What does it mean to have objectivity?

Objectivity is the state of mind in which the social scientist remains objective, just, unbiased and is not influenced by emotions, personal prejudices, or preferences. It restrains the social scientist from contaminating or manipulating the collection and analysis of data. This is important in order to generalize the findings. This is done by making it certain that their findings are valid and reliable. It means the state or quality of being true even outside the subject’s individual feelings, imagination, or thoughts. It is related to reality and truth.

Objectivity concentrates on things as objects devoid of feelings or emotions. It can be verified by looking at facts or performing experiments and considering mathematical calculations. Objective knowledge is assumed to be something more than the mere perception of an individual. While subjectivity is mind-dependent, objectivity exists independent of mind.

Any proposition can be rendered as true if its conditions are met without being manipulated by the biases of the social scientist. His/her understanding or interpretation should be based entirely on facts. The researcher should maintain a distance from the research so that his own beliefs, values, or opinions do not influence the result of the research and the findings rely entirely on the collected data.

The term objective is derived from the term object which is something that is real, physical, and existing independent of our perceptions. When any view is said to be objective it means that it is independent of our opinions. It will not change depending on whether we have seen it ourselves or not. If we consider a belief to be objective, for instance, when we throw a stone in the river, it makes a sound. Even when we don’t see the stone being thrown, we would know that it made a splashing sound.

In order to maintain objectivity, firstly the prime focus should be on facts and the hypothesis or claims need to be proved through the factual evidence collected. Secondly, it should be ensured that the design of the research and the interpretation of data is value free as far as possible. This is ensured by developing a stated value premise. These include relevance, significance, and feasibility. Relevance in the sense that the values should be held by groups of people living in a society and should not be something that the researcher alone believes in. it should be significant, i.e. a group of people needs to consider this value as significant. It should be feasible, i.e. the values should aim for goals that are attainable. Third, the instruments used in the research should be valid and reliable. A research study is considered to be reliable if its findings are the same when the entire process is repeated.

Although objectivity bears various fruitful results, it is nevertheless criticized as well. The anthropologist, Claude Levi Strauss refuted the objective claim that modern civilization is better than the ancient traditional one because even the early civilisations managed to incorporate coping mechanism in their lives and survived successfully.

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Sabnam, pursuing Sociology from Miranda House, Delhi University hails from the land of red River, Assam. She is a pure non-realist, because, as she puts it, "reality hurts and pain is not what I endure but what I pour into paper!".