Naturally, a complete researcher is one who can traverse the entire research cycle and can handle both inductive and deductive research. It is important to understand that theory-building inductive research and theory-testing deductive research are both critical for the advancement of science.
Elegant theories are not valuable if they do not match with reality. Likewise, mountains of data are also useless until they can contribute to the construction to meaningful theories.
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Rather than viewing these two processes in a circular relationship, as shown in Figure 1. Though both inductive and deductive research are important for the advancement of science, it appears that inductive theory-building research is more valuable when there are few prior theories or explanations, while deductive theory-testing research is more productive when there are many competing theories of the same phenomenon and researchers are interested in knowing which theory works best and under what circumstances.
Theory building and theory testing are particularly difficult in the social sciences, given the imprecise nature of the theoretical concepts, inadequate tools to measure them, and the presence of many unaccounted factors that can also influence the phenomenon of interest. It is also very difficult to refute theories that do not work. Erstwhile communist economies like the Soviet Union and China eventually moved toward more capitalistic economies characterized by profit-maximizing private enterprises.
However, the recent collapse of the mortgage and financial industries in the United States demonstrates that capitalism also has its flaws and is not as effective in fostering economic growth and social welfare as previously presumed. Unlike theories in the natural sciences, social science theories are rarely perfect, which provides numerous opportunities for researchers to improve those theories or build their own alternative theories.
Conducting scientific research, therefore, requires two sets of skills — theoretical and methodological — needed to operate in the theoretical and empirical levels respectively. All of the greatest scientists in the history of mankind, such as Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Neils Bohr, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, and Herbert Simon, were master theoreticians, and they are remembered for the theories they postulated that transformed the course of science.
Methodological skills are needed to be an ordinary researcher, but theoretical skills are needed to be an extraordinary researcher!
Philosophy and Paradigm of Scientific Research
In the preceding sections, we described science as knowledge acquired through a scientific method. Scientific method refers to a standardized set of techniques for building scientific knowledge, such as how to make valid observations, how to interpret results, and how to generalize those results.
The scientific method allows researchers to independently and impartially test preexisting theories and prior findings, and subject them to open debate, modifications, or enhancements. The scientific method must satisfy four characteristics:. Similarly, arts, music, literature, humanities, and law are also not considered science, even though they are creative and worthwhile endeavors in their own right. The scientific method, as applied to social sciences, includes a variety of research approaches, tools, and techniques, such as qualitative and quantitative data, statistical analysis, experiments, field surveys, case research, and so forth.
Most of this book is devoted to learning about these different methods.
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However, recognize that the scientific method operates primarily at the empirical level of research, i. Very little of this method is directly pertinent to the theoretical level, which is really the more challenging part of scientific research. Depending on the purpose of research, scientific research projects can be grouped into three types: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory. This research may not lead to a very accurate understanding of the target problem, but may be worthwhile in scoping out the nature and extent of the problem and serve as a useful precursor to more in-depth research.
Descriptive research is directed at making careful observations and detailed documentation of a phenomenon of interest. These observations must be based on the scientific method i. Examples of descriptive research are tabulation of demographic statistics by the United States Census Bureau or employment statistics by the Bureau of Labor, who use the same or similar instruments for estimating employment by sector or population growth by ethnicity over multiple employment surveys or censuses. If any changes are made to the measuring instruments, estimates are provided with and without the changed instrumentation to allow the readers to make a fair before-and-after comparison regarding population or employment trends.
Other descriptive research may include chronicling ethnographic reports of gang activities among adolescent youth in urban populations, the persistence or evolution of religious, cultural, or ethnic practices in select communities, and the role of technologies such as Twitter and instant messaging in the spread of democracy movements in Middle Eastern countries. Explanatory research seeks explanations of observed phenomena, problems, or behaviors. While descriptive research examines the what, where, and when of a phenomenon, explanatory research seeks answers to why and how types of questions.
Examples include understanding the reasons behind adolescent crime or gang violence, with the goal of prescribing strategies to overcome such societal ailments. Seeking explanations for observed events requires strong theoretical and interpretation skills, along with intuition, insights, and personal experience.
Those who can do it well are also the most prized scientists in their disciplines. Before closing this chapter, it may be interesting to go back in history and see how science has evolved over time and identify the key scientific minds in this evolution. Prior to this time, science was viewed as a part of philosophy, and coexisted with other branches of philosophy such as logic, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics, although the boundaries between some of these branches were blurred. In the earliest days of human inquiry, knowledge was usually recognized in terms of theological precepts based on faith.
