Science and the Study of Politics

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1. What is the difference between normative and empirical analysis?

Normative analysis deals with questions of what should be or what is right, and is based on arguments founded in values and beliefs, in addition to empirical observations. Empirical analysis focuses on describing or explaining what is, and does not rely on value or beliefs.

2. List the four key beliefs of the scientific approach.

The four core beliefs of the scientific approach are:

  1. Empiricism (we should base our knowledge on observation of the world)
  2. Determinism (things have causes which can be known)
  3. Objectivity (research findings exist independent of the researcher)
  4. Replication (repeated testing is necessary to guarantee accuracy)

3. What are some of the limits of the scientific approach in the social sciences?

Because social scientists study people’s beliefs, ideas, and behaviours, we often have difficulty empirically measuring things by beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes. People may disagree with what basic concepts mean, or they may misrepresent what they believe or do, purposefully or accidentally. At the same time, perfect objectivity on the researcher’s behalf is impossible, because we are still humans with beliefs and values. In addition, some researchers argue against positivism and are interpretivists, which means they do not believe that objectivity is possible or desirable at all.

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