Scientific methodology in political geography

In scientific studies, research was conducted based on "rational and explanatory" approaches. The rationalist approach longer history started from Aristotle scientific activities. However, after political and social changes arising from the Renaissance movement in the West, the methodology inspired by the Aristotelian and Church that is "school system" encountered major criticisms and disputes, and ultimately, led to emergence and development of a new approach in science called "empirical approach". It was followed by fundamental changes in research methodology extending naturalism to all science fields including natural and human studies. This approach was also confronted with epistemological problems especially in the humanities. Finally, a new methodology called "interpretive and hermeneutic methodology" was emphasized for the humanities. Political geography, along with these developments, turned into theories and schools that followed the interpretive and humanist approaches, and experienced a kind of "methodological pluralism". As it is clear, the first consequence of methodological pluralism in each discipline was emergence of ambiguity about the scientific status and identity of the field. Now, the political geography is facing this situation. There are two fundamental questions in this regard: first, what is the valid scientific methodology? and second, what position can be taken for methodological pluralism in political geography?


Due to its philosophical and rational nature, the present study is a theoretical and fundamental research based on a descriptive-analytic (logical) method using logical reasoning. For this reason, topics and issues of this set are considered as documentary and library research.

Discussions and Findings

Nowadays, in social sciences, including political geography, we are facing a kind of methodological pluralism rooted in two general "explanatory" and "hermeneutics" approaches. The explanatory approach in political geography led to emergence of methodological schools such as environmentalism, spatial school, systemic attitude and school of behaviorism and the hermeneutic approach led to schools such as phenomenology, structuralism, discourse and post-structuralist view, and radical and postmodern attitudes. Competition of these methodological schools has led to the emergence of naturalistic and humanistic methodologies in this field. The important point is that each of these approaches and schools aspire for the monopoly of scientific method and each has its own followers. The results and findings of this study showed that, despite multiple and diverse humanistic and hermeneutic approaches in political geography, these methods and approaches do not have the necessary scientific and epistemological features and credibility, and are ideological and political and social viewpoints more than having a scientific nature. Similarly, the traditional empiricism approach based on traditional inductivism does not have essential features for a comprehensive scientific method like hermeneutics. Therefore, contrary to the popular belief, the empirical sciences including natural and social sciences, e.x. political geography, do not have multiple methodologies, but a common methodology called hypothetical-deductive. The other commonly used methods political geography are only applicable at the data collection stage and lack the characteristics of a full-scale scientific methodology.


Despite variety of research methods in the social sciences, and in particular, political geography, the researcher has no limit to use various methods in accordance with his own goals and objectives. However, it should be noted that the most valid and complete research method in empirical sciences, both natural and social, is hypothetical-deductive, and other methods, such as discursive methods, structuralism, post-structuralism, etc., are used only in data collection as many of the commonly used methods in the social sciences lack the capacity and efficiency to be used in the main stage of scientific research, i.e. understanding and evaluating data. Therefore, it is not possible to fully utilize these methods in social and geography sciences. As a result, the reliable method for social and geographic sciences is hypothetical-deductive method. This method is based on both "logic and experience" in scientific studies and emphasizes the importance of theories and hypotheses before observation, explanation, interpretation, and analysis. Therefore, it is based on the "deductive" method in scientific research.

Article Type:
Research/Original Article
118 - 156  
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