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I came across the following sentence in a book:

Political science should not seek to model itself on the strict application of scientific methods used in the natural sciences whereby research is driven exclusively by that which can be reduced to narrowly defined questions testable by the most rigorous, most specialized scientific procedures presently available.

I have no idea what narrowly defined questions could mean. I tried to refer to a dictionary, but understanding the words individually didn't help. I think the meaning of the 3 words as it combined is here is context specific.

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The quoted text in your question is a line taken from 21st Century Political Science: A Reference Handbook, Volume 1.

In natural sciences, we have very specific and definitive questions whose answers can be sought through scientific approaches like procedures, theories and explanations. Yes, one might argue there are several many unanswered questions in natural sciences, but that is not the topic of discussion here.

It is not the same with Political Science, that is, according to what is written in the sentence you referred to. Political science doesn't revolve solely around measured paths and procedures to get solutions to the problem faced in this particular realm.

To conclude, narrowly defined questions here would mean specific and particular questions, like those present in natural sciences unlike Political Science.

Example:

You can more narrowly define this audience by focusing on just male or female golfers, golfers who earn a specific income, golfers who live or play golf in a specific geographic region, golfers who are members of a private golf club, golfers who are retired, or golfers who are left-handed. Source


Response to the comment by the questioner:
'Narrowly defined question' could be of any topic (including Political Science). I have stated the plain meaning of the words/phrase you asked for. This can be referred to as meaning-in-context.

Also, there exist term like broadly defined question which means a question speaking in general terms, compared to something specific. I wouldn't directly say they are antonyms of each other, though 'narrow' and 'broad' are, but they mostly hint in that direction of being somewhat opposites.

Examples:

Some states so broadly define professional fundraiser that the definition includes a professional solicitor. Source

Process specifications broadly define what is expected from the manufacturing line and its processes. Source


Also I would like to highlight the fact that narrowly define and broadly define are actually idioms.

If you wish for more examples, do visit this link once. I am sure it will help you.

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  • an example of a "narrowly defined question" in one of the natural sciences would be? Is there such a thing as a "broadly defined question"? Also please give examples to illustrate.
    – adieng
    Nov 13 '20 at 17:48
  • @adieng I have edited my answer, do check. Nov 13 '20 at 18:15
  • does that mean political science does not deal with any specific question or problem?
    – adieng
    Nov 14 '20 at 17:55
  • I have written that in my answer yesterday itself. The quote says 'Political science should not seek to model itself on the strict application of scientific methods [...]', which means it should not strictly (entirely) be based on scientific approaches. Nov 14 '20 at 20:06
  • Thank you sir. I now understand what the terms "narrowly defined" and "broadly defined" mean. But could you please provide a comparative example of how questions of natural sciences which are "narrowly defined" differ from questions of political science which are not? My English is too poor. Only examples help me understand properly. Thank you in advance.
    – adieng
    Nov 15 '20 at 4:36

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