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Research Approach of Social Sciences and Humanities
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Research Approach of Social Sciences and Humanities

    Social sciences and humanities, including the majors such as Archaeology, Anthropology / Ethnology, History, Literature, Linguistics, Economics, Political Science, Culture Study, Sociology, Law, Philosophy, Religious Study, Psychology, Social Work, Urban Study, Tourism Study, Education Study, Public Administration Studies... Each major has its unique research methodologies and it is difficult to be fully aware. Therefore, there will not have a general method frame with high effectiveness for the research of all majors of social sciences and humanities.

     However, in certain extent we can find common features about research approach of social sciences and humanities that majority of majors in this field can base on them to apply.


       What is science? Science is a system of knowledge about the laws of matter and the movement of matter, the law of nature, society and thinking that are formed in history and develop continuously, supplement, deny and adjust based on practicality.

       Example 1:  The conception of Hung Vuong State was born 4,000 years ago that were replaced by the date of VII century BC, 2700 years ago.

      The nature of science is to discover new knowledge and theories about the nature and society that the nature is better to replace the old elements, inappropriate ones. An American scholar has generalized humorously but accurately that science is the replacement of this mistake knowledge by other mistake knowledge that has the fewer mistakes.

     In short, science is rather something about theory and newer something about knowledge or satisfies one of two elements.

      What is scientific research (SR)? Scientific research is an activity that seeks information through review, interview, survey, or testing to research and discover new things about the nature of things, the world of nature and society, or to create methods and new technical means that are higher and more valuable.

       However, to do scientific research, we must have strong knowledge in the field of research and the key is the independent capacity and methodical.

Object and research scope

      - Research object is the nature of things or phenomena that need to be reviewed and clarified in research tasks.

     - Research scope is the survey limitation of research object in the certain scope about duration, space and research areas.

Purpose and research objective

 Need to distinguish the difference between purpose and objective.

      - Purpose is to aim something or work of research (difficult to measure or quantify) that researcher wishes to complete.

Purpose answers questions "aim at what?", or "for what?" and the practical significance of the research.

     - Objective is to implement something or activities specifically and clearly (may measure or quantify) that researcher will complete according to outlined plans of the research.

Objective answers the question “do what?" and which results to be achieved.

Example 2:

      The subject:  "Impact of the arrangement of classroom, school time on the quality of teaching and learning in training under credit system at University of K".

The purpose of the subject:  To improve the quality of teaching and learning for staffs and students.

The objective of the subject: At least two objectives

1. To determine the number of students in one class just sufficiently so as to ensure the quality of education and training under credit system.

2. To determine the time and optimal spacing in the arrangement of school time for specific credit units of study.

The structure of the scientific research methodology

The structure of scientific research methodology includes the thesis, argumentation and argument.

- Thesis is a "judgment" or a "supposition" that need to be proved in order to answer the question "prove what?" in the research.

- Argumentation is a method to determine the relationship among arguments; between the argument and the thesis in order to answer the question "how to prove?”

- Argument is data and figures that are collected from information, references, observations, investigation or experiment in order to answer the question "prove by what?”


Scientific research progress includes 7 following steps:

1.      Observe things and phenomena

2.      Detect and set up research issue

3.      Hypothesize research (or thesis)

4.      Build argumentation.

5.      Find out theoretical arguments and practical arguments (collect experimental information or data)

6.      Process and analyze information.

7.      Summarize results, conclusion and recommendations

Step 1: Observe things and phenomenon

       Observing things and phenomenon is to observe and monitor objectively things, phenomena, laws of movement and relationship of the surrounding world and based on knowledge, experience or former researches to explore, find out new knowledge and explain movement laws and relationship between things and phenomena.

     Observing things and phenomenon is a process to help generate ideas, the basis to form questions and hypothesize for research.

Step 2. Detect and set up research issue

       Detecting and setting up research issue is to detect issue and find out questions that need to be answered in the process of research.

     There are many methods to detect issue, such as to analyze on logical structure of collected materials; to identify disagreements in the debate at the conferences; to think counter to conventional views, to identify problems in actual operation; to listen complaints of those who do not understand, the questions suddenly appear regardless of any reason.

       Research issue is the question posed when the researcher must  face to the conflict between the limitation of current knowledge and the requirements to develop that knowledge at higher levels.

Example 3:  To observe student’s learning at University of K during the semester, H has detected the phenomenon that some students leaf school, flied hours and neglected school hours of the course of political theory more than other units of study. With the observed phenomenon, H has posed the question:  Do students lack basic knowledge of social sciences and humanities, so they are difficult to acquire lessons, lead to be lazy? Or does the structure of content and course duration is not reasonable? Or do teachers lack persuasive communication?

      This step has two satisfied requirements:

1. The urgency of research: to show the priority in order to solve the problems that the theory and practice set.

2. The condition ensures for research: including information bases, materials, means, equipments, time fund, ability, knack of participants.

Step 3: Hypothesize research

      This is preliminary remarks about the nature of things that is made by the researcher and is also research method in order to make observation or experimental investigation to prove or disprove the research objects.

