Is social science really a science?

Science is the study of phenomena in the physical world.  Knowledge is drawn about the phenomenon by observation and systematic experimentation (Encyclopedia Britannica). Scientists strive to gather this information without bias.  Types of science can be grouped by earth science and social science.  Earth science encompasses many subcategories like biology, astronomy, natural, and medicine.  Social science encompasses subcategories like psychology, anthropology, and economics. 

There has been an ongoing debate whether social science is an actual form of science.  To answer this we must consider if social science is capable of a systematic approach to observing and analyzing phenomena in the physical world. The answer is yes, and it is proven true in methodologies used like research design, data collection and validation.

Research design includes development of study goals, the rationale behind the research, developing conceptual and theoretical frameworks, and planning the trustworthiness of the information or data gathered.  The processes within the design have systematic approaches.  For example, establishing the rationale for the study would include an exhaustive review of current literature to identify how formal theory is situated and to identify common research gaps. 

Both qualitative and quantitative data can be collected in social science research.  In addition to actual statistics, data could be composed of interviews, field notes, documentation, surveys and participant generated input (Ravitch & Mittenfelner, 2018).  Although the results can be unexpected the approach is systematically planned and implemented.  By supplementing statistical data with a context social science is able to better explain a phenomena.  Rosenberg (2018) discusses the ability for natural sciences to progress faster than social science.  If social science based findings solely on statistics it would progress faster as well.

Social sciences employ numerous methods of validity to confirm reliability of research data. Some examples are descriptive, interpretive, theoretical and evaluative (Ravitch & Mittenfelner, 2018).  Descriptive confirms factual accuracy by including notes collected in qualitative research, transcription, and detailed project plans. Interpretive matches behaviors and perspectives of research participants.  Theoretical explains the phenomena through the use of existing theories.  This not only serves as a basis for the research but adds another level of confirmation for the theory by being able to repeat the methodology.  Finally, evaluation describes the data without bias or judgement of the research team inserted into findings.


Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Rosenberg, A. (2018) Philosophy of Social Science. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Ravitch, S. M. & Mittenfelner, N. C. (2015). Qualitative Research: Bridging the Conceptual, Theoretical, and Methodological. SAGE Publications.

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