Articles / Natural Sciences: Easy, Social Sciences: Hard!

Natural Sciences: Easy, Social Sciences: Hard!

Posted on: November 6th, 2011 by No Comments

By: Oscar Holmes IV,  PhD candidate, Student Management, Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, The University of Alabama

“God gave physicists, the easy science, and gave social scientists, the hard science!” is a dictum often repeated in various social science circles. As a social scientist, I admit, I do agree with that dictum. Now, you might ask, “Why is a social scientist contributing to a website that is targeted for students interested in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (S.T.E.M.)?” The first clue of why I might contribute should be readily apparent in the title, “social scientist.” Just as medical doctors are scientists who practice on people, the “social” part just means that I am a scientist who does most of my research on people. The field of social science covers a variety of disciplines including Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Business Administration, and Anthropology to name a few. Although there are many commonalities across these fields, I will speak to being a social scientist of Business Administration because this is the field in which I work. Specifically, my major area of study is Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management.

Just like natural scientists (e.g. physicists, chemists, etc.), social scientists follow the scientific method to solve problems. That is, we 1) asks questions, 2) do background research in search of a theory related to the question, 3) construct hypotheses based on the theory, 4) test the theory, 5) analyze the results, and 6) report the results. In fact, although many people associate the job of business professors much more with teaching and consulting, the most significant part of the job, in most cases, is conducting and publishing research in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Which is why, the above dictum is often repeated. In the natural sciences, there are laws and properties that are exact and much more precise. In social sciences, however, we do not have any laws and our theories are much less precise. For instance, a chemist putting together two hydrogen and one oxygen atom will always get water, this degree of certainty and repetition is never available in social science. Why not? Because when you deal with people, there are too many factors that constantly change that can influence the way a person will act. Hence the dictum, social scientists have the hard science.

About Oscar Holmes

Oscar Holmes IV is a Ph.D. student of Management/Organizational Behavior at the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration at The University of Alabama. His research interests include understanding how managers can mitigate interpersonal and organizational conflict by examining the antecedents and outcomes of organizational climates. He earned a B.S. degree with honors in Psychology with minors in Human Resource Management and Spanish from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Masters of Liberal Arts degree in International and American Cultural Studies from The University of Richmond. He can be reached at oholmesiv@cba.ua.edu.

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