Research Topic

Epistemological and Ethical Aspects of Research in the Social Sciences

About this Research Topic

This Research Topic focuses on the questions “behind” empirical research in the social sciences, especially in psychology, sociology, and education. We want to ask empirical researchers in those fields to contribute their ideas about the nature of empirical knowledge and the values knowledge is or should be ...

This Research Topic focuses on the questions “behind” empirical research in the social sciences, especially in psychology, sociology, and education. We want to ask empirical researchers in those fields to contribute their ideas about the nature of empirical knowledge and the values knowledge is or should be based on.

We propose that those questions should always guide empirical research, especially assuming disciplinary and epistemological diversity among researchers. However, it seems that there is neither enough space for such research- and outcome-defining thoughts in journals that focus on reports of empirical data, nor is its discourse fostered among empirical researchers in general. Even more, sometimes it seems that epistemological, theoretical, and empirical social sciences are compartmentalized or not considered relevant.

Nevertheless, in the so-called “quantitative” field, a “quiet” revolution seems to take place in statistics – based on epistemological considerations – from the so-called null-hypothesis significance testing to model-comparison and Bayesian approaches. We would like to welcome authors to contribute to this discussion with articles dealing with state-of-the-art epistemologies as a starting point which are applied in statistical models, with the focus on the dynamics of a statistical model and/or its validity. Thus, articles should focus on analytical tools; results and the thematic scope should be secondary and only exemplify the approach.

In so-called “qualitative” research, questions of validity, reliability, self-involvement, or self-reflexivity are still pending problems, especially in the discourse with “quantitative” researchers or with different analytical concepts within qualitative research. We would like to encourage authors to display their research approaches in this paradigm and contribute to a common understanding of “understanding empirical research.”

Lastly, so-called “mixed-methods” research is getting more and more attention due to the possibility of enhanced validity. However, little consideration is given to the epistemic claims of the individual methods stemming from seemingly different philosophical traditions. We would like to encourage authors to present best-practice examples of well informed and epistemically justified blends of research methodologies in psychology, sociology, and education.

Critical to any good research is how data are collected. This question especially seems to disappear in “quantitative” research once the data-base is imported in analytical software. Too little focus is given to good practice before data analyses and how the data-collection process might influence validity and reliability of data. We would like to welcome contributions focusing on pre-analytical procedures and present best-practice examples.

Finally, praxeological questions in empirical research always have ethical underpinnings, in each quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods approaches. In some obvious cases, especially where medical data are collected, formal committees have to be asked for “ethical approval,” and codes of conduct are available with prominent organizations. However, little reflection on ethical aspects and implications of research can be noted in empirical contributions, and ethics seems to be a neglected field with underestimated importance or with importance only in controlling contexts. Moreover, it seems that especially ethical questions and the negligence of which can have mayor effects on the results, especially in “quantitative” research which aims, for example, at “objectivity” and which may avoid ethical questions for example in secondary analyses. Thus, contributions to ethical aspects and implications of empirical research in the social sciences are most welcome.


Keywords: Methodology, Epistemology, Praxeology, Validity, Mixed Methods Research


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 December 2017 Abstract
31 May 2018 Manuscript

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Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 December 2017 Abstract
31 May 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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