Certainly, in pursuit of knowledge through research, objectivity is often a significant issue. According to Phillips (1990, p. 19), it is easy to determine that, objectivity in research is almost non-existent. It is so evident that objectivity does not exist that an individual does not have to extensively study theoretical literature or contemporary methodologies related to research in social sciences in search of it. This essay is a discussion of whether it is possible for researchers to be entirely objective in their studies. The discussion will be critical, reflective and based on academic literature. It will first begin by discussing different scholars who argue that objectivity in research is difficult to attain and the three paradigms which are; the positivist, interpretive and critical paradigms the essay will also deduce whether it is possible or desirable to be detached from researcher perception and bias based on these paradigms.
Arguments by Scholars
Myrdal supports Phillips (1990, p. 19) position that objectivity in research is dead (1969, p. 3). The assertion implies that objectivity does not exist. I agree with Myrdal (1969, p. 3) who states that despite the ethos of social research being premised on the pursuit for "objective" truth, bias cannot be avoided in a student who has a strong conviction. Bias cannot be avoided due to the student's faith that truth is wholesome and that illusions, especially those opportunistic ones are damaging. The assertion further support the assertion that objectivity in social research in unattainable.
Objectivity is the ability of not being influenced by personal beliefs or feelings. Agassi (1974, p. 307) posits that complete objectivity in science is an impossibility. However, he states that it is reasonably possible to partially achieve if one aims at it. Bloom (1971, p. 28) states that the reason for the impossibility is that every individual has his or her intellectual preferences as well as viewpoints. Also, people have their cultural and social traditions by being a member of a religious, national or ethnic group (Cohen Manion and Morrison, 2011, p. 10). A similar perspective is shared by Smith and Noble (2014, p. 100) who states that bias exists in all study designs since they often bring their ideas, dispositions, and experiences to the research they conduct. The ideas, dispositions and experiences thus form prejudice which hampers objectivity. Each stage of the research process may be influenced by bias and is difficult to get rid of. It is therefore up to the researcher to attempt to minimize bias in his or her study by outlining potential sources of bias (Sarantakos, 2012, p. 57)
It is possible for scholars to desire objectivity in research. According to Nahrin (2015, p. 2) and Gul (2014, p.18), ideally researchers prefer to be objective since they often want their research to be interpreted and presented as authentic. They often want their research to be perceived as one that presents real facts so that they can be accepted as an addition to the body of knowledge (Acker, Barry and Esseveld, 1983, p. 424). Another perspective that we can use to argue that detaching ourselves from these values and structures is desirable is that objectivity is thought to be important. Majority of people in society view objectivity as a critical subject in research. They therefore, have the perception that for change and progress to be instituted in society, a researcher has to be detached from the values and structures that constitute bias since the researcher will provide credible insight that is applicable to daily life. Also, given that some researchers are often under pressure from some other people such as those who fund their studies to stick to scientific and universally accepted methodologies. The occurrence may prompt researchers to be as objective as possible so that their research can be viewed as reliable and valid.
However, in some cases, the funders of these studies disregard issues such as reliability and validity as long as the research results can suit their purpose. Such as scenario may prompt a researcher to shun objectivity so as to please their research's benefactor. The occurrence is particularly true for research such as opinion poll on the most popular political candidate in an election. A researcher will be inclined to produce results that appease his or her benefactor for this will mean that additional incentives may be received. A researcher may also be given incentives to produce results that put a particular candidate in front of another for it often has an effect on the electorate. Such occurrences make it undesirable for a researcher to be detached from the values and structures of subjectivity.
The issue of desirability for being detached from the structures and values of subjectivity can be observed from a twofold perspective. The first perceptive is that research is viewed as a personal tool in that is used in the pursuit of truth, then it can be stated that it is difficult to be detached from these values. However, if research is thought of a tool for that is used for the gains of society and not a personal tool, then detachment from subjectivity is possible. The reason is that research as a personal tool does not pass through checks and balances or scrutiny. It is the same way that presenting a personal belief is never subject to serious scrutiny or analysis to ascertain accuracy. However, if the research was to be treated as a societal tool for its results gave implications for the whole society, it will be subject scrutiny and examination for accuracy. Under such conditions, it will be desirable for a researcher to be objective since the results will be critics.
