Since the origins of humanity, our species has eagerly pursued knowledge, trying to catalog and define it through clear and well-distinguishable concepts. In ancient Greece, scholars decided to establish a concept that would encompass knowledge, science.
It is necessary to clarify previously that it is called knowledge to a set of information acquired through experience or introspection and that can be organized on a structure of objective facts accessible to different observers. It is called science to that set of techniques and methods that are used to achieve such knowledge. The word comes from Latin scientia and, precisely, it means knowledge.
The cientific method
The systematic application of these methods generates new objective knowledge (scientists), which take on a specific shape. First a prediction is made which is tested through the scientific method and subjected to quantification. On the other hand, these predictions of science can be located within a structure thanks to the detection of universal rules, which allow you to describe how a system works. These same universal laws are what make it possible to know in advance how the system in question will act under certain circumstances.
Types of science
Science can be divided into basic science and applied science (when scientific knowledge is applied to human needs). There are also other classifications of the sciences, such as those proposed by the German epistemologist Rudolf carnap, who divided them into formal science (they do not have concrete content, such as logic and mathematics), natural Sciences (Its object of study is nature. Example: biology, chemistry, geology) and social Sciences (They deal with aspects of culture and society, such as history, economics, and psychology).
Although each science has its characteristic research modality, scientific methods must meet several requirements, such as reproducibility (the ability to repeat an experiment anywhere and by anyone) and falsifiability (A theory must be able to be placed against evidence that manages to contradict it).
The steps of the scientific process are the observation (a sample is taken), the detailed description, the induction (when the implicit general principle is extracted from the observed results), the hypothesis (which explains the results and their cause-effect relationship), the controlled experimentation (to test the hypothesis), the demonstration or refutation of the hypothesis and, finally, the universal comparison (to contrast the hypothesis with reality).
In the social SciencesWhere the pragmatic value lies in understanding our species, some requirements of this method cannot be applied. It should be clarified that one of the fundamental objectives of the existence of social sciences is to achieve a greater understanding of the human being, as an individual and as a social being.
For this reason, to carry out a deep study of human behavior it was necessary to create different scientific spaces where to work independently on each topic, in this way the psychology, anthropology, the economy and the sociology, which study behavior within a cultural context. It is about making an impartial observation and gathering data that helps to understand the matter and draw conclusions as objective as possible.
Deductive method and qualitative method
An important difference that needs to be mentioned is the one that exists between the exact sciences and the human ones, in the former every time an event wants to be repeated to carry out its verification, it can be done through the hypothetico-deductive methodHowever, in the human sciences it is impossible to repeat the phenomena, because the elements that interfere are social and temporal and can never happen identically. This led the social sciences to develop a diverse method that is the qualitative method, in which data from an environment are collected and compared with others taken in another circumstance or in another environment, in order to reach an accurate conclusion of social and cultural statistics of a people or group of individuals.
Malinowski and the participant observation method
In anthropology one of the scientists who managed to establish a method of study was Bronislaw Malinowski who devised the participant observation method, through which he managed to understand the way in which the primitive peoples of the islands found in northern Australia lived. This method applied to a community of native settlers could be summarized in the following steps:
* Choose an indigenous community.
* Gather as much information about it as possible.
* Deeply document yourself about it.
* Make hypotheses about the life of these settlers.
* Learn to communicate in your language.
* Organize the work in a theoretical-practical structure to carry out the research.
* Analyze everyday aspects and social events (relationships, economic activities, etc.) with equal detail.
* Establish differences between what we have observed and the interpretation of it.
According to Herskovits, to make an anthropological analysis it is necessary to observe as much as we can, participate in what the settlers allow us and discuss our hypotheses and experiences with as many natives as we can. Thus we would be putting Malinowski’s method of observation into practice.
In addition, there are other methods that can help to understand the social facts and the behavior of a people, such as the structural method and specific methodologies according to each branch of science.
To finish, it only remains to clarify that science is the methodology that allows to approach the knowledge through the completion of a certain number of steps. The set of these steps is called a method and, according to the type of knowledge that you want to reach, it will be necessary to use one or another method, as appropriate.