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Summary of Kenneth D. Mackenzie and Robert House

Summary of Kenneth D. Mackenzie and Robert House

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Published by Akshay Bhat

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Published by: Akshay Bhat on May 22, 2012
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FB11001 Akshay S Bhat Doctoral Student - Strategy XLRI Jamshedpur May 01, 2012

Summary: Paradigm Development in the Social Sciences: A Proposed Research Strategy.

This seminal work by Professors Kenneth D. Mackenzie and Robert House illustrates a paradigm development strategy for the ‚development of cumulative growth of knowledge‛ in the social sciences; such a strategy they pronounce is needed for the efficiency with which it generates knowledge. On a detailed understanding and prefatorily: we define a Paradigm by a set of Theories, standards, methods and beliefs which are commonly accepted by most scientists around the world. Eminent stalwart and researcher in this field Kuhn argues that science is a series of peaceful periods, which are interrupted by intellectually intense revolutions, but in the moments of calm these scientists are guided by the accepted paradigms of those ‚peaceful times‛. In this article which is viewed as a supplementary to the earlier works of Mackenzie and House, charts out the nature of a paradigm development strategy; In this strategy of Research there are some important stages:a) Fitting Data into a theoretical framework with general laws (Nomological Laws as we shall call it later) to explain the data b) Deducing Hypothesis from the Data c) Subjecting this to an empirical test.

The suggested paradigm development strategy by Mackenzie and House is the Strong Inference Approach this strategy is again based on a few important bases as: a) Deductive Nomological Reasoning, b) Crucial Experiment, c) Experimenter Control Strategies and lastly d) Strong Inference. We shall now succinctly highlight the important points of consideration under each of these Bases: a) Nomological Reasoning: The root word ‘Nomo’ in Greek means ‘Law’ or a set of rules or cannons. So in short Nomological Deductive Reasoning means explanations by deductive subsumptions under general laws. The development f these laws are quintessential for characteristics of Paradigm Research. Prima facie there are three important parts to it: the phenomenon to be accounted for is called the explanandum phenomenon, the statements describing the

phenomenon are called explanandum sentences and the statements specifying the explanatory information are called explanans sentences, explanans sentences can be further bifurcated as General Laws (denoted by L1, L2, L3…) and Special Conditions given by (C1, C2, C3..). The Laws are further categorized as Internal and Bridge Principles. In layman terms Bridge Principles relate theory to empirical data, i.e. ‚Theory has explanatory power and permit it to be tested empirically”. So to recapitulate, the Explanans Sentences consist of the General Laws and the Special Conditions and if the flow of study is based on the explanans and we hypothesize the Explanandum then it is a Prediction, else if we go backwards and based on the Explanandum we draw the Explanans we call it an explanation. b) Crucial Experiment: Are Decisions made by the experimenter in gathering and transforming information, but such an act is not easy owing to the myriad

decisions that must be made regarding Bridging Principles and Special Conditions. c) Experimenter Control Strategies: Can be briefly classified into 3 types and described in first person view to elaborate and drive home the point a) Degree to which I manipulate the antecedent1 conditions b) Degree to which measurements are imposed and c) The degree o which I have structured the Explanans. In the first type of control strategy it is the environment which is being manipulated to match the special conditions and assertions, the second control manipulates the degree to which measurement requirements are imposed on a situation and the third focuses on the way the Explanans are manipulated to arrive at the Explanandum. These typologies of Research Strategies can be elucidated on a cuboids fce where the Degrees in increasing order of magnitude are plotted on the 3 axes of the cube. And based on the above degrees magnitude and type of control, the experiments can be classified into 3 major classes as a) Observational Type, b) Field Experiment and c) Lab Setting Experiment d) Strong Inference: As stated earlier and reiterated ‚Strong Inference focused on Development of Cumulative knowledge through Theory Building‛. Strong Inference is based on two premises the first states that ‚All things no matter how good at explaining a set of Phenomena are ultimately incorrect and will consequently undergo modifications over time‛ and the second states that ‚the fate of the better theories is to become explanations the hold for some phenomena in some limited conditions‛. A guiding principle is the Popperian Position which stands by saying that the pursuit of knowledge is more efficient when scientists go out to disprove a theory or seek rejections rather than assemble proof for theories. The fact that this approach allows theory building to


Antecedent here denotes the previously existing reasons and paradigms

be cumulative and is efficient by having guiding paradigms, which are the starting point for any researcher in this field The Paper then concludes that for a research strategy to be classified as a ‚a paradigm development strategy‛ there should be a commitment to a)Theory Building and b) Commitment to a program of research, and theory building must be tried out in different settings rather than a single setting which can render the theory sterile, albeit crucial experiments are important much will be gained when they are applied in the real world outside the controlled lab settings, and the commitment to the program of research states that seldom are theories built upon from a single or a small group of studies, and most of the theories have culminated from a series of studies which have “culminated over time in a reformulation of the earlier concept and research findings” all this while taking a ‚rejection‛ approach in accepting theories which according to the authors of the paper results in better theory, again they make the prospective scholars who are reading this paper that such a research strategy is not for the faint hearted but can in the long term generate a more rewarding and satisfactory result.

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