Writing an intellectual history of scientific development: the use of discovery accounts
Recently I presented, with others, a general statement of the sequence of social and intellectual processes which characterize the emergence, growth and final decline of specific areas of scientific endeavour. A central concern of my own research has been to examine the extent to which scientific activity in one particular area, that associated with research into the pulsar phenomenon, corresponds to the sequence of processes described in the theoretical statement. An obvious preliminary objective of my research was to write an outline history of the intellectual development of the pulsar area. Although many of the methodological problems relating to the investigation of the social development of scientific specialties have already been examined it is less widely realized that methodological problems of equal difficulty occur in the analysis of the intellectual development of specialties, even though much of the basic data can be obtained without intervention in the on-going social process. In this paper I report my attempt to describe the intellectual history of pulsar astronomy. When I began this part of my study I was unaware of any special methodological problems. As I progressed, I not only became acutely aware that there were such problems, but I also realized they would prevent me from carrying out my original intention of providing a straightforward chronological history of this particular intellectual development.
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Woolgar, Steve (2010) Writing an intellectual history of scientific development: the use of discovery accounts. In: Atkinson, Paul and Delamont, Sara, (eds.) SAGE Qualitative Research Methods. Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1849203784