The academic discipline of social science is the study of human society and the social relationships of the individuals and groups within society
The academic discipline of social science is the study of human society and the social relationships of the individuals and groups within society. Social sciences play a vital role in aiding us in the understanding of a great deal of societal issues that we experience today. For instance, the overrepresentation of minorities within the criminal justice system or even the balance between poverty and economic growth. In other words, social sciences aims to understand what it means to be a social being, hence the various branches within the field. Social scientists studies range from the study of personality and behaviour of an individuals to the research of distribution and consumption of goods and services in the world.
This essay will examine whether social scientists predominately adopted a quantitative or qualitative approach as a research method. Subsequently, using three academic research, the essay aims to evaluate if the adoption of the dominate methodology is appropriate. Onwuegbuzie and Leech, (2005) identify two categories of academics with social science. On one hand, you have the positivist who adopted quantitative for research strategies, and then interpretivists who use qualitative methodologies. The three research vary from a range of social science branches: Densley (2012) – It’s Gang Life, But Not As We Know It: The Evolution of Gang Business, Martinez-Alvarez (2014) Development Assistance for Health in Tanzania: Has the Sector Wide Approach achieved the principles of aid effectiveness? And Gyimah-Brempong et al. (2012) Aid and Economic Growth: Sensitivity Analysis.
Hughes (2006), states that within the realm of social science quantitative methodology, which is affiliated with the positivist paradigm is the prevailing approach to research. This scientific empirical traditional approach employs numerical data in order to unravel a causal relationship. Through this notion causal relationship, views social reality as objective and external to individuals. The objectivity of employing a quantitative approach comes to play due to the fact firstly, the research problem, the analysis and interpretation of the results are subjective to the researcher (Burns, 2002). In their 2012 research Gyimah?Brempong et al. analyses the relationship between aid and economic growth. The research utilises counties as a unit of analysis. The scholars used several instruments to undergo their research these were, a panel data (DPD) estimator, panel data from the sample of less developed countries, five measures of policy and two measures of aid in order to investigate the growth effect of aid. Whilst, examining association between economic growth and aid is justifiable, this is subjective due to the fact other variables and factors are excluded. Other variables such as human and natural resources, and other social and political factor can also have an effect on the relationship of aid and economic growth. Furthermore, the broad use of term aid is subjective as research has concluded that different types of development assistant affects economic development differently.
Downey et al. (1979) states that a great deal of researchers avoid using qualitative approach in social science in fear of being branded as “unscientific” henceforth adopting quantitative strategies. Reason being that the latter approach is viewed as being more logical and deductive, as it is based on examine the relationship between variables, whereby numerical data is collected using different statistical tools. The dependent variable in this model are growth rate of per capita income (annual), and investment which is the gross investment ration of a country in a year. Policy environment in measured on 5 bases: political stability, quality of governance, quality of business regulation, rule of law and control of corruption. The variable of interest is aid, which is measured by the ratio of net aid disbursement to GNI as well as the real net aid inflow per person, per year. The statistical tool used is a Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) estimator, this technique allows us to produce more sophisticated analysis as well as understand pattern that can be applied or a broader spectrum. Moreover, the results are easier to analyze and interpret in comparison to qualitative methods of research, which can be ambiguous and subjective (Hughes, 2006).
Hammersley, (2008) states that quantitative is the more widespread methodology as it reduces issues related to transparency. For instance if another researcher, was to conduct a similar experiment at a later date it is expected that the researcher will attain comparable results to demonstrate that this is scientifically true. Saunders et al., (2012) because of the probability sampling technique Gyimah?Brempong et al. (2012) used with selecting countries, allows us to produce conclusion on a greater scale. Whilst, some of the policy environment variables are better explained in a qualitative manner rather than statistically such as “quality of governance and quality of business regulation. In the case of this particular research, the scholars adopting a quantitative technique is appropriate. This is due to the nature of the research question, as it is associated with money (the amount of aid received) and capita income, this making it suitable for quantitative as a non-numerical methods will not provide the researchers with the answer they we want. This approach also allows to conclude a more accurate answer.
