Seminaire Pierre Lelong - Henri Skoda by Pierre Lelong

By Pierre Lelong

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Second, in experimental research significance tests can be used to assess the likelihood that random allocation has generated experimental groups that are sufficiently different in relevant background characteristics to have produced the size of difference in outcome actually discovered between the groups. 15 This is where we are concerned to discover whether or not a systematic causal process has been in operation on some occasion, rather than the variation documented having been generated by a concatenation of many factors whose overall effect approximates to being random.

The term ‘objective’ here is usually taken to mean ‘minimizing or eradicating the role of judgement’. However, it is rarely, if ever, possible to eliminate judgement altogether, even if that which remains amounts only to making a decision about to which of several closely specified categories a respondent’s answer belongs. Moreover, the attempt 7 On this, see Williams 2001, who argues that a realist approach that recognizes social complexity and focuses on probabilities at the level of individual cases is required.

4 Many of the same sorts of issue also arise with questionnaire surveys, and there are also long established points about reactivity and the danger of mismatches between the interpretive frames of researcher and researched, and the implications of these for inference from what people say to what they believe and do (see Cicourel 1964; Phillips 1971; Converse and Schuman 1974). Thus, with both already available data and that collected by researchers for specific purposes, there may also be problems of inference involved.

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