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The structure of scientific revolutions

Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions
collection of "mere facts" (although, often, a body of beliefs is already implicit in the collection). During these
early stages of inquiry, different researchers confronting the same phenomena describe and interpret them in
different ways. In time, these descriptions and interpretations entirely disappear. A pre-paradigmatic school
appears. Such a school often emphasises a special part of the collection of facts. Often, these schools vie for
From the competition of these pre-paradigmatic schools, one paradigm emerges - "To be accepted as a
paradigm, a theory must seem better than its competitors, but it need not, and in fact never does, explain all the
facts with which it can be confronted", thus making research possible. As a paradigm grows in strength and in
the number of advocates, the other pre-paradigmatic schools or the previous paradigm fade.
A paradigm transforms a group into a profession or, at least, a discipline. And from this follow the formation of
specialised journals, foundation of professional bodies and a claim to a special place in academe. There is a
promulgation of scholarly articles intended for and "addressed only to professional colleagues, [those] whose
knowledge of a shared paradigm can be assumed and who prove to be the only ones able to read the papers
addressed to them".
III - The Nature of Normal Science.
If a paradigm consists of basic and incontrovertible assumptions about the nature of the discipline, what
questions are left to ask?
When they first appear, paradigms are limited in scope and in precision. But more successful does not mean
completely successful with a single problem or notably successful with any large number. Initially, a paradigm
offers the promise of success. Normal science consists in the actualisation of that promise. This is achieved by
extending the knowledge of those facts that the paradigm displays as particularly revealing, increasing the
extent of the match between those facts and the paradigm's predictions, and further articulation of the paradigm
In other words, there is a good deal of mopping-up to be done. Mop-up operations are what engage most
scientists throughout their careers. Mopping-up is what normal science is all about! This paradigm-based
research is "an attempt to force nature into the pre-formed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm
supplies". No effort is made to call forth new sorts of phenomena, no effort to discover anomalies. When
anomalies pop up, they are usually discarded or ignored. Anomalies are usually not even noticed and no effort
is made to invent a new theory (and there’s no tolerance for those who try). Those restrictions, born from
confidence in a paradigm, turn out to be essential to the development of science. By focusing attention on a
small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in
a detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable" and, when the paradigm ceases to function properly,
scientists begin to behave differently and the nature of their research problems changes.
IV - Normal Science as Puzzle-solving.
Doing research is essentially like solving a puzzle. Puzzles have rules. Puzzles generally have predetermined
A striking feature of doing research is that the aim is to discover what is known in advance. This in spite of the
fact that the range of anticipated results is small compared to the possible results. When the outcome of a (2 of 8) [8/28/2006 5:40:56 PM]