Science is “a systematized body of knowledge”. An essential feature of scientific knowledge is that it is based upon ‘sensory observation or empirical data’. Next, the information acquired through sensory observation has been made meaningful and manageable.
Thus science tries to arrive at ‘law like explanatory generalizations’. For the purpose of acquiring empirical data and for processing them into law like statements science relies on a ‘method’. The basic elements of SCIENTIFIC METHOD are:
a) Observation of an event that stimulates thinking.
b) Defining or classifying the terms or events being considered.
c) Formulating the research issue or hypothesis.
d) Generating a theory or proposition – a general statement that serves as a potential answer to the
e) Creating a research design in order to test whether the theory or proposition is valid.
f) Collecting data-working through the research design to make observations.
g) Analyzing the data
h) Making conclusions and evaluating the theory.
The earliest sciences to grow were physical and natural sciences. Due to their success in exploring
the physical and natural world and in being able to arrive at near universal laws, they came to be viewed
as models for other sciences to emulate.
Physical and natural sciences try to rely on measurement and quantification of data.
Quantification brings in exactitude and makes precise comparisons possible. Sociology, being a late comer was also influenced and developed under the shadow of these positive sciences. Early sociologists conceived Sociology as a positive science.
For example, influenced by biology, Herbert Spencer viewed society as an organism like entity; a unified whole made up of interconnected parts. He advocated methods of positive sciences to be used for the study of social phenomena.
Even Durkheim regarded Sociology to be a positive science. According to him social facts constitute the subject matter of Sociology. He defined social facts in such a way that they were amenable to sensory observation and exploratory generalization about them could be made by using positive science methods. Subsequently, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski and even Parsons continue to view Sociology as a positive science and so did most of the Chicago School sociologists.
“Scientific Method is a systematic and objective attempt to study a problem for the purpose of deriving general principles”. Robert Burns describes it as “a systematic investigation to find solutions to a problem”. The investigation is guided by previously collected information. Man’s knowledge grows by studying what is already known and revising past knowledge in the light of new