Table of Contents
The changes in the understanding of scientific knowledge conflict with classical normative ideas about what science is and what role in society it plays. Judgements about the quality of results go beyond one discipline and cross academic boundaries, so it becomes increasingly difficult to define what “good science” is. Knowledge changes more dynamically than the epistemological concepts designed to legitimise it. As a result, the criteria for assessing knowledge are disorderly and borrowed from different sources. From this point of view, it is important to discuss and highlight these aspects in detail. Epistemological and methodological traditions are necessary aspects in the implementation of the social science research, because they provide an opportunity to focus on strengths and weaknesses of building criterion of scientific knowledge and adapt the research approach to exploration of the various social phenomena.
Epistemological Traditions in the Social Science Research
Epistemology in social science is a conceptual and objectively heterogeneous approach to research practises, proceeding from the notion of social determinism of production, functioning and transformation, and even the very content of knowledge. There are several differences that can be established between social and epistemological studies, but the two groups of research are united by the notion of a single, continuous, and autonomous mechanism of production of knowledge in relation to all spheres of culture, the economy, and social organisation of society (Staller, 2013). Since such a representation regulated all epistemological descriptions and explanations of the nature of knowledge in classical philosophy, epistemology in social science claims a fairly radical redefinition of the problematic, the conceptual apparatus, and the subject field. Thus, epistemological traditions form and propose different research practises that are required in the implementation of social science research. Furthermore, epistemology through the idea of an autonomous subject acts as the ultimate instance of production and the justification of knowledge in social science research. In terms of determination and constitution, the autonomy of the subject means, first of all, autonomy in relation to any possible natural, historical, and social orders that are discovered to be its correlate and are determined by a universal and continuous observation space (Tinati, Halford, Carr & Pope, 2014). In accordance with this, the ideas about the universal form of knowledge, the immanent logic of its self-unfolding, and gradual accumulation are justified, and social science receives a normative acceptable form of knowledge. Hence, the role of epistemological tradition relies on understanding possible social facts and transforms it into the knowledge of social science.
Additionally, epistemological approach develops and supports social science research with the norms for any knowledge in general as well as the interpretation of results. On the one hand, it was aimed to define knowledge in such a way that the latter would adequately correspond to its concept (Riesch & Potter, 2014). On the other hand, it had to play the role of an evaluation criterion (Staller, 2013). This criterion served a twofold function. First, it allowed to conduct the classification operation as applied to knowledge. Secondly, it had to determine the scale, allowing the ranking and hierarchical ordering of different types of knowledge. In this case, the actual description or explanation of knowledge was built on the basis of the unit of knowledge under consideration, such as scientific theory, discipline, etc. Thus, epistemological traditions are a vital part of social science research because of its a developed criterion for interpretation of results and norms for evaluation knowledge.
Methodological Traditions in Social Science Research
Methodological traditions in social science research are associated with the development of the methods and strategies of qualitative research. With respect to the former, one can only welcome new methods that enrich the sociological toolkit, because they are definitely aware of both advantages and limitations. Subsequently, there arises the problem of the “objective” necessity of research approach that would be adequate to the tasks of analysing the new social environment. However, qualitative methods are still widespread in social science research (Hussein, 2015). Therefore, qualitative methods of research are among the implications of methodological traditions in social science research.
Methodological traditions in social science research are likewise associated with the development of the methods of quantitative analysis and research. Nobody can deny that the methods of deep or biographical interviews provide facts, the phenomenal nature and social significance of which cannot be interpreted without errors and losses within the quantitative approach. According to Yilmaz (2013), the methods of qualitative sociology require honesty and reason. However, there exists an excessive methodological “chaos” situation, when a qualitative sociology as a strategy begins to resemble ideology while still at the stage of practical approbation, that is, without the scientific validity of the conclusion. Therefore, quantitative research refers to the more objective nature of research, which is recognised as a more reliable instrument for conducting empirical research in the fields of social science.
