• Research is an integral part of not only academia but society as well
• Academic research is what allows individuals to understand the world in a factual
sense. Data provides us with facts and these facts structure the world we live in.
• Society and every aspect of it has been studied for decades now and researchers
have come up with an array of new methods to accomplish this.
• As society progressed civilisation moved from a society centred around religious
governance to one rooted around science.
• Sociologists wanted to study human behaviour the same way in which natural
sciences were studied- thus the emergence of positivism. This is where
objectivity and subjectivity become important.
• According to science, one must conduct research ‘objectively’ to avoid bias and
arrive at the truth.
• However, as humans are inherently subjective creatures it is not possible to study
them in the same way sciences are studied.
• What makes someone human is their ability to think, feel, act and react.
Oftentimes the discourse surrounding this topic boils down to this question: Is
reality represented in individuals’ perceptions or is reality something external to
• The topic of subjectivity and objectivity in social sciences is a grey area that must
• The fact/value dichotomy is reinforced by the objective/subjective dichotomy.
• Science deals with facts; it is objective.
• Ethics deals with preferences; it is subjective.
BETWEEN THE TWO
• Objectivity is the perception or experience of the external; subjectivity is the
perception or experience of the internal.
• Subjectivity and objectivity are both necessary pathways to knowledge and are
dependent on each other.
• An approach in which attitude of an investigator is detached, unprejudiced, value
free and free from biases.
• It focuses upon a goal or the object and avoids distractions.
• Objectivity means that conclusions arrived at as a result of inquiry and
investigation are independent of the race, colour, occupation, religion, moral
preferences and political predisposition of the investigator
• Hence, objectivity pre-supposes value neutrality and predictability about
• Eg: Use of scientific methods like Verstehen.
• Since Sociological Investigation involves multiple stages, objectivity is required in
all those stages – Choice of topic and problem, Collection of facts, interpretation
of facts and formulation of theories.
• Proponents of objectivity earlier argued that sociologists should refrain from
entering into questions of what ought to be but instead focus on explaining what
• Objectivity is personal neutrality; it allows the facts to speak for themselves and
not be influenced by the personal values and biases of the researcher. (Macionis,
• It can also be interpreted as mind-independent, because it is information that is
not being altered based on an opinion. (“Proof that Reality is Mind-Independent”).
• For example, when looking at a painting, a person would use objectivity to
describe the texture, color, and form. These are all facts that are common and can
not be changed.
• In an objective study, the researcher’s mental state has no bearing on the study,
and the subject matter is observed in its proper context, regardless of the
researcher’s mental state.
• When an observer is an objective, they are not swayed by their own personal
feelings or opinions.
• The ability to perceive and accept facts as they are without being swayed by
popular belief, popular perception, or one’s own desires is what it means to be
• So that the biases, preferences, or predictions of social scientists are not reflected
in collecting data,
• objectivity is a ‘frame of mind.’
• The scientific study may only be described as objective if it is free of ideological
prejudices based on race, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
• In social science research, the need for objectivity has been highlighted by all
major sociologists. ?
• sociologists are expected to recognise and admit their own values and overcome
their personal prejudices.
• On the other hand, Gunnar Myrdal believed that complete objectivity is an
impossible ideal to attain.
FACTORS AFFECTING OBJECTIVITY
• (a) personal prejudices and bias,
• (b) value judgement,
• (c) ethical dilemma and
• (d) complexity of social phenomena
LIMITS OF OBJECTIVITY IN SOCIAL SCIENCES
• Limits of objectivity in social sciences Objectivity in social science research has
certain limitations, they are:
• a) Social scientist is part of human society and their judgements are subjective
and coloured by researchers own experience.
• b) The subject matter of social science research is too complex.
• All propositions are limited particular social groups and contexts.
• Thus objectivity in a major issue in social science research.
• c) All members of the society have different values, social researcher will
unconsciously influenced by their values.
• d) Social scientist fails to achieve objectivity because the respondents are human
beings have certain human problems.e.g. refusal of respondent, improper
understanding, reluctance etc,.
• All these problems cause biases and invalidate the research findings and
• Subjectivity is judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings
and opinions rather than external facts.
• This can be considered mind-dependent, because one is not using a fact, they are
using their personal opinion. (“Proof that Reality is Mind-Independent”).
• For example, if your favorite color is blue, then you are more likely to buy a blue
sweater versus a purple sweater.
• To be objective, a researcher must not allow their values, their bias or their views
to impact on their research, analysis or findings.
• For research to be reliable and to be considered scientific, objectivity is
• However, some question whether sociology can ever be entirely objective, as
researchers' views and values are likely to affect their choice of topic.
• Weber argued that while sociologists should be interested in the subjective views
of their subjects, they should remain objective in their research; others (such as
postmodernists) argue that objectivity is impossible at all stages of research.
• Objectivity means basing conclusion on facts without any bias and value
• The conclusion should be independent of one’s personal beliefs, likes dislikes and
• Both the data and the inference drawn from their analysis must be free from bias
• But modern feminist researchers and critical social researchers argued research is
a moral-political activity that requires the researcher to commit to a value
• Value freedom is a myth.
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