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Hypothetico - Deductive Method in Criminology

NCJ Number
Revue de science criminelle et de droit penal compare Issue: 2 Dated: (April-June 1979) Pages: 367-374
J Pinatel; A Favard
Date Published
8 pages
The nature of the hypothetical deductive method designed to introduce rigorous scientific method into the social sciences and criminology is explored.
The hypothetical deductive method belongs to the epistemological approach of practical science. The method is essentially discursive, using a series of partial intermediary operations to achieve a particular goal, and is a process of general reasoning. Theories are constructed in a hypothetical deductive manner when a body of hypotheses are methodically constructed to achieve validation through experimental testing. The process finds its origin in systematic observation, leading to the recording of facts. Working from the initial observations, one may expand the theory through controlled analogy. The hypothetical deductive method permits posing a hypothesis which must then be tested against the facts. The specificity of the scientific method resides in the manipulation of variables, and the precision in the quantification of results. The ideal experimental method cannot be applied in the social sciences. But statistical analysis of the observation of real situations makes it possible to separate subjects according to one or several independent variables and to evaluate dependent variables. In the quasi-experimental situation, the hypothetical deductive method uses conjectural analysis, (i.e., review of literature) and deductive analysis (i.e., systematic application of mathematical tests). Theory in research is viewed as amplified induction. This concept originates in positivism and empiricism and is expanded in multifactorialism and typologism. From the contemporary standpoint, theory is seen as an active process of constructing the object of knowledge. The consequences of the dynamic conception are that empirical hypotheses established outside a systematic theoretical framework can only be confirmed and are without demonstrative significance. Furthermore, research which attempts to confirm theoretical hypotheses is decidedly tautological. Before confrontation with reality, preestablished hypotheses must be transformed through operationalization (i.e., changing a general proposition to a testable one) and through axiomatization (i.e., making principles which constitute a coherent deductive base and adequate for proposing a theory). The question remains open whether criminology can gain fundamental understanding of the phenomenon of crime by application of the hypothetical deductive theory. Notes are supplied.


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