Agger (1989) has informed us that the typical article format in sociology is used to claim scientific validity. Techniques such as the citation of authority and the display of methodology convince the reader that they are partaking of an undistorted view of reality. […] Merton (1968, 4) complained that sociologists do not inquire into “the ways in which scientists actually think, feel, and go about their work,” and as a result there is little public discourse concerning how social science is actually done. Moreover, Merton (1968, 4) believes that textbooks on research methods exacerbate the problem by teaching:
how scientists OUGHT [emphasis his] to think, feel, and act, but these tidy normative patterns, as everyone who has engaged in inquiry knows, do not reproduce the typically untidy, opportunistic adaptations that scientist make in the course of their inquiries.
He describes immaculate, bland, and typically impersonal sociological presentations that lack any accounting on the intuitive leaps, false starts, mistakes, loose ends, and happy accidents that comprise the investigative experiences. I further suggest that these presentations disguise the eminently social character of the production of knowledge, scientific or otherwise. By attempting to organize articles neatly into literature reviews, methods, findings, conclusions and so forth, all thinking is forcesed into a mold yielding an account of the research process that ignores, indeed counts as irrelevant, issues such as who the researcher is and what his or her motives are for the researching the topic of interest.[pp.420-421]
Ronai, C. (1995) ‘Multiple Reflections of Child Sex Abuse: An Argument for a Layered Account’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 23: 395-426.
Given that the quote on lack of inquiry into “the ways in which scientists actually think, feel, and go about their work” is from 1968, I guess I should check is there is any research on those things.
Also: I never really realised how the format of reporting research is inded used to claim validity. Now I realise that in her discussion of quality criteria Ulrike Schultze brings the format of writing explicitly as an evidence of plausibility [check when at work!]. I never questioned it…
However, if you look into that it looks suspucious – the difference in reporting style doesn’t really change what you did in your investigation. Or does it?
If it does not, then using the “right” format to claim quality is pretty much hiding behind the words.
If it does, then writing itself is an added value activity, rather then “just” reporting. And then we are back to writing as a method.
Something to think about…
Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2007/06/23.html#a1915; comments are here.