In this CQ Dossier, several key research-reading skills will be discussed: knowledge of how to prove cause & effect, basic statistical awareness, and an understanding of science as tentative and self-correcting.
Social scientists are tasked with the difficult job of examining something as mutable, idiosyncratic, and subjective as human experience, and distilling their findings in a systematic, unbiased manner. The field has been shaped by controversies over how best to accomplish this. Early psychologists such as Wilhem Wundt, Sigmund Friend, and Carl Jung believed that the study of human psychology required personalized, florid descriptions of individual experience; however, the data this yielded was often difficult to analyze in an objective, organized way (Hatfield, 1997). In contrast, behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner and cognitivists such as Norbert Weiner (1948) believed that humans’ thoughts, feelings, and actions should be recorded in a close-ended fashion, and analyzed mathematically (Delprato & Midgley, 1992). The data yielded by this approach was often straightforward to analyze, but more difficult to meaningfully interpret.