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 them 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 the researcher’s view regarding the world. These assumptions will determine the research strategy and the methods of that strategy.
There are different types of research philosophy, which are described below:
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 with the social phenomena which are emerged from the perceptions and consequences of those social actors concerned with their existence.
Epistemology is understood as the acceptable knowledge of a particular area of study. It can be divided into two aspects;
- resources researcher and,
- feeling researcher.
Resource research deals with the data from the perspective of the natural world. On the other hand, the feeling research is concerned with the feelings and attitudes of the workers towards their managers. So resource research involves developing a positivist philosophy. Whereas the feeling research is focused on interpretivism philosophy. Epistemology is therefore classified as Positivism, Realism and Interpretivism in the domain of research philosophy.
The philosophical approach of natural scientists is observed in positivism as the work of natural scientists is based on observable social entities. The 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 a highly structured methodology in order to facilitate the hypothesis. Furthermore, positivism works on quantifiable observations and accordingly statistical analysis is obtained.
Realism is another philosophical branch of epistemology which relates to scientific enquiry. The core feature of realism is pertained to disclosing the truth of reality and the existence of the objects is 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 what is attained by the researcher. On the other hand, critical realism expresses that what is experienced by our sensations are images of the real world, not reality. The difference between the two is that the first is related to the capacity to 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 experiencing this world. Firstly, the sensation is conveyed to experience the object or people or event and the next stage is our mental process starts working after the sensations.
Interpretivism is a branch of epistemology which is focused on the assessment of 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 computers. In this philosophy, the interpretation of social roles has been presented with respect to their own set of meanings. In addition, we interpret the social roles of others in accordance with our own set of meanings.
This approach is based on social life and the difference between the earlier approach and interpretivist approach is that natural scientists are intended for the reliabilities of the data in order to infer ‘laws’ whereas social science deals with the individual’s actions.
Axiology is a branch of philosophy which is concerned with 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 in their values as well as in their research work, especially in the area of data collection or data analysis procedures. However, this method creates an impact on social sciences research.
|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 with 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 to the simplest possible elements.||Problems are better understood if the process of social interaction is continued so that the social phenomenon is in a constant state of revision.|
So it can be said that 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 data to create law-like generalizations whereas interpretivists intend to grasp the subjective meaning of social action in order to conduct research methodology.
- Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students (5th ed., pp. 1–617). England: Pearson. Retrieved from http://ebooks.narotama.ac.id/files/Research Methods for Business Students (5th Edition)/Cover %26 Table of Contents – Research Methods for Business Students (5th Edition).pdf.