Department of Studies in Library and Information Science

Seminar on
Scientific method
Historical Method
Presented by
Mrs. Ramamani. B
Research Scholar
Dr. C.P. Ramasheh
University Librarian
Department of Studies in Library and Information Science
Manasagangothri, Mysore.
Definitions of Research
1. According to Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Library and
Information Science “Research is a systematic, painstaking
investigation of a topic, or in a field of study, often employing
hypothesis and experimentation, undertaken by a person
intent on revealing new facts, theories, or principles, or
determining the current state of knowledge of the subject”.
2. Research is systematic investigation of a subject to discover
new knowledge, including designs of new products and
Definitions of Scientific method
1. The Oxford English Dictionary says that scientific
method is "a method or procedure that has characterized
natural science since the 17th century, consisting in
systematic observation, measurement, and experiment,
and the formulation, testing, and modification of
2. The Scientific method is the process by which scientists,
collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an
accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary)
representation of the world.
Nature of Scientific Method
The nature of scientific method depends upon the nature
and objective of a particular science.
There are, broadly, two methods of science:
•Technical (technological)
Technical Method
For proper observation and experiment, a science, for its
investigation, develops certain technological relations or
facts against which the observed facts are considered.
Technical methods may imply the use of certain
instruments. The more developed the technical method,
the more exact a science becomes in handling data
required for experiment. The use of technical methods
makes a science progressive.
Nature of Scientific Method
Logical Method
Since science is a systematized knowledge, the
importance of the method of reasoning of logic can
hardly be overestimated. Logic is the science of
reasoning. It formulates conditions through which the
validity of reasoning may be tested. Reasoning consists of
arriving at a conclusion from certain premise of premises.
The process of deducing a conclusion from a premise is
called inference, which is nothing but derived
knowledge. All knowledge consists assertions of
propositions. Inferences are a proposition which is
derived from some other proposition. A valid inference is
one in which the conclusion follows reasonably from the
premise. For ascertaining a valid conclusion, a science
should depend on logical method. Scientific method is
therefore, the persistent application of logic as the
common feature of all systematic and reasoned
Purpose of the Scientific Method
The scientific method is the means by which researchers
are able to make conclusive statements about their studies
with a minimum of bias. The interpretation of data, for
example the result of a new drug study, can be laden with
bias. The researcher often has a personal stakes in the
results of his work. As any skilled debater knows, just
about any opinion can be justified and presented as fact.
In order to minimize the influence of personal stakes and
biased opinions, a standard method of testing a
hypothesis is expected to be used by all members of the
scientific community.
Steps of the Scientific Research
The steps of the scientific process has a structure similar
to an hourglass - The structure starts with general
questions, narrowing down to focus on one specific
aspect, then designing research where we can observe
and analyze this aspect. At last, the hourglass widens and
the researcher concludes and generalizes the findings to
the real world.
Steps of the Scientific Research
1) Setting a Goal
Research in all disciplines and subjects, not just science,
must begin with a clearly defined goal. This usually, but
not always, takes the form of a hypothesis.
For example, an anthropological study may not have a
specific hypothesis or principle, but does have a specific
goal, in studying the culture of a certain people and
trying to understand and interpret their behavior. The
whole study is designed around this clearly defined goal,
and it should address a unique issue, building upon
fundamentals. Whilst nothing in science can be regarded
as truth, basic assumptions are made at all stages of the
research, building upon widely accepted knowledge.
2) Interpretation of the Results
Research does require some interpretation and extrapolation of
In scientific research, there is always some kind of connection
between data (information gathered) and why the scientist thinks that
the data looks as it does. Often the researcher looks at the data
gathered, and then comes to a conclusion of why the data looks like it
A history paper, for example, which just reorganizes facts and makes
no commentary on the results, is not research but a review. If you
think of it this way, somebody writing a school textbook is not
performing research and is offering no new insights. They are merely
documenting pre-existing data into a new format.
If the same writer interjects their personal opinion and tries to prove
or disprove a hypothesis, then they are moving into the area of
genuine research. Science tends to use experimentation to study and
interpret a specific hypothesis or question, allowing a gradual
accumulation of knowledge that slowly becomes a basic assumption.
Steps of the Scientific Process
3) Replication and Gradual Accumulation
For any study, there must be a clear procedure so that the
experiment can be replicated and the results verified.
