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Argument, Narrative, and Methods Discourse

Argument, Narrative, and Methods Discourse

(p.11) Chapter One Argument, Narrative, and Methods Discourse
About Method
Jutta Schickore
University of Chicago Press

The first chapter develops the historiographical approach and the analytic tools that are used in the remaining part of the book. Focusing on writings about method by mid-seventeenth-century experimenters, notably Robert Boyle, the chapter examines how methodological questions about “proper experimental procedure” were dealt with in the early modern period. The concept “methods discourse” is introduced. The term refers to all kinds of methods-related statements in scientific writing, including explicit commitments to experimentalism, descriptions of experimental protocols, explanations of methodological concepts, and justifications of strategies of experimentation. Various layers of methods discourse are distinguished: 1) Experimental protocols, i.e. scientists’ (or experimental philosophers’) descriptions of the steps of a particular experiment or observation, as well as of the materials, equipment, and techniques that were used. 2) Methodological views, i.e. scientists’ (or experimental philosophers’) conceptualization of procedures to assess and secure empirical results. 3) Broader commitments to experimentalism, specifically to the imperative that scientific ideas must be confronted with, or based on, empirical findings.

Keywords:   Robert Boyle, experimentation, scientific method, experimental reports, methods discourse, experimentalism

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