   - Criteria to review hypothesis is a hypothesis that must be built based on observation, is not inconsistent with theory and can be tested.

    - The logical nature of hypothesis is a judgment that is located the position of thesis in the logical structure of scientific monographs and what researcher must prove.

    - When building hypothesis, it is important to master the rules to identify correctly types of research and find the relationship between hypothesis and scientific issues.   

   - The method to give scientific hypothesis is that researchers must observe, detect issues and hypothesize so as to find answers for questions posed. The process of linking events and collected data from observation and experiment to make a hypothesis is the process of inference and category of formal logic.

   - Checking hypothesis is to confirm or negative hypothesis and is made based on the logical operations of proving or disproving.

    - Proving / or disproving a hypothesis is the logical application of rules and methods of collecting and processing information (argumentation), seeking theoretical bases or scientific experiment (argument) to confirm the correctness / or falseness of hypothesis.

Example 4: With the questions in example 3, the hypotheses can be formed for H to study such as:

     1. Evaluating the rationality of structure of content and duration for units of study of political theory in overall training program of university at present.

     2. Solutions to improve the quality and passion for teaching and learning of units of study of political theory at University of K.

Step 4: Build argumentation

   After building the hypothesis of research, the researcher must gather information to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

     Basic contents of building the hypothesis is the expected plan to collect and process information, to make plan for sampling survey, the expected rate of progress, means and methods of observation or experiment.

    - The types of information include: the theoretical basis that relates to the content and object of research, research results of former persons, events or figures, statistical documents.

      -  The existing forms of information:

     + The written document: scientific works, textbooks, specialist journals, newspapers, scientific reports and documents on paper, cloth, wood, stone, metal...

        + Document turns around to look, a witness.

        + Exhibit: the actual existing forms of matter.

   - The principal method for gathering information: To research materials or direct dialogue, observation on survey objects; direct experiment on survey objects or on copy things.

   - Approach of gathering information: is the choice of place to observe research object; is the beginning of the process of contact with research objects, is the sublimate of thinking before implementing specific operations of the process of gathering information.

     - Approach of gathering information include: access to the structured system, access to quality and quantity, access naturally and randomly, access to history and logic, access particularly and comparably, access to analysis and synthesis.

     - The method of document research: the purpose is to study the history of issue research, to master contents of former persons, do not waste time on repeating works that predecessors have done. Content of analysis may include analysis of sources, analysis of author, analysis of content and synthetic of materials.

   - Non-experimental method is the method of collecting information based on observation, monitoring regularly events have existed, then detecting the laws of things and phenomena. In non-experimental method, the researchers only observe what has existed without any interference changed the status of research objects.

Non-experimental method includes an objective observer; interview; assembly method, investigating by questionnaire.

   - Experimental method is mainly used in experimental majors. This is the method to collect information by observing on the condition that causes a change for survey objects purposely. By changing the parameters, the researcher can obtain the desired results, such as to separate each homogeneous part of the research object to observe; to change the existence conditions of research objects; to shorten the access time of observation; to conduct experiments repeatedly to check each other without any restrictions on space and time.

Step 5: Find out theoretical arguments and practical arguments

   Finding out the theoretical argument is to construct theoretical basis of the research. When determining the theoretical argument, the researcher can know which majors are used to be the foundation of research work.

      Data collection to form the practical arguments. Collected data need to collect including necessary facts and figures for the complete of argument to prove the hypothesis. If the facts and figures do not fully satisfy the needs of proving the hypothesis, it must have a plan to collect additional data.

Step 6: Process and analyze information; discuss on the results of information processing

     Results of collecting information from studying documents, statistics, observation or experiment existing in two forms: Quality and quantity (data). The events and figures should be treated to build arguments, or to disclose the laws and to serve for proving or disproving the hypothesis.

     Evaluating strengths, weaknesses, pointing out discrepancies that have made in the process of observation as well as evaluating the effect of such discrepancies, acceptable level of research results.

Step 7: Summarize results, conclusion and recommendations

Summarize to give an overview of research results.

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of research results.

Recommend application capacities of results and orientate research in the future or stop researching.


Research subject of students in field of social sciences and humanities generally includes four main parts:

A.    Introduction  

1. The urgency of subject, scientific significance and reality.

2. The overview of domestic and foreign research results about the subject (the history of issue research).

3. Purpose, object, content and research scope of subject.

4. Research method of subject (the method is suitable with research subject).

 5. The new contributions of the report

6. The main outline of the report.

B. Content and research results

1. The real situation of research object

2. The results of non-experimental and experimental research

3. The analysis and evaluation of non-experimental and experimental results

C. Conclusion

1. Generalize research results

2. Propose and recommend solutions about objects

3. Orientate research in the future.

D. Reference and appendix

1. References (documents, information used in the subject)

2. Appendix (documents, pictures, diagrams, charts, maps and illustrations)

Above are the most basic contents and methods when implementing scientific research in the field of social sciences and humanities, mostly concerned science majors may use.

  Hue, 19 December 2010                                                                          Nguyen Nguyen Quang Trung Tien