Again, there is a bit of a grey area for observation-based
research, as is found in anthropology, behavioral biology
and social science, but they still fit most of the other
Planning and designing the experimental method, is an
important part of the project and should revolve around
answering specific predictions and questions. This will
allow an exact duplication and verification by
independent researchers, ensuring that the results are
accepted as real. Most scientific research looks at an area
and breaks it down into easily tested pieces.
The gradual experimentation upon these individual
pieces will allow the larger questions to be approached
and answered, breaking down a large and seemingly
insurmountable problem, into manageable chunks.
Steps of the Scientific Process
4) Conclusion
The term, research, is much stricter in science than in
everyday life.
It revolves around using the scientific method to generate
hypotheses and provide analyzable results. All scientific
research has a goal and ultimate aim, repeated and
refined experimentation gradually reaching an answer.
uncovering truths and finding out about the processes
that drive the universe around us. Only by having a rigid
structure to experimentation, can results be verified as
acceptable contributions to science.
Some other areas, such as history and economics, also
perform true research, but tend to have their own
structures in place for generating solid results. They also
contribute to human knowledge but with different
processes and systems.
Value and use of Scientific Method
Scientific method is concerned with verification of the
acquired knowledge. It finds out some order in which
things are related together. The conclusion which is
arrived at by the scientific method has an objective
validity. The objective nature of the scientific method is
its greatest quality. Scientific method is the only way to
increase the general body of tested knowledge and to
eliminate arbitrary and ambiguous opinion. Scientific
method springs from the desire to acquire truth, and
when this desire is very strong in a community, the
progress of the Scientific method becomes rapid and
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
• Regularities
• Verification
• Techniques
• Quantification
• Values
• Systematization
• Pure Science and
• Integration
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
1. Regularities
Scientific method believes that the world is regular and
phenomena occur in patterns. Further there are certain
discernible uniformities in political behavior, which can
be expressed as generalizations which are capable of
explaining and predicting political and social
phenomena. The task of science is to ascertain what these
patters are in the natural world. A scientific study must
be public. Different individuals can investigate
independently and possibly arrive at the same
conclusion. For example when, two parts of hydrogen
and one part of oxygen is added, the component should
produce water.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
2. Verification
Scientific method presupposes that knowledge, in order
to be valid, should consist of propositions that have been
subjected to empirical tests, and that all evidence must be
based on observation. Claims to knowledge must refer to
concrete human experiences so that verification is
possible. Science is thus empirical. Experience has come to
represent the true test of science.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
3. Techniques
Scientific method attaches a great deal of importance to
the adoption of correct techniques for acquiring and
interpreting data. In order to make the researcher selfconscious and critical about the methodology, there is
need for the use of sophisticated tools-like multi-variate
analysis, sample surveys, mathematical models,
stimulations etc. This enables the researcher to discount
his own value preferences in planning, executing and
assessing his research work. The technique should be so
refined and validated that rigorous means could be found
for observing and analyzing data.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
4. Quantification
Science necessarily involves mathematical formulas and
measurements. Theories are not acceptable if they are not
expressed in mathematical language. Unless imprecise
qualitative judgements are replaced by rigorous
measurement and data organization procedures, it
would not be possible to obtained precise and accurate
knowledge about the complexities of phenomenon. All
observations must be quantified because quantification
has advantages in terms of precision and manageability.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
5. Values
Values and facts are two separate things. Science, it is
claimed, is value free. It is not concerned with what is
‘good’, ‘right’, ‘proper’, ‘desirable’, etc. ‘good’ and ‘bad’
are the concern of philosophers. Ethical evaluation is
different from empirical explanation. Democracy,
equality or freedom may be excellent values to uphold,
but their truth of falsity cannot be proved in a scientific
manner. Scientific inquiry to be objective, therefore, must
be value free. Social Sciences should be studied
scientifically through empirical methods and it will have
nothing to do with moral or ethical questions.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
6. Systematizations
Scientific study demands that research should be systematic. It means
it must be theory-oriented and theory-directed. The theory and
research should form interrelated parts of a coherent and orderly
body of knowledge. It is said that research untutored by theory may
prove trivial and theory, unsupported by data, futile. Theory does not
consist of a well organized, logically interrelated structure of concepts
and propositions that hypothesis have to be advanced. The
hypothesis, in their own turn, has to be capable of undergoing
rigorous testing and, then alone, should form the basis of new
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
7. Pure Science
Scientific minded social scientists insist on pure science
approach. They agree that theoretical understanding
may lead to an application of this knowledge to problems
of life. Both the theory and its application are parts of the
scientific enterprise. But the understanding and
explanation of social behavior logically precedes efforts to
utilize that knowledge in the solution of urgent practical
problems of society. Therefore, attach great importance to
pure research and would be content with it even if it
cannot be applied to specific social problems.
