Chapter 3: Developing a Research Question

3.1 Normative Versus Empirical Statements

When it comes to research questions, there are two concepts that are very important to sociologists: normative and empirical statements. Normative statements are judgmental, whereas empirical statements are informative and facts-based. Let us look at two statements. Can you pick out which one is normative and which one is empirical?

  1. Canada has one of the best science programs in the world.
  2. In 2015, Canada ranked 4th overall in science education performance of 15-year-old high school students in a study conducted by the Organization for Education Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2015).

If you concluded that the first statement is normative and the second is empirical, you are exactly right. While normative statements can underlie an empirical statement, as demonstrated above, sociologists focus on answering empirical questions—those that can be answered by real experience in the real world.


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