Professor Duverger at last provides the student with an overall view of the methodology of the social sciences. He briefly traces the origin of the notion of a social science, showing how it emerged from social philosophy. Its essential elements and pre-conditions are described; the splintering of social science into specialist disciplines is explained, and the need for a general sociology confirmed.
The techniques of observation used by social scientists are dealt with in some detail and the unity of the social sciences is illustrated by examples of the universal application of these techniques. Documentary evidence in its various forms are described along with the basic analytical techniques, including quantitative methods and content analysis. Other methods of gathering information through polls, interviews, attitude scales and participant observation are all described.
Professor Duverger brings together the different kinds of analysis used to assess the information thus gathered. Arguing that observing and theorizing are not two different stages or levels of research, he examines the practical value and difficulties of general sociological theories, partial theories and models and working hypotheses. He both describes and assesses the limitations of experiment and the scope of comparative methods in the social sciences. He then gives elementary instructions for using and assessing the value of mathematical techniques. The possibilities of presenting social phenomena through graphs and charts are also explored. There are useful book lists and diagrams.