Sociology Index

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SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Scientific method is the method and techniques of investigation and analysis used in the sciences to develop theories and design experiments. 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. Modern sociologists do employ aspects of scientific method in trying to arrive at a rigorous and systematic understanding of aspects of society.

Early sociologists like Auguste Comte 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 David Emile Durkheim. A scientific hypothesis is the initial building block in the scientific method. Many describe it as an "educated guess," based on prior knowledge and observation. For a hypothesis to be termed a scientific hypothesis, it has to be something that can be supported or refuted through carefully crafted experimentation or observation.

This is called falsifiability and testability, an idea that was advanced in the mid-20th century a British philosopher named Karl Popper. A key function in this step in the scientific method is deriving predictions from the hypotheses about the results of future experiments, and then performing those experiments to see whether they support the predictions.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.