Epistemological Assumptions - The Research Paradigm and Philosophy (2023)

Epistemology is one of the core branches of research philosophy, which relates to the ways in which reality can be perceived and interpreted, as well as what constitutes acceptable knowledge in a field of study (Bryman and Bell, 2007). In other words, it is about how we gain knowledge or understand social reality. Therefore, epistemology concerns the acquisition of knowledge, in terms of its methods, validation and ‘the

possible ways of gaining knowledge of social reality, whatever it is understood to be. In short, claims about how what is assumed to exist can be known’ (Blaikie, 2000, p. 8).


method to be employed in order to gain knowledge; however, knowledge is dynamic by nature, as the knowledge and the method employed for discovering it, are not static, but forever changing. And in this respect, epistemological assumptions are classified into three different approaches to research, these being: the positivism, the interpretivism, and the realism approaches (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Saunders et al, 2003; 2009).

Regarding the positivism position, Bryman and Bell (2007, p. 16) define positivism as “an epistemological position that advocates the application of the methods of the natural

(Video) Ontology, epistemology and research paradigm

sciences to the study of social reality and beyond”. Positivism is bound up with the

philosophy of natural sciences that comprise the view of knowledge as consisting of truths or facts about the real world under study and the truth that can be captured and studied by the five senses and appropriate methods (Andreski, 1974). Also, Remenyi et al. (1998, p. 32) state that positivism is an epistemological position that works “with an observable

social reality and that the end product of such research can be law-like generalisation similar to those produced by the physical and natural scientist”. Furthermore, Saunders et al. (2009) support this view and explain that the approach depends on an observable

social reality as an objective based on a highly structured methodology to facilitate generalisation and quantifiable observations. The result can then be evaluated through statistical methods.

As a result, the fact of being a positivist researcher tends to mobilise existing theory in order to develop hypotheses about what happens in the social world by finding regularities and causal relationships between its constituent elements (Saunders et aI., 2009; Bahari, 2010). Hence, the positivist researcher is also known as the ‘resource’ researcher as he or she will be concerned with facts rather than impressions (Saunders et al., 2009).

(Video) Research Paradigms - Philosophy of Research

Accordingly, positivist researchers are more likely to employ a quantitative approach, as the positivist approach views the world as an observable social reality linked to hypotheses that examine quantitatively (Remenyi et al., 1998; Saunders et al, 2009). Therefore, following a positivist methodology, researchers apply an objective analysis and remain independent of the research itself (Remenyi et al., 1998; Saunders et al., 2009). A central principle of positivism is that research should be value-free, so the ‘resource’ researchers and their study are driven by objective criteria, which can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint, rather than by individual beliefs and


interests (Saunders et al., 2009; Bahari, 2010). Further, Burrell and Morgan (1979, p. 5) define positivist research as an “epistemology which seeks to explain and predict what

happens in the social world by searching for regularities and causal relationship between its constituent elements”. However, since positivism entails an understanding of social

science as being value-free, which requires ‘resource’ researchers to remain agnostic in term of ethics, this will not permit any research conducted to be value-free. The diagram of positivist studies seeks to test hypothesis which is inadequate for this study, because the methods utilised tend to be insufficient in investigating detailed questions aiming to gather participants’ views about a specific situation (Bryman, 2012).


The second philosophical assumption to be discussed is the interpretivism, which is another branch of epistemological assumptions. The interpretivists are also referred to as antipositivists (Burrell and Morgan, 1979). This can be seen as an epistemological position that researchers must adopt in order to be able to understand differences between humans in their role as social actors (Saunders et al., 2009). It is also referred to as ‘social constructionism’ (Robson, 2011) indicating that reality is socially structured and is seen as in opposition to a positivist approach, as it assumes there is no objective reality, but is rather structured by the fact there are many and varied interpretations of such social reality by different individuals. Thus, due to this fact, social actions are understood by different people in different ways as it is influenced by their values and other individuals’ interpretation of this social reality. Hence, their views are considered to be the realities that social science researchers should direct their attention to as these offer a subjective meaning for such social action (Bryman, 2012; Robson, 2011; Saunders et al., 2009; Bryman and Bell, 2007).

