By Ellen Grigsby
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Extra resources for Analyzing Politics: An Introduction to Political Science
Such is the very logic of science itself. However, a number of problems may complicate this logic. Specifically, observation implies some degree of interpretation. Observation is never ‘‘purely’’ observation. Even as we observe and mentally record data, we are imposing meaning on it (that is, interpreting it). 65 Because interpretation is an inevitable part of observation, personal bias or opinion in the process of interpreting may be unavoidable. Thus, no matter how hard we try to be scientific, we may be viewing the world in a biased manner.
Random selection requires that each person in the population to be studied must have an equal chance (compared to all others in the population) of being selected. Thus, if a political scientist wishes to study the population of registered Republicans, he or she must ensure that each registered Republican has an equal chance of being chosen to participate in the survey. Because it is difficult (and expensive) to get a random sample of a very large group (such as Republicans), researchers often use a variant of random sampling—either stratified sampling (random samples of demographic subgroups within the population to be studied) or cluster sampling (random samples of geographic subgroups within the population to be studied).
If we avoid such questions— preferring others that are easier to operationalize and study empirically—we may 34 CHAPTER 2 be upholding scientific canons but removing ourselves from a discussion of what people actually find important. 69 Does Science Contradict Its Own Logic? Scholars studying the history of science have sometimes raised this question in relation to two issues. First, does science really operate according to the scientific method? For instance, history holds many examples of scientists who were unorthodox to the point of being unscientific in their methods.
Analyzing Politics: An Introduction to Political Science by Ellen Grigsby