Before a researcher can initiate a research project, they face the confusion and the range of theoretical perspectives, methodologies, methods, and the philosophical basis that encompasses them all. This seemingly meticulous structure for the research process is in fact aimed toward providing the researcher with a ‘scaffolding’, or a direction which they can go on to develop themselves to coincide with their particular research purposes. (Crotty, 1998)
Once a researcher has developed a research question they are seeking to answer, they must consider what methodologies and methods they will employ in the research; what theoretical perspective lies behind the methodology; and what epistemology informs this theoretical perspective. (Crotty, 1998)
Before continuing it is important to explain these key terms:
Epistemology is ‘the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge, which seeks to inform us how we can know the world.’ (Jary and Jary: Dictionary of Sociology, 1991) In the context of social research, epistemology is the form of proof one requires to justify a claim to knowledge about the social world. This will have a salient impact on the kind of data one can collect in order to validate their arguments concerning the social world (methodology), as well as the methods one considers in collecting valid data (methods). A researcher’s choice of methods will be conditioned by theoretical perspectives, the way one sees the social world. (Livesey)
Researchers of social science use a wide variety of research methods to gain and enhance knowledge and theory. The different types of research methodologies, quantitative and qualitative, are associated with the epistemological and theoretical perspectives the researcher wishes to adopt. This choice the researcher makes determines the way in which research should be conducted.
This paper will discuss, critically analyse and compare the epistemological and theoretical perspectives of two research methodologies used for social research: positivism and interpretivism. The various research methods used within the frameworks of each of these will then be discussed.
There are two main types of epistemologies: positivist and anti-positivist. “Positivist research is an approach which combines a deductive approach w...
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