NORMATIVE METHODS OF INVESTIGATION
The term normative means “conforming to or supporting some norm or pattern.” The scientific method of investigation consists of stating a question, collecting evidence, and drawing conclusions from the evidence, however surprising or unwelcome they may be. The normative method, “by contrast, states the question in such a way that the conclusion is implied, and then ‘looks for evidence in support of this conclusion. This is the method’ of “investigation” which most people use most of the time, and which even scientists sometimes fall into. For example, the question “How does the traditional family thwart emotional growth?” (or, conversely, “How does the traditional family promote emotional growth?”) really states a conclusion and asks for evidence to support it. Most popular “thinking and a good deal of scientific research – is normative, for it is a search for evidence to support a conclusion already assumed. Much Marxian scholarship is normative, fort begins with the conclusion that class oppression is the cause of most social ills. Much conservative scholarship is equally normative, for it begins with the conclusion that most social ills stem from the personal defects and failings of the individuals involved, and the actual “research” consists of an effort to identify these failings. The findings of normative resears” are not necessarily “wrong,” but they are always incomplete, because the researcher looks for only the kinds of evidence which support the preconceived conclusion.