences  Considers a range of factors important to understanding behaviour  Values an integral part of research  Importance of understanding from an insider viewpoint  Understanding is constructed via shared constructs and traditions of thought  Acknowledges many ways of perceiving the world.  Uses qualitative methods
    10. 10.  Aims to explore the range of factors which contribute to understanding behaviour downplays the role of explanation  Prediction may not be possible; social phenomena are fragile, contingent and local.  Social phenomena are processes not entities, and can only be studied by looking at meaningful human interaction
    11. 11.  Studies open systems and acknowledges the complexity of reality  Emancipatory: considers that we have the potential to change structures.  Emphasises the importance of unobservable phenomena, e.g. social structures such as class  Potential for us to be misled by appearances, but there is a real world which is independent of this.  Open to varied range of methods
    12. 12.  Argues that empirical regularities are not essential for causality.  Predictions are possible but not infallible. Theories cannot be decisively tested.  Social science should study the deep structures that underlie behaviour.
    13. 13. Three understandings of reality are invoked (Burr, 1998):  Reality as truth – [vs falsehood]  Reality as materiality – [vs illusion]  Reality as essence – [vs construction] [There is a lot of binary, oppositional thinking involved in these ‘debates’].
    14. 14.  Which position do you usually take?  Epistemologically speaking …
    15. 15.  Methodology is the study of methods  The word "method" has its roots in the ancient Greek term “methodos”.  Methodos has been translated to have two meanings. ◦ A technical interpretation as "the path toward knowledge“ ◦ A philosophical interpretation as "reflections on the quest for knowledge gathered".
    16. 16.  Method is often held to follow from epistemology.  If we feel that individuals hold the key to understanding social phenomenon whom will we study? ◦ – groups or ◦ - individuals?
    17. 17. Validity  ecological validity, are we testing what we think we are testing? ◦ do laboratory tests generalise to the real world? Causality  Research can establish a link between two factors e.g. Job status and job satisfaction but that does not necessarily imply causal relations between the two.  Correlation – ◦ A correlation does not imply causation
    18. 18.  There are many unobservable factors involved in social research, as researchers we infer meaning.  Meanings may change and are bound up with societal norms etc.
    19. 19.  We are all part of a society with it’s own culture, therefore it is difficult to remain detached whilst researching the society we are part of.  Therefore societal values do influence social scientific knowledge.  Subject-object problem: ◦ How knowledge is shaped by historical and social norms, values, constraints and pre-conceptions
    20. 20.  Research is reflexive  Research is an iterative process  Researchers should be self-critical ◦ We learn as we go along  What parts of our last experiment worked well or not  Will we change our methods, procedures, stimuli etc.  We lay down markers for future researchers  Research involves a process of learning about research itself.
    21. 21. E.g.  Observe behaviour, exclude values through closure: measures outcomes.  Grant structures a real theoretical status & explore their explanatory merit; values form part of these structures.  Engage with meaning, reveal values through reflexive practices: understand processes.
    22. 22.  People have in-built preferred learning styles (like visualiser-verbaliser)  These styles can be objectively measured and/or categorised  Learning Material can be “tailored” such that a match to the individual learning style results in better learning
    23. 23.  There exists a personality trait “learning styles”  More generally there exist a collection of personality traits capable of measurement: Learning Styles is hypothesised to be one of them
    24. 24.  Realist and Positivist: The learning style (personality trait) exists and can be measured objectively  The idea of matching teaching to style is an hypothesis for investigation
    25. 25.  Measures of learning styles are notoriously unreliable  Matching students to style produces such a small advantage (it may even be negative) that the effort of producing tailored material outweighs any benefit found  Maybe they don’t exist at all
    26. 26. Consider how you would approach some of the ECA topics with the various positions we have just discussed in mind.

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