Sociology Index

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Scientific method is the methods and techniques of investigation and analysis used in the sciences to develop theories and design experiments. Usually scientific methods attempt to discover the causes of things and the relationships between variables.

The key assumption of scientific method is that a claim or theory can be tested by discoverable and measurable evidence. Scientific method and research has led to the development of many laws : mechanics, electrical energy, light, transfer of heat, relativity etc.

The idea of scientific method has been influential in sociology, but scientific methods cannot be applied to many of the topics that interest sociologists nor can they be strictly applied where they do have relevance.

Generally, scientific method involves the steps of gathering of data, by observation and research, formulation of hypotheses, testing by experiment, replication of tests to ensure consistent results, and avoidance of personal bias and pre-judgement. A theory or hypothesis must be stated in a testable form to have scientific status: it must be clear enough that it can be disproven.

Early sociologists like Auguste Comte (1798-1857) assumed that sociology would develop into a science of society equivalent to the natural sciences of physics and chemistry and this view continued to be influential in the sociology of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).

Modern sociologists tend to reject the idea that sociology can be scientific, but they do employ aspects of scientific method in trying to arrive at a rigorous and systematic understanding of aspects of society.