Quantitative and qualitative research in finance
Quantitative and qualitative research in finance

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Quantitative and qualitative research in finance

7.1 Reflections on research biases

There are some senses in which social research is necessarily political, even when it seeks to be non-partisan and to maintain autonomy or independence from politics and practice.

Like many other words, ‘political’ does not have a single standard meaning. It can refer to the struggle to gain power, to issues that involve conflicting values or interests, to matters about which there can be reasonable disagreement (or about which there will be actual disagreement, reasonable and unreasonable), or to issues concerned with the distribution of scarce resources. Which sense of the term is adopted may result in different conclusions about whether or not research is or should be political.

In what respects do you believe that social research is necessarily political or should be political? Think about your reasons for your answer.

In answering the questions below, you will need to think about exactly what the word ‘political’ can mean, and the different respects in which it might be applied to social research.

Activity 6

Timing: About 30 minutes

Question 1

In what respects do you believe that social research is political in relation to the financial resources it requires?

Add your notes here and then compare them with the feedback provided.

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Discussion

Social research draws on resources which could have been allocated to other purposes. Gaining and maintaining these resources means that researchers, or their representatives, have to engage in political debate and political action. Thus, there is much politics around research funding bodies, and the relationships between universities and their funding sources (public and private). Social researchers are clearly implicated in these.

Question 2

In what respects do you believe that social research is political in relation to the use of the research findings?

Add your notes here and then compare them with the feedback provided.

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Discussion

Research findings may be used in a variety of ways, for diverse purposes, and can have an impact on decisions that are themselves political in one or more of the senses outlined above. It may be argued that this makes research necessarily political as well.

Question 3

In what respects do you believe that social research is political in relation to the goals it serves?

Add your notes here and then compare them with the feedback provided.

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Discussion

There is a further sense in which some researchers, and stakeholders, believe that social research ought to be political: that it should be directed towards serving other goals as well as (or instead of) the production of worthwhile knowledge, whether this is supporting the development and implementation of government policy, serving some political organisation, or aiding in the struggle of an oppressed group. There is genuine disagreement among researchers at the present time about whether their work should be political in this sense. It is important to stress that even research which is directed towards no goal other than producing worthwhile knowledge cannot avoid taking other values into account. First of all, judgements need to be made about what is and is not worthwhile knowledge to pursue, in the sense of what questions are worth trying to answer. Secondly, judgements also have to be made about what are and are not legitimate means of pursuing enquiry. This second area is usually discussed under the heading of research ethics.

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