Whilst quantitative strategies is the argued as being the most dominate, it does not fall short of limitation. The risk of quantitative studies is that it allows space for the over simplification of data, since you must control the experimental conditions some argue it does not generalize to the actually problems or situations occurring in the real world. Another disadvantage, is quantitative research fails to examine or discuss the meaning things have for different people, and due to the nature of the study of social science studying the meaning is necessary. These can be eradicated through the use of qualitative research. Whilst, Hughes (2006) stated that quantitative was the most dominate approach, Payne et al. (2004) states that a study indicated that one in twenty articles published in the British journal employed a quantitative methodology. Qualitative Research aims to understand the depth instead of breadth, by understanding the social realities within societies, this concept is usually overlooked in quantitative research (Blaxter et al, 1996). Densley (2012) study explore how material and cultural resources available with a young person’s communities has an effect on the adolescence’s actions and constructing their identity.
In order to conduct research Densley is recognised, for applying ethnography approach to research his subjects. Burns (2000) states that through this type of approach, whereby researcher are directly in their field of study and building strong a rapport with their participants they are more likely to be alerted with issues that cannot be detected through the use of quantitative methodology. Moreover, human nature and socially constructed issues are complex and unpredictable matter, henceforth Hughes (2006) states that the interpreting them with an interactive process is better. This allow the individuals to speak to research about their lives, in Densley study this takes form in shapes of face-to-face semi-structured interviews with self-nominated gang members and associate. His early, approach of ethnography, made snowball sampling readily available. Whilst literature argues that there are limitations linked with snowballing sampling, for example, participants are not selected at random nor are the sample large due to cost and time consumption. These factors previously mentioned make it difficult to accurately generalize to a larger population dissimilar to quantitative. However, due to the demographic of the participants this sampling method is the most applicable.
Additionally, the research provide from qualitative tends not focus on producing knowledge, and but work as a tool to improve social issues. Densley (2012) research concluded that we test the effectiveness of the numerous interventions implemented to deal with of gangs in British. Also, we must introduce and develop new political and economic policies, so it can change the social constraints that entices young people to become associated with gangs through violence in the first place. Whilst, quantitative eliminates the limitations of quantitative it provides its own disadvantages. One downfall is that the process allows the Densley to interpret the data permitting the chance of introduction potential biasness. Also, this research process is time consuming, and conducting the research is difficult because due to subjective nature of data, therefore, the reliability and validity of the research is questioned.
In order to overcome the shortcoming, of quantitative and qualitative strategies, perhaps the remedy is to combine to two approaches together, so employing a mixed methodology. Academics argue that the combination of the two methods are inappropriate, because of the different paradigms they are viewed as being incompatible (Bryman et al, 2008). Martinez-Alvarez (2014) used qualitative data in aims of adding depth to the quantified data of the trend of aid effectiveness in health financing. The depth allows the scholar to understand which background influences in which they occurred and develop an explanation for trends found from the quantitative data trend. In her studies the combination of the methodology took place during the analyses phase of research. Martinez-Alvarez adopting this method enabled her to adopted a flexibly approach which permitted new issues to arise and be explored in greater depth. For example, Martinez-Alvarez observed that at the beginning of the data analysis that the indicators and definitions utilised to assess the aid effective principles in international policy documents, were unclear, which lead to different interpretation from stakeholders. Hence, the scholar altered the analysis framework enabling her to now study the understanding stakeholder in regards to the aid effectiveness principles. And thus, introducing a set of relevant and significant definitions and quantitative and qualitative indicators. These indicators were then employed in order to analyse the quantitative and qualitative parts of the analysis. Such method was not applied to Gyimah?Brempong et al. (2012) study, as authors lack of flexibility when adopting a quantitative method, eliminates the possibility of allowing new issues to be highlighted.
In conclusion, in regards to the three research piece selected in all case in can be argued that the scholars, have indeed adopted the right method. Whilst, qualitative is deemed as being unscientific Densley, adopting this strategy rather than a quantitative made it permissible to discover the underlying issues of how external factors play a role in youth’s decision to join gangs. This may have been difficult to do had tried to quantify his results. It is clear that whilst quantitative, is the most dominate, because of the nature of social science it is safe to say that all their methods can be appropriate for research, hence is to the discretion of the academic to examine a number of factors when electing a methodology. For instance, the nature of the questions they aim to answer, as well as the context and finally the consequences that the research may highlight. Furthermore, the researcher should critically evaluate the unique strengths and weakness of all three approach, subsequently applying the most justifiable and appropriate method to their particular research question.