Empirical research in knowledge organization

Empirical research should not be confused with research based on the empiricist/positivist ideals of science.


Fugmann (1999) provides a criticism of the empiricist approach to knowledge organization.


 "The comparative evaluation of different mechanized information systems continues to constitute a controversial topic in the literature. Diametrically different opinions, seemingly corroborated through empirical evidence, have been presented since the time of the Cranfield experiments. Similar situations have often been encountered in the history of science if reasoning has exclusively been based on empiricism. In the information scientific field, several ''empirical laws'' have been formulated, for example that of the allegedly inverse precision-recall relationship in information retrieval, of the assumed direct relationship between consistency and quality of indexing, and of the alleged equivalence of automatic with intellectual indexing.
    Empiricism is seen as only another variation of positivism, which has been abandoned in the natural sciences since the middle of this century for its evident inadequacy, but has latently survived in information science and even now dominates here. Here, it constitutes a source of continual confusion and an impediment to progress.
    For literally anything an empirical ''proof'' can be submitted provided that suitable examples are selected and methods are chosen. Substantial advance in Library and Information Science requires abandoning empiricism." (Fugmann, 1999).





Fugmann, R. (1999). The empirical approach in the evaluation of information systems. Knowledge Organization, 26(1), 3-9. 





Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 05-03-2006