Hammersley, M. and Gomm,
R. (1997) 'Bias in Social Research'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 1, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/1/2.html>
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Received: 14/10/96 Accepted: 7/3/97 Published: 31/3/97
Figure 1: A conceptual network identifying types of error
2 For this counter-charge in the case of Freeman's critique of Mead, see Ember (1985).
3 For a discussion of the ambiguities of Becker's argument, see Hammersley (1997a).
4 This usage of the term is the predominant one in many methodological texts. See, for example, Kidder and Judd (1986) and Babbie (1989).
5 For diverse philosophical discussions of the concept, see White (1970), Kirkham (1992) and Allen (1993).
6 It is perhaps important to emphasize that, as formulated here, foundationalism is a pure type. It does not even correspond to the position of the Vienna Circle positivists (see Uebel, 1996).
7 See Suppe (1954) for an account of the collapse of what he calls 'the received view' and the arguments involved. Among the most influential philosophers of science who have put forward nonfoundationalist views are Popper (1959) and Polanyi (1958).
8 This difference is not as great as is sometimes supposed. It is instructive that William James described his position as 'radical empiricism' (James, 1912).
9 Instrumentalism is also sometimes appealed to. For a discussion, see Hammersley (1995: pp. 71 - 2).
10 It might be possible to accuse them of bias in terms of the knowledge and procedures that prevail in their own communities, ie by internal critique; though such a challenge would always be open to the response that outsiders cannot understand the cultures of these communities.
11 Epistemological relativism, the idea that there are multiple realities, needs to be clearly distinguished from cultural relativism, the claim that there are multiple perspectives on, and in, the world which need to be understood. In these terms, we are cultural relativists: we believe that cultural and other kinds of diversity are an empirical fact of considerable importance. What we are rejecting is epistemological relativism.
12 For examples of arguments in favour of relativism in the context of social and educational research, see Smith (1989) and Guba (1992).
13 For discussions of our understanding of what this realism amounts to and its implications for assessment of the validity of research findings, see Hammersley (1990) and Foster et al (1996).
14 This is not a form of relativism because what is presented from the different perspectives must be non-contradictory.
15 The original model here is, of course, Descartes, but this idea can be found across most kinds of foundationalism. For example, in the context of qualitative research methodology, see Glaser and Strauss's (1967: p. 37) recommendation that researchers should not read the literature relevant to their research before they begin the process of analysis.
16 This is the gist of the anti-Cartesian arguments developed by, for example, Peirce and Wittgenstein.
17 This has led one philosopher of science to argue that 'it is a mistake to assume that the objectivity of a science depends upon the objectivity of the scientist' (Popper 1976: p. 95). This is an exaggeration, it seems to us, since the operation of the research community in enforcing objectivity depends on the commitment of individual scientists to that ideal. Nevertheless, like Popper, we see the role of the research community as essential.
18 We leave aside the issue of whether false presuppositions may sometimes be functional and true ones dysfunctional!
19 For this reason, we are in disagreement with those who see advocacy as forming part of research, see Paine (1985), or who recommend partisan research, see for example Gitlin (1994). See Hammersley (1997b).
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