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Experiments in social science

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-R006-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 27, 2021, from

Article Summary

Within social science the experiment has an ambiguous place. With the possible exception of social psychology, there are few examples of strictly experimental studies. The classic study still often cited is the Hawthorne experiments, which began in 1927, and is used mainly to illustrate what became known as the ‘Hawthorne Effect’, that is, the unintended influence of the research itself on the results of the study. Yet, experimental design is often taken within social research as the embodiment of the scientific method which, if the social sciences are to reach the maturity of the natural sciences, social research should seek to emulate. Meeting this challenge meant trying to devise ways of applying the logic of the experiment to ‘non-experimental’ situations where it was not possible directly to manipulate the experimental conditions. Criticisms have come from two main sources: first, from researchers who claim that the techniques used to control factors within non-experimental situations are unrealizable with current statistical methods and, second, those who reject the very idea of hypothesis-testing as an ambition for social research.

Citing this article:
Hughes, John A.. Experiments in social science, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-R006-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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