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Meaning, Nature and Scope of Social Research

Meaning and Definition


According to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English, research is a careful investigation or enquiry specially through search for new facts in any branch of knowledge. Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of English Language defines research as diligent and systematic enquiry or investigation in to a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc. Thus, in common parlance, research refers to a search for knowledge. It can also be defined as a scientific and systematic search for pertinent information on a specific topic; it is an art of scientific investigation. However, in Social Research, many scholars have given comprehensive definitions of research, although there is no consensus among them on a single, precise and comprehensive definition of social research. Redman and Mory have defined social research as a systematized effort to gain new knowledge. In te words of Donald Slessinger and Mary Stevenson, social research is a systematic method of exploring, analyzing, and conceptualizing social life in order to Extend, correct or verify knowledge, whether that knowledge aid in the construction of a theory or in the practice of an art. Pauline V. Young in his Scientific Social Surveys and Research says, Social Research may be defined as a scientific undertaking which by means of logical and systematized techniques, aims to: Discover new facts or verify and test old facts; Analyze their sequences, interrelationships and causal explanations, which are derived within an appropriate theoretical frame of reference; Develop new scientific tools, concepts and theories which would facilitate reliable and valid study of human behaviours. Yet for other scholars, social research is a movement, a movement from the known to the unknown; a movement tat seeks to find explanations to unexplained social phenomena, to clarify the doubtful, and correct te misconceived facts of social life.

Nature and Scope


Social Research as a discipline is a recent phenomena. With the elevation in the status of social science research in the post World War II period, the teaching of research methods has become popular. Since the 1950s, the Social Science Departments in the American Universities have been offering courses in research methods and over the years they have opined in popularity among the students. Universities in India have introduced research methodology in Social Science mostly in the 1970s. Concern with methods of research is common for any science when it decides to come down from the level of vague generalities and attempts to concentrate on specific problems of a much narrower focus. This fact was clearly made by Emile Durkheim in his short introduction to the Rules of Sociological Method. Durkheim said that the great sociologists prior to him seldom advanced beyond vague generalities o the

nature of societies, on the relation between social and biological realms, and on the general march of progress. Social Research is connected with the social life. The two cannot be separated. Social research is in fact a part of the scientific study/approach. Social research investigates and verifies social phenomena and social realities, the facts about social life and formulates laws this regard. After the laws have been formulated, investigation is carried out and interrelationships between various facts and laws is established. Through these steps we are able to collect data and knowledge about society. It provides scientific knowledge about social problems and helps the researcher to find out solutions to them. In brief, the goal of social research primarily is to explore and gain an understanding of human behaviour. Thus, social research as the following characteristics: Social Research is related to social Life Social Research investigates and verifies facts about the society and social interactions Social Research formulates laws in regard to different social phenomena and the principles that guide these phenomena It tries to investigate the relationship that exists between various facts and phenomena of social life.

A research aims to establish a scientific knowledge. Hence the purpose of social science research is to establish scientific, empirical knowledge about the human society. Thus, the scope of social research centers on the use of scientific method for the establishment of scientific knowledge of the society with the use of a scientific method. Scientific method is characterized by verifiability, ethical neutrality, accuracy, precision, objectivity, and it is systematic, its production based on probability. The scope and method of social research is both wide ad complex because it involves the comprehension of social reality whose nature is very complex unlike the physical reality. Social research also covers the field of social planning as social research guides the social planning process. Adequate social planning depends for its success on the systematic knowledge of the social resources and liabilities. Social planning requires a store of reliable factual knowledge on whose basis the blueprints may be designed. Providing such a scientific knowledge falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of social research. Control of social power also falls, although indirectly, under the scope of social research. Since knowledge is a particular kind of power, social research gives a greater power of control over the social phenomena. Dispelling the trust of outworn assumptions, superstitions and stereotypes by providing scientific and enlightening knowledge is something, which too falls within the scope and domain of social research. Social research also has a direct implication for social welfare. By virtue of the deeper understanding of the causal nexus underlying various social maladies, social research provides and can provide a secure basis for effective remedial measures. Thus social welfare also falls within te scope of social research. It is also the scope of social research to provide prediction about social phenomena by way of ascertaining some order among facts. Thus, by prediction, social research has the effect of initiating and guiding social

growth towards cherished goals of the society. These may be summed up as some important matters that fall within the scope of social research.