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Unread 12-29-2010, 06:56 PM
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waybread waybread is offline
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Re: research guidelines?

Mark, the social sciences and humanities were not founded in formal logic and mathematics, unless we take a very loose and very historical interpretation of these subjects.

A work of history, for example, needs to be based in logical inferences, but there is nothing very formal about this; with the exception of the work of a few scholars in the philosophy of history. A historian might write a very scholarly history of the American Civil War or a biography of Abraham Lincoln that would be packed with evidence assembled in a highly logical fashion, but this is a far cry from the stuff of the sub-field of logic in a philosophy or mathematics department today.

In the universities with which I have been affiliated (I am now retired) psychologists prefered to call themselves behavioural scientists.

I hope I made the point, above, that some scholarship is quantitative and some of it is qualitative. However, qualtitative studies cannot be written off as a weak version of quantitative studies. A lot depends upon the type of question the researcher asks, and the type of evidence that is available or can be mustered for analysis.

For example, historians are limited by extant historic records that meet the criteria of internal and external criticism (i.e., that the documents are not forgeries, that eye witnesses are reliable, &c.)

There are also pitfalls in rigorous "top down" quantitative studies. My privacy is very important to me, so I won't mention in what academic discipline I spent a 30+-year career. I would only say that it includes both quantitative and qualitative research, and is usually classified as a social science.

During the 1960s and 70s, scholars in my field were very concerned to make their research more rigorous and quantitative. After a while, by the 1990s, quantitative research came in for some telling critiques; notably research involving ethnic minorities. This was in part due to the "garbage in, garbage" out problem mentioned in my previous post. For one thing, minorities complained that they were being studied to death by researchers who didn't bother to inquire what sort of research the minorities would actually find useful to them (as opposed to being useful to the researcher's careerism and that quantitative procedures like survey instruments or analysis of census data really didn't get at the heart of the inner dynamics of the minority communities. So today in my field, it is much more common for researchers to engage minority subjects in the development of the research project. One result is that a much less "scientific" type of methodology results--but to better effect.

One problem with older psychology studies in particular is that the researchers did not examine their own biases, norms, and cultural blinkers. And these biases went into the research design. For example, there used to be a lot of talk about individuals needing to be "well adjusted" (to what?) and homosexuality as deviant behaviour (compared to whom?). This is part of the reason why so much of Sigmund Freud's "findings" had to go out the window.

Hopefully your psychology studies will also include post-modernism, post-structuralism, feminism, critical studies, science studies, and cultural relativism. They are a far cry from the "one truth" thesis. Wars have been fought over the "one truth" thesis; and in the end, the "truths" were falsified.

I don't know that there is any reality behind astrology. I hope there is.

I agree that combining different kinds of astrology should prove more fruitful than insisting upon any one "brand name."
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