Understanding research philosophy

Research philosophy is an important part of research methodology. Research philosophy is classified as ontology, epistemology and axiology. These philosophical approaches enable to decide which approach should be adopted by the researcher and why, which is derived from research questions (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009). The important assumptions are present in research philosophy which explains about the researcher’s’ view regarding the world. These assumptions will determine research strategy and the methods of that strategy.

There are different types of research philosophy, which are described below:

Ontology

Ontology is based on the nature of reality. It is classified on the basis of objectivism and subjectivism. The first aspect of ontology, objectivism portrays the position that social objects persist in reality external to social actors. Secondly, subjectivism is concerned on the social phenomena which are emerged from the perceptions and consequences of those social actors concerned with their existence. For example, the Filmfare Award ceremony is the high cultural experience which is organized by the Government of India. The government officials, ministers, celebrity of national as well as international level are invited in this programme. The researcher wants to the map the attitudes and temperament of this crowd which is spread over three days’ festival. The researcher adopts subjectivism philosophy to determine their temperament and attitude.

Epistemology

Epistemology is understood about the acceptable knowledge of a particular area of study. It can be divided into two aspects; resources researcher and feeling researcher. The ‘resource researcher’ deals with the data from the perspective of natural scientist. On the other hand, the ‘feeling researcher’ is concerned about the feelings and attitudes of the workers towards their managers. So the ‘resource researcher’ is involves  developing positivist philosophy whereas the ‘feeling researcher’ is focus on interpretivist philosophy. Epistemology is therefore classified as Positivism, Realism and Interpretivism in the domain of research philosophy.

Positivism

The philosophical approach of natural scientist is observed in positivism as the work of natural scientist is based on observable social entity. Research strategy is approached on the basis of data collection and hypothesis development. These hypotheses will be tested and confirmed which can be used for further research. Another feature of this philosophy is that the positivist researcher follows highly structured methodology in order to facilitate the hypothesis.Furthermore, positivism works on quantifiable observations and accordingly statistical analysis is obtained.

For example, the resources researcher cannot manipulate during data collection procedure as they are independent to the subject of the research. For example, a research was conducted on the basis of flexi working on the female workforce throughout India. The researcher would study the literature which is based on previous studies based on which identify factors; like the importance of flexi working, types of flexi-working, increased rate of flexi-working and future of flexi-working and develop hypotheses have been developed like the influence of flexi-working to our socio-economic life; influence of regular work life to the women’s family life; influence of flexi-working to the economic life of the flexi-worker.  In positivism, these hypotheses are tested and result is confirmed by the researcher to develop a theory.

Realism

Realism is another philosophical branch of epistemology which relates to scientific enquiry. The core feature of realism is pertained to disclose the truth of reality and the existence of the objects are prevalent independently in the human mind. Realism is classified as direct realism and critical realism. Direct realism explains what is experienced by our senses and that are attained by the researcher. On the other hand, the critical realism expresses that what is experienced by our sensations those are images of the real world, not the reality. The difference between the two is that the first is related to the capacity of research what is studied and the critical realist recognizes the importance of multi-level study in the context of the individual, the group and the organization.

There is a difference between direct realism and critical realism. Critical realism claims that there are two stages to experience this world. Firstly, sensation is conveyed to experience the object or people or event and the nest stage is our mental process starts working after the sensations. For example, in a cricket match, as a critical realist, while providing the umpiring decisions, the umpire says, ‘I give them as I see them!’ whereas the umpire who is a direct realist would say ‘I give them as they are!’ So according to direct realism the first stage of critical realism is enough to understand the experience level of us.

Interpretivism

Interpretivism is a branch epistemology which is focused to the assessment the differences between humans as social actors. The issue of difference is emphasized on the difference between conducting research among people rather than objects such as medicines and computer. In this philosophy, interpretation of social roles has been presented with respect of own set of meaning. In addition, we interpret the social roles of others in accordance with our own set of meanings.

