Discovery: Logic and Sequence in a Scientific Text (1)

  • Woolgar S
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The work of this paper is part of a more general exploration of the viability of an ethnomethodological approach to understanding science. I have argued elsewhere that ethnomethodologically inclined approaches to the study of science should provide useful insights into the nature of the activities which constitute scientific practice. In particular, an examination of some of the standard objections to ethnomethodology shows them to be misguided, in that they are based on an overly narrow conception of the range of phenomena with which ethnomethodology can deal and on an intractable definition of the legitimate substance of sociological inquiry (2). However, a full assessment of the value of ethnomethodology for understanding science can only be made in relation to the fruits of empirical inquiry (3). The argument of this aper is divided into two parts. In the first part, an analytic perspective informed by ethnomethodology thinking is located in relation to the debate between rationalist philosophy and the strong programme in the sociology of knowledge. This debate is taken as the basis of an examination and clarification of the position that a fruitful understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry must eschew many of the features of both philosophical and sociological perspectives on knowledge production. An attempt is also made to explicate the central assumption of the analytic perspectiveL that of isomorphism between presentational context ad scientific concepts. The second part of this paper offers a tentative analysis of one aspect of the practical activity of scientific investigation: the accomplishment of a discovery as related in a scientific text.




Woolgar, S. (1981). Discovery: Logic and Sequence in a Scientific Text (1) (pp. 239–268).

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