Impartiality

Objectivity is one of the crucial hallmarks of scientific study. Without approaching a problem with an open mind free of biases it is impossible to properly arrive at an impartial result. Sociologists strive to remain ‘value natural’ when conducting research, yet it is unclear whether this is at all possible when conducting data collection for qualitative research. This has serious implications for sociological work, and society at whole, which depends on its work. (Berk 1983)

Bias is everywhere, and every researcher is subject to it. It creates somewhat of a paradox. The closer that a researcher gets to the subject matter, the better understanding he has of the problem and the better data he can collect. Simultaneously, this close connection to the subject matter increases the probability of bias, and may create ‘value added’ or ‘value infused’ research, which is of reduced scholarly and policy utility. It is impossible for a scientist to be totally objective and avoid all bias. Every individual begins with some concept of the issues and cannot reject this. The best approach is to understand one’s biases, work to ensure they do not poison the research, and disclose them often and loudly to ensure that they are known.

While quantitative research is still subject to bias, it is much easier to remain unbiased. Numbers cannot lie, and methods are easily evaluated. The actual act of processing and analyzing the data is generally unimpeachable. On the other hand, qualitative research is subject to bias at every step of the way. (Tinkler 2011)

Value added research frequently harms the society. Policy makers and others are permitted to be biases, and in fact are almost accepted as such. The scientific community is expected to be unbiased and play the part of a mediator in such debates. Either side is seeking an advantage over the other, and it is the role of the scientist to provide unprejudiced information for use in persuasion and decision-making.