The Pitfalls of a Tool-based Science and the Promise of a Problem-focused Science

Authors: , , ,


Our present social sciences are at risk of losing sight of their primary purpose: the goal of reducing uncertainty. For years social scientists have drifted slowly toward the routine of employing of accepted methodological, conceptual, and analytical tools rather than engaging in problem oriented inquiry. Scientific contributions are reviewed in accordance to their compliance with the routine application of tools rather than focusing on their ability to problem-solve for a wider population. Researchers in every area of psychology for instance now insist on using methods such as random assignment and control groups, as well as data analytic procedures such as null hypothesis significance testing without regard to their relevance. A problem-focused inquiry would not dictate the routine use of any particular tool but rather the judicious application of tools when deemed appropriate. The following article describes the current situation in the framework contrasting toolbased and problem-focused inquiry and offers several insights that may create a more balanced and fruitful approach to scientific inquiry.

Keywords: scientific progress, methods, problem solving, innovation

How to Cite: McKnight, P. E. , Johns, M. , McGovern, P. & Najab, J. (2011) “The Pitfalls of a Tool-based Science and the Promise of a Problem-focused Science”, Journal of Methods and Measurement in the Social Sciences. 1(2). doi: