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It is worth noting that relativism, as well as the belief opposed to it, refers to the theoretical interpretation of practical principles (Black, 2013). Despite the difficulties associated with the conceptual approach to values, the philosophical categories established by human experience show that values are true qualities since they become consequential attributes by their essential content. The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon the relation between objectivity and values in their application to social science research.
The main question discussed in this work centers on the query of whether values undermine the objectivity of research. Importantly, Bigge (1971) stressed that values were contextually specific. That is to say, they are usually defined by the culture of an individual; therefore, they cannot be considered universal. Nonetheless, the author argued that this notion could be verified through community-based action. Bigge (1971) made an attempt to outline a pragmatic view of the researcher’s values. In general, they should be perceived as concrete experiences of individuals. Research occurs within society; therefore, experiential learning of the general community should not be disregarded during interpretation. However, while carrying out research, the investigator should aim at making the existing sense of values more objective and deep.
Trifonas (1995) made other significant remarks exhibiting the reliability of values in research. He noted that qualitative research modes had been strongly criticized. Nonetheless, they have proved to be effective and flexible in studying socio-cultural contexts. Other investigators have mentioned that qualitative researchers do not agree with a variety of questions while sharing a mutual understanding regarding the way of decomposing the narrative data (Stefanidou & Skordoulis, 2014). This assumption is linked to the fact that new methods of data analysis continuously evolve. Trifonas (1995) explained this issue by stating that qualitative methods had “shown the promise of effectivity in fulfilling the need for initiating more subtle and responsive ways through which to explore contemporary socio-cultural context” (p. 97). In that matter, values serve as operations, which help to clarify the data in social science research.
Apart from that, when reflecting on the issue of objectivity of values, it is crucial to discuss the ways that help to make a study balanced. It has been mentioned that values can be biased due to their nature (they are defined by culture and context). Objectivity can be achieved through the methods suggested by Eisner (1992). He suggested that the investigator should strive to avoid any form of bias, focusing on the universal approach towards data. In addition, it is necessary to place a greater emphasis on the world in which individuals perform to ensure honesty and that all the aspects of the dispute have been considered. Moreover, Eisner (1992) recommended resorting to objective methods of data analysis and supporting the fair representation of things despite the researcher’s personal worldview. The important statement that can be made based on the current discussion of values is that although researchers might not admit a particular outlook, they will be engaged in designing it.
Thus, it can be concluded that values can be considered universal since they are clarified through community-based learning. In its turn, this form of learning inevitably occurs in the course of researching. Despite the fact that values can contain bias due to their nature, the existing body of knowledge suggests multiple ways of achieving objectivity at different stages of the research.
Questions for In-Class Consideration
Based on the reflection and the assumptions made, the three questions for in-class consideration are as follows:
- What values can the researcher bring to his or her study?
- To what extent can values intrude with the objectivity of research?
- What can data analysis methods be considered helpful in making a study balanced?
Bigge, M. (1971). Positive relativism: An emergent educational philosophy. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Black, D. (2013). On the almost inconceivable misunderstandings concerning the subject of value-free social science. British Journal of Sociology, 64(4), 763-780.
Eisner, E. (1992). Objectivity in educational research. Curriculum Inquiry, 22(1), 9-15.
Stefanidou, C., & Skordoulis, C. (2014) Subjectivity and objectivity in science: An educational approach. Advances in Historical Studies, 3(4), 183-193.
Trifonas, P. (1995). Objectivity, subjectivity and relativism: The case for qualitative methodologies in educational research. Journal of Educational Thought, 29(1), 81-101.