Observations of Social Processes and Their Formal Representations



Distinctions between quantitative and qualitative social science misrepresent the actual choices confronting analysts of observations concerning social processes. Analysts regularly (if not always self-consciously) choose between adopting and avoiding formal representations of social processes. Despite widespread prejudices to the contrary, formalisms are available and helpful for all sorts of social scientific evidence, including those commonly labeled as qualitative. Available formalisms vary in two important regards: (1) from direct to analogical representation of the evidence at hand; and (2) from numerical to topological correspondence between formalism and evidence. Adoption of formalisms facilitates the identification of erroneous arguments, hence the correction of analytic errors and the production of more adequate explanations.