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Understanding and Applying Research Design by Jennifer McKinney, Martin Lee Abbott

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“DUH” SCIENCE VERSUS “HUH” SCIENCE

HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WE KNOW?

When we go through the education process, we each take several categories of classes, especially if we know we’re headed to college. Often one of these categories is “science” and includes classes in biology, chemistry, or physics. Because of this we come to think of science as particular substantive areas rather than as a particular process. The process of science allows us to follow systematic steps to better understand the world around us. Whether using amino acids, elements along the periodic chart, sound waves, or people’s attitudes, following the process of science allows us to see patterns in our materials. Granted, it’s often harder to think of people as “materials” than it is to think of saltwater solutions as materials. Regardless of what we are looking for, following the scientific process allows us to gauge what is going on in the world.

The process of social science differs from other sciences only in that the social sciences use people to find patterns. While most of us think of people as individuals, each individual lives in a particular social context that has a surprising amount of order to it. For example, Americans drive on the right side of the road; Britons drive on the left. Even though both countries are made up of individuals, they each tend to transfer their cultural order to walking on the same side of the sidewalk. Even though each individual may walk in a unique way (perhaps like Monty ...

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