Objectives and Assumption of
Scientific method by David Easton
8. Integration
Finally, there is the question of integration of each social science with
other social sciences. The beviouralists agree that man is a social
animal and while one may try to draw boundary lines between the
social, political, economic, cultural and other activities, none of these
activities can be understood without placing them in the wider
context of his entire life. The study of a political phenomenon,
therefore, requires some understanding of how the economic,
cultural, and other phenomena in society are unfolding themselves. If
an effort is made to detach the political man from the economic, social
or cultural man, it would not be possible to understand his political
behavior in its true character. Therefore a complete and a total
perspective come only through interdisciplinary approach.
Flow diagram describing the
scientific method.
Limitations of Scientific method
Scientific method involves abstraction.
2. Scientific explanation is never complete. At every
stage, there are some basic principles which remain
unexplained in social sciences.
3. The conclusions arrives at by scientific method are not
final. They are only relative to observed phenomena,
facts discovered and reasoning developed.
4. Sciences have limited scope. Each science is concerned
with a particular area and is based on certain
5. Superstitions, cherished beliefs etc., are hostile to the
authoritarians, factionalists and mystics often
undermine the respect for scientific method.
Limitations of Scientific method
6. Formal procedures are fruitless. Definitions and formal
distinctions are not often used properly; and statistical
information’s may be irrelevant and inconclusive.
7. Scientific judgement is difficult, and sometimes
impossible, when situations demand immediate action.
8. The growth of scientific method in a society where
there is no desire for truth, or freedom for the expression
of intellectual doubt, is surely hampered. “Fear of
offending established dogmas has been an obstacle to the
growth of astronomy and geology and other physical
Limitations of Scientific method
9. The necessary time for reflection, and material for experiments are
often lacking for the proper development of scientific method.
10. Scientific researches in social field are often in the hands of those
who cannot always oppose the established opinion or taboos.
11. No scientific method can guarantee certainty of achieving the goal
and can prevent human life from being an adventure.
Difficulties in the use of Scientific method
1. Human behavior is complicated, subtle and varied.
Therefore, it is very difficult to categories human
2. When human behavior is studied and analyzed by
other human beings, the personal characteristics of such
human beings come into the picture and distort the
analytical facts.
3. Different aspects of human behavior are psychological
in nature, and as such, do not admit of measurement.
4. Human behavior is not uniform and predictable. It is
more often than not, uncertain. All people do not behave
in the same way in similar circumstances. Similarly, one
individual may behave differently under similar
5. The choice or decision involving humans, which is
essential for observing human behavior for the use of the
method of experiment, becomes difficult. Thus reliable
scientific data cannot always be collected.
Historical Method
The process of learning and understanding the
background and growth of a chosen field of study or
profession can offer insight into organizational culture,
current trends, and future possibilities. The historical
method of research applies to all fields of study because it
encompasses their origins, growth, theories, personalities,
crisis, etc. Both quantitative and qualitative variables can
be used in the collection of historical information.
Historical Method
Comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use
primary sources and other evidence to research and then to write
histories in the form of accounts of the past. The question of the
nature, and even the possibility, of a sound historical method is raised
in the philosophy of history as a question of epistemology. The study
of historical method and writing is known as historiography.
Historical research can also mean gathering data from situations that
have already occurred and performing statistical analysis on this data
just as we would in a traditional experiment. A procedure
supplementary to observation in which the researcher seeks to test
the authenticity of the reports or observations made by others.
The historical method is employed by researchers who are interested
in reporting events and/or conditions that occurred in the past. An
attempt is made to establish facts in order to arrive at conclusions
concerning past events or predict future events.
Steps for conducting Historical Research
1. Recognition of a historical problem or the identification
of a need for certain historical knowledge.
Gathering of as much relevant information about the
problem or topic as possible.
2. Forming of hypothesis that tentatively explains
relationship between historical factors.
3. Rigorous collection and organization of evidence, and
the verification of the authenticity and veracity of
information and its sources.
