Controversy Studies in Science and Technology Studies

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Publication details

Title of host publicationSage Research Methods Foundations
DatePublished - 2020
EditorsPaul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Richard A Williams, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph Sakshaug
Original languageEnglish


Controversy studies allow researchers to trace the processes by which claims come to be accepted as true (or false) by the members of the research field, wider scientific communities, and eventually important groups outside the relevant communities of practice, such as funders, policymakers, and public audiences. How does a sociologist study a scientific controversy? Should they wait until the science is settled, and provide a sociological description of how the truth won out, and explain the way in which “social factors” caused scientists to hold to falsehoods? Can a sociologist take for granted the power of truth in settling controversies? Since the 1970s, sociologists of science have demonstrated that the answer to these questions is no. Through social research methods, including ethnographic methods, researchers can open these controversies to sociological analysis.

    Research areas

  • Controversy Studies, Ethnography, Research Methods, Science and Technology Studies

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