In a Standard English dictionary, the word ‘research’ implies an investigation into any matter which compels a human mind with curiosity to discover it in a more comprehensible manner. This investigation has to be carried out in a systematic manner if one wishes to arrive at accurate results. This organised way of dealing with his findings demands him to set up a proper procedure for his research which originates a process. The word ‘process’ itself entails the condition of pursuing some definite course of action over some lapse of time.
Combining the two, that is, the research and the process of its conduct, gives a mandatory ‘research process’ which needs to be followed for correct conclusions. If one or the other of these essential elements is missing in the due sequence, then the outcome of the whole endeavour may be fruitless, as the genuine answers would be lacking in such a case, which is the primary goal for any researcher. The cluttered points in the head confuse more. Hence, categorisation is important and to avoid all this chaos, one has to be acute in programming the whole research process with some basically required features.
Since humans have both the material and immaterial aspects to them, so has their study into both of these domains been divided broadly into natural sciences, which caters to a desire to learn about tangible facets, and into social sciences, which deal with the intangible side of matters. Both phenomena appeal to their lives as inevitable. Therefore, each has been categorised in the like manner. The sophistication in human thought came because of the development in research processes and what they demand in their very nature. The application of science in the form of technology not only made a man’s life longer by creating a safer life-style, but also led him to facilitate it with advancement in thinking in an innovative manner.
To gain understanding about these two fundamental components, that is the material and the immaterial, man has constituted a complete body of knowledge in the form of science. In any Standard English dictionary, ‘science’ is more or less defined as the knowledge gained by a systematic study. The constant emphasis on devising an entire activity of cognition of facts surrounding him depends upon the application of the methodical and ordered treatment of this very study.
Hence, the study of man himself and all that which encircles him, that is his environment from micro to macro level, has been branched into two major bodies, which further ramifies into many disciplines of study. These bifurcations also often overlap each other formulating interdisciplinary fields. In fact, these intermingled branches are more helpful in understanding, for they give the insight borrowed from what is best at offer from the theories in any of the fields relevant to the subject of inquiry. But, to do research regarding any issue necessitates an appropriate measure of usage of an apt methodology which is suitable for a subject to be discerned. This means that there has to be a different approach to a natural phenomenon from that of a social one. Therefore, different research processes are there for both the kinds.
Since natural sciences deal with the tangible objects, hence its methodology is mainly empirical, and social sciences deal with intangible matters, hence its methodology is based more on reasoning out the observable facts. Both of these traditions have different areas of interests and focus on separate lines. For example, when conducting a research in natural sciences one has to be in a laboratory, but a social scientist doesn’t has one, as his scale of concern is universal.
Empiricism is seen to be engulfing all the disciplines in natural sciences, whereas, the social sciences cannot depend on empirical data alone, as often the facts given as statistics are contrary to what is intended. Therefore, much involvement of normative analysis is found in any of the social sciences. The standards are set according to what is perceived as good or bad and right or wrong. The criteria rarely find any place in natural sciences. This elementary difference leads the resultant factors of varied research processes also.
The interpretation which is then derived from the research done is based on normative stand on an issue in social sciences, whereas, the natural sciences cannot take any deliberation aside from what is inferred with their data and proven theories. This gives flexibility to a social scientist, but keeps a natural scientist bounded with the principles of his discipline alone, as a social scientist can come to any conclusion based on normative analysis alone, which includes his prejudices about an issue.
This may then be not a productive research in terms of enhancing our understanding about a social issue, because the presumption would be coloured by his subjective and personal views. But then, there are no logical rules to bind a social scientist either. A social scientist's rationality has no strict paradigm to follow, and can easily switch points. Thus, much depends upon how neutrally a social scientist conducts his research. Whereas, a natural scientist has no other option to avail except the objective approach of his tradition and his particular discipline’s philosophy. As much of the conceptual knowledge in natural sciences is based on facts and facts-assisted theories, which are sole tools there.
The differences between natural sciences and social sciences are not merely in how the research is carried out in both, but more about the ethics which each pursues. As both of these major domains of study divert away from one another by basing their theories on distinct phenomena, namely natural sciences base theories on concrete structural forms, whereas, social sciences tend to apply speculations and predictions more. Hence, a researcher in either of these domains is left with nothing but to move along the programmed course of his respective disciplines.
In conclusion, one can say that both natural sciences and social sciences have their differences in their research processes arising from their different approaches. But, one thing must stand out clear that these differences are not to oppose each other, but to work separately for better functioning of their means to achieve their paradigms’ aims.