Scientificmethods are useful for deciphering many aspects of the physicalworld. Nevertheless, the usefulness of scientific methods in otherfields such as sociology is severely limited. The problem ofsubjectivity arises from the fact that each person gives precedenceto their point of view. Therefore, it is difficult to establish therelative significance and merits of a particular point of view. Usingscientific methods to answer questions about social life requires areduction in subjectivity. Therefore, a person would lessen theinfluence of his feelings and opinions by being more receptive toexternal ideas (O’Brien, 1999). Intersubjectivity arises when twoor more person either agree on some ideals or share some subjectivestates.
For the mostpart, scientific methods have excelled in the study of naturalphenomena. This is because physical observation plays a significantrole in natural sciences. Scientific truth is only possible whenthere exists a consensus on what to focus on and how to describe whatis observed. The uncertainty of such an approach is clearly seen whennewer observations are made. On the other hand, studying questionsabout social life using scientific methods is quite impossible. Humanmotivation, feelings, and thoughts are invisible, personal aspects(O’Brien, 1999). Scientific methods, with their reliance onobservation, do not suffice for the description of social behavior.
The study ofhuman qualities and behavior using scientific methods needs a priordefinition of such behavior and qualities. However, human behavior isnot necessarily reducible to these fundamental definitions.Scientific methods would assume human behavior is due to a solefactor yet different issues may be at play. Reducing the complexityof social phenomena so as to make them observable makes the resultsobsolete (O’Brien, 1999). Consequently, the significance andrelevance of social behavior are rarely captured. Reification hasbeen done whereby scientific concepts are somehow applied in socialcontexts.
Quantitativeresearch is more useful than qualitative research when creating ameaningful understanding of social life. My quantitative assignmentsought to discover the incentives for Bothell and Woodinvilleresidents to use the King County Metro alternative transportationservices. Developing survey questions was the first step incompleting the research. However, the most important aspect concerneddeciding how to obtain the information from the residents. Samplingtechniques would need to be selective yet representative of theentire population (Goertz & Mahoney, 2012). Subjectivity causeseach person to make judgments based solely on their opinions,thoughts, and feelings. External mitigating factors are largelyignored. Therefore, it is impossible to acquire meaningfulunderstanding based on the views of a single person.
The presence ofmany perspectives and opinions makes it impossible to ascertain theobjective, unbiased truth. Nevertheless, it is possible to circumventthis hurdle by seeking to obtain many different perspectives. Thedifferent viewpoints could then be interlaced together so as tocreate discernible patterns. With regards to the quantitative survey,obtaining as many responses as possible authenticates the results. Itis easier to derive a general trend when many entries are available.Quantitative methods employ empiricism so as to obtain a full pictureof a situation. Quantitative research allows for quick analysis ofdata. The use of random samples makes it possible to generalizefindings to the entire population (Goertz & Mahoney, 2012).Besides, it allows for anonymity, especially when dealing withsensitive topics. Granted, qualitative research may allow forflexibility and in-depth discussion of issues (Goertz & Mahoney,2012). Nevertheless, the findings cannot be generalized to a wideraudience since it is difficult to ascertain the number of responsesfrom the audience.
Scientificmethods are best to use when defining physical phenomena since theyrely on observation. However, the most important aspects of socialbehavior cannot be observed. If scientific methods are to be usednonetheless, then social phenomena would have to be reduced (O’Brien,1999). Effecting such reduction thereby renders the process obsolete.Quantitative methods are best to use when deriving a meaningfulunderstanding of social life. This is because of they employempiricism to generalize findings, unlike qualitative research.
Goertz, G. & Mahoney, J. (2012). A tale of two cultures:Qualitative and quantitative research in the social sciences.Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
O’Brien, J. (1999). Social prisms: s on everyday mythsand paradoxes. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.