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7 Social Science Research 24 (1978)


This paper is a preliminary exploration of the relationship between social factors, and conformity to a set of prescribed methodological norms in applied social science. Focusing our attention on evaluative research, we seek to estimate how variation in type and nature of research sponsorship, research context, and researcher relationship with sponsor and host affect reported conformity to methodological prescriptions. Analyzing the self-reported responses of 152 evaluative researchers to a mail questionnaire, we find: (a) that conformity to methodological prescriptions is very variable among evaluative researchers: (b) that the social factors here examined seem to affect systematically the degree of conformity; (c) that while no single social factor has a large net effect on conformity, simultaneously occurring values seem more conducive to conformity, i.e., characteristics associated with our “academic model” are correlated with reported higher conformity, whereas characteristics associated with our “entrepreneurial model” are correlated with reported lower conformity. Our findings suggest that, while traditional social control mechanisms increase the likelihood of adherence to methodological prescriptions for those whose work fits or resembles the “academic model,” when the model of work moves toward the “entrepreneurial” type, reported conformity decreases with the absence of those traditional mechanisms of social control. Insofar as the “entrepreneurial model” is increasingly becoming the predominant work model in applied social science, our findings suggest that future research should seek to explain variation in conformity among the “entrepreneurs” and to explore the variety of means by which to increase conformity within this model.