- Paperback: 428 pages
- Publisher: Transaction Publishers (April 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765804484
- ISBN-13: 978-0765804488
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science
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About the Author
Abraham Kaplan (1918-1993) taught at RAND Graduate School, Harvard University, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is widely published, and is perhaps best known for Power and Society, co-authored with Harold D. Lasswell.
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Weaknesses: This book has significant limitations in terms of illuminating social science methodology. The author has a very narrow conception of causation and generalizability. For example, he addresses experiments, but not quasi-experiments or more sophisticated causal modeling techniques. The section on validity makes no mention of Donald Campbell's contributions. Lee Cronbach is not cited at all. There is no mention of Bayes. I find it curious that Kaplan devotes so much attention to laws since he is interested in social science inquiry where laws are scant. Possibly the philosophy of science content has more value than the methodology sections--I am less familiar with that literature.
When I finally sat down with it, I understood why. Forgive me for using the word so often, but Kaplan, too, is (was?) an intellectual, and of the very first rank. In this book, he dissects the scientific process, with his focus being on the social sciences. His discussion is general enough that pretty much everything he says applies just as well to the hard sciences, too. The ideas he puts forward can be mind-blowing if you haven't encountered them before; facts do not relate to real quantities because our metrics are all made up, and theories are valued for being useful, not for being true. There is more that he says as well, but it has been some years since I've read the book, and I don't have it available to me right now. (When I saw Amazon had no review for this book, I decided I'd ought to weigh in anyway.)
This book is not light reading. Kaplan is an old master, sharing the wisdom that comes only after a lifetime of work in one's field. Also, he has a vocabulary that could be described as "Buckleyesque", and he doesn't hold back with it. You will want to have a dictionary handy when you read this book. (You're laughing at me now, but wait until you start Chapter 1.)
Did I mention this is an excellent book? It has become one of the most influential works in my own intellectual journey (Up there with Hofstader's "Godel, Escher, Bach" and Miles's "GOD; A Biography"), and I rather wish I could talk with my old friend again, to tell him how much I appreciated his recommendation.
(I'm giving it a star rating only because Amazon requires me to; if you don't want to read something heavy and thoughtful, then you should avoid this book. But for that matter, if you want what's in this book, then you should avoid Shakespeare. Should I give Shakespeare two stars?)