4. Selection, organization, and analysis of the most
pertinent collected evidence, and the drawing of
5. Recording of conclusions in a meaningful narrative..
Principles of Historical Research
1. A true qualitative research may also be
biased in the types of statistical data collected or
in how that information was interpreted by the
2. Factors that can contribute to “historical
3. Evidence should not be examined from a
singular point of view.
1. Isolate the problem.
2.Collect source materials, including primary
and secondary sources.
3. Evaluate source material.
4. Formulate hypotheses.
5. Report and interpret findings.
Sources of Information
There are a variety of places to obtain historical
Primary Sources are the most sought after in historical
research. Primary resources are first hand accounts of
information. “Finding and assessing primary historical
data is an exercise in detective work. It involves logic,
intuition, persistence, and common sense… (Tuchman,
Gaye in Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, 252). Some
examples of primary documents are: personal diaries,
eyewitness accounts of events, and oral histories.
“Secondary sources of information are records or
accounts prepared by someone other than the person, or
persons, who participated in or observed an event.”
Secondary resources can be very useful in giving a
researcher a grasp on a subject and may provided
extensive bibliographic information for delving further
into a research topic.
Methods of Historical Research
There are four major methods that researchers
use to collect historical data.
1. Archival data
2. External sources
3. Running records
4. Recollections.
Methods of Historical Research
1. Archival data
The archival data, or primary sources, are typically the
resources that researchers rely most heavily on. Archival
data includes official documents and other items that
would be found in archives, museums, etc.
2. External Sources
Secondary sources are the works of other historians who
have written history.
3. Running Records
Running records are “documentaries maintained by
private or non profit organizations.”
4. Recollections
Recollections include sources such as autobiographies,
memoirs or diaries.
Historical Comparative Research
Study of past events and questions using methods in sociology and
other social scientific research to inform the possible outcomes and
answers to current events and questions.
Steps of Historical Research
According to Schutt there are four stages, of systematic qualitative
comparative historical studies;
(1) Development of the premise of the investigation, identifying
events/concepts, etc. that may explain the phenomena.
(2) Choose the case(s) (location- nation, region) to examine.
(3) Using what Theda Skocpol has termed as "interpretive historical
sociology" and examine the similarities and the differences.
(4) Finally based on the information gathered propose a casual
explanation for the phenomena.
Advantages of Historical Research
1. An advantage is that it enables researchers to learn
about events that happened in the passed or long ago and
also provides a way to study trends.
2. The research is not physically involved in the situation
under study.
3. No danger of experimenter-subject interaction.
4. Documents are located by the researcher, data is
gathered, and conclusions are drawn out of sight
Identifying features of Historical Research
The three identifying issues of historical comparative research are
1. Causal relationships.
2. Processes over time, and
3. Comparisons.
As mentioned above causal relationships are difficult to
support although we make causal assumptions daily. Schutt
discusses the five criteria, which must be met in order to have a
causal relationship. Of the five the first three are the most
important: association, time order and non-spuriousness.
Association simply means that between two variables; the change
in one variable is related to the change in another variable. Time
order refers to the fact that the cause (the independent variable)
must be shown to have occurred first and the effect (the dependent
variable) to have occurred second. Nonspuriousness says that the
association between two variables is not because of a third
Identifying features of Historical Research
The final two criteria are; identifying a causal mechanism- how the
connection/association among variables is thought to have occurredand the context in which this association occurs. The deterministic
causal approach requires that in every study, the independent and
dependent variable have an association, and within that study every
case (nation, region) the independent variable has an effect on the
dependent variable.
John Stuart Mill devised five methods by which people are able to
systematically analyze their observations and make more accurate
assumptions about causality. Mill's Methods discusses; direct method
of agreement, method of difference, joint method of agreement and
difference, method of residues and method of concomitant variations.
Identifying features of Historical Research
Some issues with this aspect of historical comparative
research are that the Mill's methods are typically the
most useful when the causal relationship is already
suspected and can therefore be a tool for eliminating
other explanations. Mill's methods simply cannot
provide proof that the variation in one variable was
caused by the variation of another variable.
Something about each of these three. How do we tell
when we have sufficient evidence to impute a causal
relationship? How best can we model processes
unfolding over time? On what basis can we identify
appropriate comparisons?.
Evaluation of Historical Research
1. Statement of hypotheses.
2. External and internal criticism of sources.
3. Observation and experimentation.
4. Technical terminology.
5. Generalization and prediction.
1. V.K. Suraj, (2008) Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Library and Information Science.
Delhi : Isha Books.

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