This was challenged by Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates during the 3 rd century BC, who suggested that the fundamental nature of being and the world can be understood more accurately through a process of systematic logical reasoning called rationalism. The next major shift in scientific thought occurred during the 16 th century, when British philosopher Francis Bacon suggested that knowledge can only be derived from observations in the real world. Based on this premise, Bacon emphasized knowledge acquisition as an empirical activity rather than as a reasoning activity , and developed empiricism as an influential branch of philosophy.
Empiricism continued to clash with rationalism throughout the Middle Ages, as philosophers sought the most effective way of gaining valid knowledge. French philosopher Rene Descartes sided with the rationalists, while British philosophers John Locke and David Hume sided with the empiricists. Other scientists, such as Galileo Galilei and Sir Issac Newton, attempted to fuse the two ideas into natural philosophy the philosophy of nature , to focus specifically on understanding nature and the physical universe, which is considered to be the precursor of the natural sciences.
Galileo was perhaps the first to state that the laws of nature are mathematical, and contributed to the field of astronomy through an innovative combination of experimentation and mathematics. In the 18 th century, German philosopher Immanuel Kant sought to resolve the dispute between empiricism and rationalism in his book Critique of Pure Reason , by arguing that experience is purely subjective and processing them using pure reason without first delving into the subjective nature of experiences will lead to theoretical illusions.
At about the same time, French philosopher Auguste Comte — , founder of the discipline of sociology, attempted to blend rationalism and empiricism in a new doctrine called positivism. Nanjing, China. Bangkok, Thailand. Hinxton, United Kingdom. Advanced search. Skip to main content. Featured Content Review Article 23 September Brillouin microscopy: an emerging tool for mechanobiology This Review discusses the principles, advantages and limitations of Brillouin microscopy, a non-invasive tool for measuring mechanical properties of biological samples in three dimensions.
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Search Nature Methods. Latest Research Brief Communication 23 September 4D functional ultrasound imaging of whole-brain activity in rodents Functional ultrasound fUS imaging of neural activity has been extended to volumetric imaging across the whole brain. Article 23 September Comprehensive mapping of neurotransmitter networks by MALDI—MS imaging Mass spectrometry imaging with fluoromethylpyridinium-based reactive matrices allows mapping of neurotransmitters at high resolution and at a low limit of detection. Review Article 23 September Brillouin microscopy: an emerging tool for mechanobiology This Review discusses the principles, advantages and limitations of Brillouin microscopy, a non-invasive tool for measuring mechanical properties of biological samples in three dimensions.
Article 23 September Evolution of a reverse transcriptase to map N 1 -methyladenosine in human messenger RNA Robust m 1 A mapping of the human transcriptome is enabled by directed evolution of an HIV-1 reverse transcriptase with efficient read-through and high mutation rates at m 1 A sites along with development of new tools for data analysis. Brief Communication 16 September The mesoSPIM initiative: open-source light-sheet microscopes for imaging cleared tissue The mesoSPIM is an open hardware axially scanned light-sheet microscope for the rapid imaging of large cleared samples with isotropic resolution.
Comment 18 September Cryo-EM, XFELs and the structure conundrum in structural biology Single-particle techniques offer an unprecedented opportunity to understand the role of structural variability in biological function. Research Highlight 30 August PPI discovery using proteome coevolution An improved method to detect coevolving residues at protein interfaces allows proteome-wide screening of PPIs.
Research Highlight 30 August Laser particles in hundreds of colors The development of biologically compatible microdisk lasers enables massively multiplexed cell tracking. For Mill, induction is the search first for regularities among events. Among those regularities, some will continue to hold for further observations, eventually gaining the status of laws. One can also look for regularities among the laws discovered in one domain, i. These five methods look for circumstances which are common among the phenomena of interest, those which are absent when the phenomena are, or those for which both vary together.
The methods advocated by Whewell and Mill, in the end, look similar. Both involve induction and generalization to covering laws. They differ dramatically, however, with respect to the necessity of the knowledge arrived at; that is, at the meta-methodological level see the entries on Whewell and Mill entries.
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The quantum and relativistic revolutions in physics in the early 20 th century had a profound effect on methodology.