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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 02 December 2021

Scope Conditions

A Potential Escape from Systematic Theory Falsificationlocked

Scope Conditions

A Potential Escape from Systematic Theory Falsificationlocked

  • Mathilde Gauquelin

Abstract

This chapter describes scope conditions, the idea of which is rooted in Hempel’s ‘true–false’ paradox of theoretical formulations: one can always find data to support a general theoretical proposition, but conversely, every proposition will also always be subject to contradicting evidence. This realization led scholars to reflect on possible ways to evaluate theories: how can they ever be proven to be valid, if they can never escape falsification? The concept of scope conditions suggests that when formulating general theoretical propositions, scholars may also identify the specific conditions under which they expect these propositions to apply. By doing so, the risk of systematic falsification decreases, and the development of cumulative knowledge becomes possible. The chapter explains the role of scope conditions in theory development and provides guidance on their identification.

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