Such a disposition may be exemplified in a research in form of a poll that is sponsored by a politician. The research may be viewed as a personal tool for a research to know his or her position in the political arena. Since such a research is for personal use, it may lack the desire to be objective because, such reports are not publicised and instead they are used as a political strategy. However, if the research was sanctioned for a different use such as knowing which candidate is likely to win in an election it is highly likely that the researcher would want to exercise objectivity since the research can be scrutinised for accuracy or even compared to other surveys.
The contentious topic and the hard stances by Phillips (1990, p. 19), Agassi (1974, p. 307) and Smith and Noble (2014, p. 100) can be examined by examining three paradigms, which are the positivist, interpretive and the critical paradigm. The examination of the three can provide answers as to whether a researcher can be truly objective.
The Positivist Paradigm
According to Kaboub (2008, p. 343), the positivist paradigm begun as a philosophical approach during the 19th century after scholar Auguste Comte opted to disprove the metaphysical approach. He instead accentuated that the truth about reality could only be revealed using scientific knowledge. Crotty (1998, p. 19) further states that the positivist approach argues that real occurrence should only be observed empirically and accompanied by a logical analysis when being explained. However, Kaboub (2008, p. 343) still posits that there may be a limitation with his approach. Though the data may be collected through methods that are experimental, the data may be deprived of external validity. For instance, according to Crook and Garratt (2005, p. 29), positivist who is studying methodologies that he or she can use to deal with issues such as crime and truancy may be preoccupied with visible manifestations instead of their underlying causes. The positivist may thus end up treating symptoms of the problem and not the real problem (Robson, 2002, p. 11), (Robson & Mc-Cartan, 2016). The occurrence is a case of researcher bias and lack of open-mindedness that limits him or to one point of view (Hammersley and Atkinson, 2010, p. 20).
Like Kaboub (2008, p. 343), other scholars, Chilisa and Kawulich (2012, p. 7) also acknowledge that the positivist paradigm is the only way that a researcher can establish objective reality and truth. Chilisa and Kawulich (2012, p. 7) state that the positivist approach is purely based on scientific techniques of data collection and interpretation. It, therefore, provides social and natural sciences with one of the best techniques in observing the world. Since the positivist approach was a result of the rejection of metaphysical speculation, it remains to be one of the most objective approaches to research (Reiners, 2012, p. 2). It is for this reason that an individual cannot research witches since there is no way one can obtain tangible data on their practices (Glicken, 2003, p. 17). However, the occurrence does not mean that we as researchers who believe in witches cannot research them since the positivist methodology cannot support data collection and analysis. A believer in witches can instead choose to use another approach.
However, from an epistemological perspective, contemplation can be focused on theoretical ideologies about what truth entails. According to Chilisa and Kawulich (2012, p. 7) the positivist paradigm is the only way that a researcher can establish objective reality and truth. It may be that this theory of truth has some form of association to the tenets of common sense. If notions on truth has a correspondence to common sense it can be deduced that a statement that is true can be observed as a fact. Such as perspective may consequentially lead us to believing that it is possible to detach from the social structures and values that were are embedded. Hence, it is possible for a researcher to produce a truth as it is. The reason is because basing on the theory of truth a researcher may find himself or herself in an infinite regress of reason.
Even after considering epistemological perspective, the believe that even though the positivist paradigm advocates for viewing phenomena in the most realistic way possible, it is still impossible to eliminate researcher bias. Aliyu et al. (2014, p. 81) stated that, a positivist researcher possesses the idea that the world must conform to everlasting decrees that explain the causation of happenings. A positivist also has the beliefs that there is complexity that may be at one point in time be defeated by reductionism (Arghode, 2012, p. 4). The assertion by Aliyu et al., (2014, p. 81) thus makes me doubt the objectivity of a positivist researcher since he or has already approached the research with a preconceived bias. The preconceived bias, in this case, is the researchers' perceptions and ideas of what they postulate the world must be like.
Another reason as to why the positivist paradigm cannot enable us as researchers to detach from the structure and values of perception and bias is the fact that does not examine the reason as to why things occur. It ignores the intents of the researcher. Therefore, result in a scenario where behaviour cannot be fully comprehended. Therefore, this limitation of the social science paradigm is that it is already biased and already creates a perception among researchers of how a study should be undertaken hence limiting the extent to which objectivity can be achieved (Kericho, K., 2006, p. 9).
The Interpretivists Paradigm
According to Thanh and Thanh (2...
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