Compared to what you know about the methods of disciplines such as mathematics, the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry), and the social sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology), what do you think is unique about the methods used to investigate the humanities? 

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Possibly one of the largest differences between the natural and social sciences is that the natural sciences rely more heavily on quantitative than qualitative data. Certainly, the natural sciences can use qualitative observations to help classify (e.g., mammals have fur or hair) or track change (e.g., a landmass has changed over time). However, qualitative research has a number of methodologies that are designed to work primarily with humans and explore perspectives.

Major methodological approaches in qualitative research are grounded theory, narrative inquiry, phenomenology, case study, and ethnography. With the exception of case study, none of these approaches makes sense to apply to the physical sciences. Humans make meaning out of their experiences, and narrative, phenomenological, and ethnographic work seeks to understand how that meaning is made and how it exists in people's lives.

Grounded theory, though less interested in meaning per se, is still designed to learn about the world through people's experiences, allowing a theory to generate that is based on perception rather than some objective fact. This is not to say that one cannot apply traditionally experimental, quantitative approaches to the social sciences; many do. However, methods used in the humanities have the potential to celebrate experience and to complicate and add variables rather than attempt to eliminate them.

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