2.4 Thinking through the challenges
In addressing the challenges of the social sciences, we have emphasised the ways in which social researchers are themselves located within a particular social and cultural context and that it is worthwhile to consider the implications of this for social science. This leads us to consider if, and how, our own position in society has an impact upon the way that we produce social scientific knowledge. In short, we should consider how much we draw upon our own values, assumptions and identities when we develop concepts, formulate arguments and collect empirical evidence. One way in which social scientists can deal with this problem is to adopt the methods of the natural sciences and attempt to be detached from their object of study. But how detached should we be? As you saw in Activity 1, a more detached perspective, like that of Saunders (Reading A), does not provide the same kinds of understanding that a more involved method provides, like that of Tomas (Reading D). Yet both have useful and interesting things to say. In Section 3 we explore in more detail what it means to be part of the object we are attempting to study. In other words, what does it mean to be situated in a social or historical context?