epistemological and ontological consideration in Research

Epistemological Consideration in Research

Researchers conduct research to find something new, relevant or both information or solution of a problem under investigation. Decision makers find it new and useful for decision making. The finding of study either solves the existing problems or to develop the theory. Thus solving the existing problem or developing theory is the main goal of conducting research. Research therefore tries to generate information or knowledge. So, researchers must consider epistemology while conducting research.

Epistemology generally is a branch of philosophy that deals with how knowledge is generated. It focuses on the origin of knowledge which researchers must consider while conducting the research. It considers the nature of generated knowledge along with its scope, pattern of occurrence and behaviour. Since the research is conducted by operationally defining the concept which narrows down the scope of research problem, researchers must consider concepts in such a wide range that it can be measured in research as well as its scope is wider enough for solving the problems. The generated knowledge must be acceptable and realistic in nature.

Epistemological consideration in research focuses on selection of criteria for generating knowledge and information and testing the reliability. For generating and testing reliability researchers must consider many tools. By conducting research researchers use different techniques and tools of data collecting and also use different tools for analysis the data and derive the finding. Conclusion or new knowledge is derived from finding and other people read these conclusions and determine if the generated knowledge is reliable or not. Thus, researchers use epistemological consideration while designing research projects. Bryman(2008) argues that epistemological considerations focus on use of the same principle, procedures and ethos followed by natural science while conducting the research in the field of social science. Epistemology itself has many types but in research normally, empiricism, interpretivism and critical thinking mostly use philosophy.

Empiricism focuses on generation of knowledge through experience and argues that experience base knowledge is only the reliable source of knowledge. Empiricism assumes that the knowledge gained by all humans comes from experiences where they live, their surroundings and from communication with peoples.  The philosophy also argues that people are born with very little knowledge and they collect knowledge from experiment, experience, observation, field study and so on which are reliable sources of knowledge. People conduct the study to test these knowledge gained from experiment. Research which considers empiricism philosophy  must focus on generation of knowledge from experience and through experiments. By considering empiricism, researchers must test before considering the ideas as knowledge. In research ideas gained from experience and knowledge of a researcher is tested before considering it as a reliable source of knowledge.

Empiricism philosophy guides the research for use of different experimental tools for the collecting data and developed conclusions from the analysis of data. Information provided from these experiments is considered a fundamental as well as reliable source of gaining knowledge. Researchers must consider certain instruction, intelligence and learning while conducting research. Empiricism can be used in both qualitative and quantitative research. In qualitative research it focuses on theory built using observations, case study, focus group discussion using relatively small sample size. On the other hand, quantitative research uses empiricism for conducting experimental research or survey research using relatively large sampling methods through questionnaires or scheduled interviews for testing the theory or hypothesis. Thus, researchers use empiricism for both inductive as well as deductive reasoning in research for acceptance of knowledge developed in research.

Empiricism accepts positivism which focuses on observable phenomena and considers nature phenomena can be separated and simplified from complex and comprehensive phenomena. By simplifying these phenomena it can be generalized as the law of social science. Researchers try to verify theory from different relevant sources following deductive approach under positivism philosophy.

Interpretivism is another epistemological paradigm which argues that knowledge generation is subjective matter and it is not generated like natural science. People interpret the phenomena in their own way which is the knowledge generating source. Intrepritivism argues that facts are not generated in such a manner as generated in natural science. Thus, interpretivism is subjective phenomena and intrepate the fact by person according to their own social context.  In the field of social science different people interpret facts in different manners which are the source of knowledge. It uses methods for understanding where human interpretation is focused which is different from others. Interpretivism not only describes objects, humans or events but deeply understands its own social context by following certain criteria. 

Using interpretivist researchers try to study in depth understanding of the phenomenon by creating triangulation of methodology and methods. By conducting research, researchers try to understand the complex and comprehensive knowledge about phenomenon. S/he does not try to generalize the base to represent the whole population. Researchers try to understand the diverse way of seeing and experiencing the world through different contexts and culture. Research try to avoid the bias in study but understanding the people’s various perceptions and understanding of people. Grounded theory, content analysis, narrative analysis and thematic analysis are main tools of interpretation of data in research. One of the advantages of interpretivism is to find out diversifying views to look into phenomena.

Ontological Consideration in Research

Another consideration that researchers must focus is ontological philosophy. Ontological consideration aims to focus on the nature of social entities dealing with what exists in the real world and what are their relationships. Since the research is exploration, description and explanation of facts, researchers follow ontological consideration to give validity to the discovery. Considering ontology in research helps for building different theories and better understanding of the world.

Ontological position helps to discover the valid point of understanding the social phenomena and its interdependency. The aim of ontology is concern about belief about reality rather than  concerning sources of knowledge. Materialism ontology focuses on the existence of objective approaches with valid reason and idealism ontology focuses perception from mind about social phenomena as a valid source of knowledge. Ontological materialism focuses on realism and ontological idealism focuses on realism.

Researchers who consider realism ontology focus on discovering the objective measurement of knowledge for providing validity. Researchers believe that the discovery knowledge can be generalized and for collection and measurement of data relatively large samples can be used.  Objectivism argues that there are objective measurements for the social phenomena and large sample size is used for providing validity in research. Some rules and regulations must be followed considering the stantagarized procedure in research. It helps to provide valid justification of reality.

Objective ontology follows the deductive procedure in research where hypotheses are set at first before collecting the data from a large sample for testing the hypothesis used in study. Objectivism analyzes the social phenomena and develops their meaning assuming that these meanings are the independents of social actors. In research, concepts are operationally defined using theory or hypothesis. Indicators are developed and variables are identified. Researchers collect the data, measure indicators and derived conclusions. Normally quantitative research followed objectivism ontology. Thus objectivism focuses on fact-based, observable and measurable social phenomena. It implies that social phenomena and the categories that are used in everyday existence are independent or seperated from actors (Beyman, 2008).

Constructivism ontology considers multiple realism to exist and are valid and shaped according to context. It is concerned with observation and scientific studies about how people learn and how they construct the knowledge for giving meaning from their experience. It aims for construction of knowledge rather than transfer of knowledge. For generating the knowledge the previous knowledge and initial understanding play the vital place. Knowledge generated and valid from construction aims for collective learning and curiosity to learn of people. It gives validity to knowledge according to context and mind constructs the knowledge which is valid. People construct different perceptions about social phenomena and believe that it is only applicable to the same context. Research use grounded theory, phenomenological research, narrative analysis, content analysis and thematic analysis

If researchers use positivism philosophy in research then research can be done in a value free way. Researchers use large probability sample methods and predefined tools for data analysis. In this case objectivism ontological is considered for conducting research. Most of quantitative research is performed form positivism philosophy.

In case of interpretivism research is value bounded. Research itself is the part of research where interpretation of data using relatively few samples and using grounded theory, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, context analysis, thematic analysis and so on. In this contest, researchers consider constructivism ontology for knowledge construction. The value of the knowledge is determined by  how well researchers discover the information.

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