Home > Author Search

Author Search

8 articles matched your search:
Bias in Social Research

Martyn Hammersley and Roger Gomm
Sociological Research Online 2 (1) 2

Abstract: Accusations of bias are not uncommon in the social sciences. However, the term 'bias' is by no means straightforward in meaning. One problem is that it is ambiguous. Sometimes, it is used to refer to the adoption of a particular perspective from which some things become salient and others merge into the background. More commonly, 'bias' refers to systematic error: deviation from a true score, the latter referring to the valid measurement of some phenomenon or to accurate estimation of a population parameter. The term may also be used in a more specific sense, to denote one particular source of systematic error: that deriving from a conscious or unconscious tendency on the part of a researcher to produce data, and/or to interpret them, in a way that inclines towards erroneous conclusions which are in line with his or her commitments. In either form, the use of 'bias' to refer to systematic error is problematic. It depends on other concepts, such as 'truth' and 'objectivity', whose justification and role have been questioned. In particular, it seems to rely on foundationalist epistemological assumptions that have been discredited. And the various radical epistemological positions that some social scientists have adopted as an alternative either deny the validity of this concept of bias, explicitly or implicitly, or transform it entirely. We will argue, however, that while it is true that abandonment of a foundationalist conception of science has important implications for the meaning of 'bias' and its associated concepts, they are defensible; indeed, they form an essential framework for research as a social practice. In this context, we shall examine error as a matter of collegial accountability, and define 'bias' as one of several potential forms of error. We conclude by pointing to what we see as the growing threat of bias in the present state of social research.

A Reply to Humphries

Martyn Hammersley
Sociological Research Online 2 (4) 6

Abstract: A reply to Humphries, B. (1997) 'From Critical Thought to Emancipatory Action: Contradictory Research Goals?' Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 1, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/socresonline/2/1/3.html

A Response to Humphries

Martyn Hammersley
Sociological Research Online 2 (4) 6


A Response to Romm

Martyn Hammersley and Roger Gomm
Sociological Research Online 2 (4) 7

Abstract: A reply to Romm, N. (1997) 'Becoming More Accountable: A Comment on Hammersley and Gomm', Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 3, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/socresonline/2/3/2.html

Sociology, What's It For? A Critique of Gouldner

Martyn Hammersley
Sociological Research Online 4 (3) hammersley

Abstract: In this paper I argue against the influential 'mission statement' offered by Alvin Gouldner in his book For Sociology. This treats the discipline as supplying a reflexive perspective on social life that will lead political action towards the realisation of Enlightenment ideals. I point out that Gouldner is inconsistently reflexive, preserving his own position from the corrosive effects of the kind of sociological analysis he applies in criticising others. I contrast this with the reflexivity advocated by Steve Woolgar, deriving from the sociology of scientific knowledge. Woolgar suggests that reflexivity is always selective, and that (contrary to Gouldner) there is no sociological essence to be realised. Instead, the task for sociologists is to construct and reconstruct both sociology and its context, so as to bring off a practically successful mode of knowledge production. I argue that while Woolgar's position points to some genuine problems, it too is unsatisfactory. This is because he shares with Gouldner the assumption that a sociological perspective can be the basis for action in the world; what might be called the 'grand conception' of its role. I conclude that a more modest approach is required, similar to the position taken by Max Weber. This treats sociology as no more than a source of specialised factual knowledge about the world. Its practical value is considerable, but nevertheless limited. Above all, it cannot offer a self-sufficient answer to questions about 'what's wrong?' or 'what is to be done?'.

Creeping Ethical Regulation and the Strangling of Research

Martyn Hammersley
Sociological Research Online 15 (4) 16

Abstract: [No abstract]

An Alternative Ethics? Justice and Care as Guiding Principles for Qualitative Research

Martyn Hammersley and Anna Traianou
Sociological Research Online 19 (3) 24

Abstract: The dominant conception of social research ethics is centred on deontological and consequentialist principles. In place of this, some qualitative researchers have proposed a very different approach. This appeals to a range of commitments that transform the goal of research as well as framing how it is pursued. This new ethics demands a participatory form of inquiry, one in which the relationship between researchers and researched is equalized. In this paper we examine this alternative approach, focusing in particular on two of the principles that are central to it: justice and care. We argue that there are some significant defects and dangers associated with this new conception of research ethics.

On the Role of Values in Social Research: Weber Vindicated?

Martyn Hammersley
Sociological Research Online 22 (1) 7

Abstract: Weber's proposal that social science should aim to be value neutral is now widely rejected. However, I argue that his position was more sophisticated than is generally recognised, and that it is for the most part sound. Clarification of his position is provided, along with an outline of the reasons why it came to be rejected. I suggest that these are, for the most part, based upon misconceptions. I also demonstrate that there are fundamental problems with any notion of normative sociology, ones that are rarely addressed and have not been resolved.