This approach is based on social life world and the difference between the earlier approach and interpretivist approach is that the natural scientists are intended for reliabilities of the data in order to infer ‘laws’ whereas the social science deals with the  individual’s actions. For example, in the organization, all the stakeholders’ approach is different and they act according to their interpretation. The interpretation regarding employee turnover of HR manager and trade union leader are completely different as they both belong to different social roles.

Axiology

Axiology is a branch of philosophy which is concerned about judgments, aesthetics, and ethics. The process of social enquiry is involved in this approach. Researchers’ axiological skill is executed in order to make judgments about the research content and its conduct. For example, Researchers’ philosophical approach is reflected on his or her values as well as in their research work, especially in the area of data collection or data analysis procedures. However, this method creates impact in social sciences research.

For example, a study was conducted among customers of bank to determine their experiences of using credit card in terms of convenience, security, privacy and phone banking. The results of the study revealed that there was lack of communication strategies and absence of awareness level within the consumers, and that most of the consumers are not interested in this product. However, the bank authorities did now allow researcher to publish the findings. But the researcher and the respective organization must consider the ethical perspective of this issue for the welfare of the consumers.

PositivismInterpretivismThe observer interacts with subject being showed.Problems as a whole are clearly understood if the totality of the situation is projected.

Feature The observer is independent of what is being presented. The observer becomes a part of the system
Causality This is aimed to identify causal explanations of social entities existing in reality with/without being concerned of social actors associated with the entities. The aim of the researcher is to understand the social phenomenon from the perception of social actors and their consequent actions
Reductionism Problems can be better understood if they are reduced into the simplest possible elements. Problems are better understood if the process of social interaction is continued so that the social phenomenon are in constant state of revision.
Research Method Quantitative Qualitative
Research Paradigm Objectivist Subjectivist

Application of Research Philosophy in research

So we can say that the qualitative research is based on interpretivism and quantitative research is based on positivism. Positivists prefer to collect data about an observable reality and search for regularities and causal relationships in your data to create law-like generalizations whereas interpretivists intend to grasp the subjective meaning of social action in order to conduct research methodology.

Reference

Understanding research
Choosing an appropriate research philosophy for your paper

Susweta GuhaThakurta

Analyst at Project Guru
Susweta is Post Graduate in Human Resource Management. Apart from her Master’s degree in management, she is PG diploma in Mass Communication. She is currently working on her doctoral research on “People diversity in hotel industry”. She is keen to take challenging projects and loves to read and write. Being a Leo, she carries characteristics of a leader and intends to involve any innovative and promising initiative. She has several publications under her name and has presented her papers at national and international conferences.

Latest posts by Susweta GuhaThakurta (see all)

Related articles

  • Choosing an appropriate research philosophy for your paper Choosing an appropriate research philosophy is an important part of research methodology. In fact as Guba & Lincoln, (1982) has propounded, philosophical paradigm within a research holds utmost importance, as it is the “basic belief system or world view that guides the investigation” […]
  • Limitations and weakness of quantitative research methods Quantitative research main purpose is the quantification of the data. It allows generalisations of the results by measuring the views and responses of the sample population. Every research methodology consists two broad phases namely planning and execution (Younus 2014).
  • Questionnaire administration In my previous article Questionnaire development in theses and dissertation, I have discussed about the questionnaire development process, the next step is to administer the questionnaire. Questionnaire administration in a proper way and to chose the sample from population is important. […]
  • Determining validity while conducting a quantitative research Measurement is a replicable and systematic process through which an object or instrument is quantified or classified as in the field of social science that deals with quantification of behaviour. In this case determining validity of the measuring instrument (questionnaire) holds utmost […]
  • Understanding research philosophy and research design Research philosophy is the nature of approach considered for the project. It tests the reality quotient followed by validity, reliability and generality.
Discussions

6 Comments.

  1. Angelina Amorosi

    Hi you have a fine website It was very easy to post easy to understand

  2. how applicable are different research philosophies to child sensitive research?

  3. Gaynelle Meccia

    I love your web site, it has good information, Have a nice day!

  4. Peter John Blaauw

    Love your website. Got very helpful information for my dissertation. Currently busy with it.

    Regards

Discuss

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

We are looking for candidates who have completed their master's degree or Ph.D. Click here to know more about our vacancies.