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Where Do Research Problems Come From?

Lewis R. Binford
American Antiquity
Vol. 66, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 669-678
DOI: 10.2307/2694179
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2694179
Page Count: 10
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Where Do Research Problems Come From?
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Abstract

In science, understanding the relationship between data and problems is crucial to successful research. When problems are imposed on the data and its organization-instead of addressing the empirical subject matter of the discipline-a major epistemological difficulty arises. What domains of knowledge can reliably inform about the imposed problem? I suggest that the many claims that all data are "theory dependent" are primarily accurate in those instances when a problem is imposed on a body of data. This is the approach of humanities. When a problem is recognized in the context of pattern recognition studies that are focused on data generated from the study of one's subject matter, a different relationship exists between data and theory and fruitful theory building becomes possible. The latter is the approach of science. Central to this contrast is the issue of where problems come from.

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