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Nevertheless, both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods are vital to social science research. Furthermore, the methodological constructs that consider the correlation of theories, methods, and data, possess no such component as the researcher themselves (Tinati, Halford, Carr & Pope, 2014). The traditional dichotomy of quantitative and qualitative approaches is gaining new understanding. Thus, social science distinguishes two basic research programs, including the inductive (qualitative methodology) and deductive (quantitative methodology) on; the difference between them is paradigmatic (Yilmaz, 2013). As a result, in comparing qualitative and quantitative methodological traditions in social science, one must dwell not only on external attributes, but above all on the in-depth mechanisms of logical inference in order to determine its advantages and disadvantages for a particular approach and then translate conclusions into scientific practice and seek confirmation of the epistemological expertise.
If the above-mentioned vector of knowledge in social science pointed to the evolutionary continuity of qualitative methods as a result of victory over quantitative ones in the course of the changing social environment, then it is possible to recognise that a qualitative strategy is the prototype of a future sociological science that redefines social reality in a new way. Still, there is a different perspective on this problem. The qualitative methods in sociology is a paradigm novelty, created not by the authenticity of the conclusion as in logical positivism, but by the scale and significance of generalisations or, in other words, by a special popularised way of presenting knowledge in science and society (Staller, 2013). Thus, the qualitative methods in sociology are subjective, because their necessity is not proven. However, randomness does not indicate an error. Any paradigm is random. The fact that the existence of a qualitative methodology is not an objective consequence of the direction of the “vector of knowledge” means that a qualitative methodology, like any other, cannot be logically justified by the very fact of its existence, so it does not imply guaranteed success and effectiveness.
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As a paradigm, qualitative methodology in social science goes into the stage of institutionalisation that provides the necessary aspects for conducting research. Apparently, following Hussein’s (2015) point of view, the convergence of qualitative and quantitative approaches in sociology is impossible. It should be noted that the institutionalisation of the qualitative methodology will be complicated by the fact that this strategy contains many hermeneutic elements of intuitive scientific search without algorithms and without theoretically filled conceptual schemes, which makes qualitative sociology individual, subjectively multivalued, and unique to every particular sociologist. Still, “qualities” will have to teach social scientists ethics and aesthetics, their strategies, reflections, psychology, and other aspects of personal experience. Hence, this aspect of the methodological traditions in social science refers to the implementation of the research strategy.
The qualitative methodology as a strategy is a complex system of procedures and methods, being essentially a methodological research program, which was proven through an analysis of the logic of scientific research (Staller, 2013). Yilmaz (2013) developed and applied this perspective to the differentiation of epistemological and methodological methods. Such an evaluation procedure would be useful for qualitative methodology as a step in the development of “double reflexivity” or objectivity. Thus, qualitative methodology contributes to the development of a complex system of procedures that allow performing research in the field of social sciences.
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Finally, methodological traditions bring a knowledgeable criterion to the evaluation and assessment of particular scientific knowledge, which is important in the implementation of social science research. At the present time, the discussion should not be about the criteria of scientific nature, but about the criteria for assessing knowledge in terms of the functions performed by it. As a result, the diversity of forms of knowledge must be accompanied by a corresponding variety of evaluation criteria, which will allow scholars to eliminate the thoughtless appeal of the notion of science and limit the information of sociology only to one of its dimensions (Hussein, 2015). Hence, the concept of knowledge and criteria for its assessment become the main elements of analysis in the social science.
In summary, the change in the position of scientific knowledge in modern society was prompted by the development of methodological and epistemological dimensions in terms of understanding and collecting data. These aspects are closely related to the development of modern social science. Moreover, social science is a scientific discipline, the epistemological space of which has a multidimensional system. These are historically developed epistemological constructs, which, even if they were built based on different principles of the cognitive process, are conventionally identified by the representatives of the sociological community as fragments of the theoretical and methodological structure of social science. This means its association with a certain subject of knowledge and with a multitude of scientific pieces of knowledge that are objectified as sociological knowledge, in relation to which such epistemological constructs acquire a specific methodological significance and corresponding content configuration of semantic manifestations. Therefore, a methodology cannot be based solely on epistemological concepts of science as disinterested observation, but must take into account the variety of forms of interaction between knowledge and reality, which are represented by both the methodological and epistemological traditions.
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