Project (2023-2024)

Reconstructing Rigor: An Inquiry into the Nature of Rigor and its Meta-Methodological Consequences for the Social Sciences

In the aftermath of the “replication crisis,” throughout the “science wars,” and in wider discussions on the rules of research and the responsibility of the researcher, the term “rigor” has often been used, but hardly ever defined, as it appears to be notoriously difficult to describe what rigor actually is and what it entails.

This dissertation project sets out to change this situation by providing a comprehensive reconstruction of rigor, in both its historical and philosophical dimensions. It will show that rigor is a coherent meta-methodological concept, with deep historical-philosophical roots and with pluralist consequences for research methodology in the social sciences. As such, this project will demonstrate why methodological pluralism is valuable and vital to scientific progress.

During my stay at MPIWG, I will work on two subprojects. First, I will give a historical reconstruction of the way in which rigor was operationalized into validity and reliability standards by studying several classic postwar methodology papers in the fields of politics, psychology, sociology, and economics (PPSE). Second, I will study the relational dynamics of validity and reliability standards throughout the second half of the twentieth century by conducting a historical content analysis on social science research methodology handbooks.