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Theory, Probability, and Induction in Social Research

Santo F. Camilleri
American Sociological Review
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Apr., 1962), pp. 170-178
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2089673
Page Count: 9
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Theory, Probability, and Induction in Social Research
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Abstract

The primary function of the scientist is to develop verified systematic theory. Probability considerations enter into the research process in three basic ways: intrinsically, as postulates in the theory; in auxiliary manner, as a part of the process of observation, including the explanation of errors of observation; and inductively, as a part of the logical structure of verification. The practices of sampling from finite populations, as in survey research, and of randomized experimentation are auxiliary uses of probability. The scope of induction provided in each by the method of sampling is inadequate for scientific purposes. To extend that scope requires the formulation and verification of theory. Statistical inference is inadequate as an inductive policy for logical and pragmatic reasons. The objective of systematic theory suggests the criterion of systematic import as part of a more adequate inductive policy.

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