Value Free Research a Possibility

To What Extent is it Possible to Produce
Value-Free Research?

With most research methods, the beliefs of the researcher can interfere with the way in which the research is collected. Value-free research is when the beliefs of the researcher do not have any affect on the way in which data is collected or analysed. Research can become value laden due to a variety of factors that include subjectivity and researcher bias. These, in turn, negatively affect the validity of the investigation meaning that the conclusions of the investigation may not be accurate.

Many would argue that Positivist research is value-free. This is large due to the epistemology of Positivist researchers which consists of scientific evidence, quantitative, empirical and reliable data. Quantitative data is seen as objective suggesting that it is not subjects to much interference from the researcher. This means that quantitative methods can make research value-free. As their epistemology also requires measurable proof, the variables can be measured objectively. This means that the views of the researchers do not affect the validity of the investigation.
Positivists tend to take a researcher on the outside approach; they do not become greatly involved in the lives of their participants. Therefore, the Positivists are less likely to form attachments with their participants that may cause the result of the research to be subject to the researchers’ opinion of their participants. This can prevent the views of the participants from interfering with the research.

Like most research, Positivist research may not be completely value-free. A critical aspect of Positivist research is setting a hypothesis, a statement suggesting that one variable causes another. The desire to prove the hypothesis can cause the researcher to carry out invalid research. This can be in the form of asking leading questions or influencing the responses of the participants.
For Positivists to validly measure the variables in an investigation, the concepts used need to be operationalised. The operationalisation of the concepts is subject to the researcher’s definition of the concepts. As a result of this, the investigation may not measure the concepts but the researcher’s definition of these. This is one way in which the values of the researcher can interfere with the research making it value-laden.
Although quantitative and empirical data is seen as more objective than other data, it is still subject to imposition problems. Positivist researchers may interpret the data the way they wish to. This connects with the problem caused by having a hypothesis; the researcher may interpret the data in such a way that it proves their hypothesis when it may not.

Many may suggest that Interpretivist research is not value free as it is more subjective than Positivist research. Unlike Positivists, Interpretivists do not aim to prove a hypothesis. This means that they do not previously predict the direction of their research meaning that they can carry out their research objectively.

Interpretivist research often collects data that is qualitative. Qualitative data is harder to analyse objectively than quantitative data. The information deemed as important may be subject to the researcher opinion of what this is.
A method used by Interpretivist researchers is that is Verstehen, looking through the eyes of the participants. By doing this, the researchers may not be able to conduct the research objectively causing the research to be value-laden.
Some Interpretivist researchers take a researcher on the inside’ approach. This enables the researchers to form a rapport with their participants. This can cause the researcher to become attached to their participants and cause the researchers to portray the participants in a subjective way.

Triangulation is a method that combines quantitative and qualitative approaches to check the reliability and validity of research. There are many forms of triangulation one of which is Investigator triangulation. This is when different researchers take part in a piece of research and check for research on the researcher’s part. Another form of triangulation is Data triangulation; collecting data at different times from different places and people. Data triangulation can be used to assess the interpretations and conclusions of researchers. The third type of triangulation is Methodological triangulation. This can be method within method’; using a variety of method within the same research method. It can also be between method’; the use of various research methods on one piece of research.
Some argue that triangulation can make research value free. This can be true in the case of Investigator triangulation. This can reduce the bias that researchers may impose on their research as other researcher may point out any bias present. However, Investigator triangulation can also cause the research to be less value-free. The researchers checking the research may impose their own values on the research making it value-laden.
Data triangulation can make research more value-free as researchers can asses the interpretation of other researchers. This can reduce the subjectivity of an investigation making it less biased and more valid.

It is possible that research does not always need to be value-free. Standpoint theory is based on the belief that due to their positions in society, some group can give a more valid insight into the social world. Feminist Standpoint researchers argue that because women are oppressed and excluded from powerful positions they can stand back and observe the patriarchal society as strangers.