In detail, interpretivism holds the view that the “world is essentially ‘relativistic’ and can

only be understood from the point of view of the individuals who are directly involved in the activities which are to be studied” (Burrell and Morgan, 1979, p. 5). Interpretivist

researchers are also known as the ‘feeling’ researchers. “This is due to the fact that

interpretivist researchers play a role as ‘social actors’ where they could interpret their everyday social roles in accordance with the meaning given to these roles and interpret the social roles of others in accordance with our own set of meanings” (Saunders et al.,

(Video) Ontology, Epistemology and Research Philosophies


Finally, the third philosophical assumption to be discussed is the realism. Thus, according to Saunders et al. (2009), realism is a branch of epistemology which emphasises a philosophical position relating to scientific enquiry, based on the perspective that a reality may be seen as an objective that it is possible to know, which is quite independent of human thoughts, beliefs or knowledge and thus opposed to epistemological idealism. Also, realism assumes that what the senses show us is reality, i.e. the truth, since this assumption supports the view that the existence of the social world is external to the researcher and can only be accessed and discovered through the senses and research (ibid). However, this assumption shares two philosophical features with positivism: 1) it assumes a scientific approach to the development of knowledge, as it adopts the same approach for studying the natural and social worlds and is concerned with discovering truths about the social world, and 2) the belief that there is an external reality towards which the researcher must direct his or her focus, since such a reality is independent from the researchers’ thoughts (Bell and Bryman, 2007; Saunders et al., 2009).

According to Saunders et al. (2009, p. 115), there are two types of realism to be noted, these being, direct and critical. Direct realism emphasises that, through appropriate methods, reality can be understood, and thus what we see is what we get. It “relates the

capacity of research to change the world which it studies”. It involves the perception that the world is relatively unchanging and operates only at one level in an individual, group, and organisation. While the second kind of realism is called ‘critical realism’, which argues that experiences are only images of things in the real world, not the things per se. Furthermore, critical realism emphasises that the human senses deceive us and, therefore, the seen reality in the real world varies from the one perceived by our mind. And it recognises the reality of the natural order and the events and discourses of the social world that can only be identified through the practical and theoretical work of the social sciences.

Unlike positivism, which works with fixed data, critical realism does not see the world as a fixed set of data, but is more flexible about seeing data and information as dynamic and changeable as it considers that the world operates at multi-levels which are worth studying, for example, at the level of the individual, the group and the organisation (Saunders et al., 2009). Moreover, critical realism looks at data and information as an opportunity to further and deepen discussion.

(Video) Epistemology, Ontology, and Axiology in Research



What is epistemological assumptions in research? ›

Epistemological assumptions (knowledge): Knowledge is gained through an empathic understanding of participants' lived social realities; the goal of science is to describe people's subjective lived realities, experiences, and understandings.

What is epistemology in research paradigm? ›

Epistemology has its aetiology in Greek where the word episteme, means knowledge. Put simply, in research, epistemology is used to describe how we come to know something; how we know the truth or reality; or as Cooksey. and McDonald (2011) put it, what counts as knowledge within the world.

What are the research paradigms and philosophies? ›

A research paradigm is a philosophical framework that your research is based on. It offers a pattern of beliefs and understandings from which the theories and practices of your research project operate. A research paradigm consists of ontology, epistemology, and research methodology.

What are philosophical assumptions in research? ›

Four Philosophical Assumptions

They are beliefs about ontology (the nature of reality), epistemology (what counts as knowledge and how knowledge claims are justified), axiology (the role of values in research), and methodology (the process of research).

What are epistemological assumptions in quantitative research? ›

With the epistemological assumption, conducting a qualitative study means that researchers try to get as close as possible to the participants being studied. Therefore, subjective evidence is assembled based on individual views. This is how knowledge is known—through the subjective experiences of people.

What is epistemology philosophy examples? ›

epistemology, the philosophical study of the nature, origin, and limits of human knowledge. The term is derived from the Greek epistēmē (“knowledge”) and logos (“reason”), and accordingly the field is sometimes referred to as the theory of knowledge.

What are the 3 paradigms of research? ›

The three paradigms (positivist, constructivist, and critical) which are different by ontological, epistemological, and methodological aspects are also often included in the classification of scholarly paradigms [19].

What are the 4 paradigms? ›

The Four Paradigms
  • Behaviorism.
  • Information Processing and Cognitive Psychology.
  • Individual Constructivism.
  • Social Constructivism and Situated Learning.

What is the importance of epistemology in research? ›

Epistemology is important because it influences how researchers frame their research in their attempts to discover knowledge. By looking at the relationship between a subject and an object we can explore the idea of epistemology and how it influences research design.

Is research paradigm the same as philosophy? ›

Simply, research paradigm refers to the theoretical or philosophical ground for the research work. It is viewed as a research philosophy. American philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1962) first used the word paradigm in the field of research to mean a philosophical way of thinking.

What is a paradigm in philosophy? ›

In science and philosophy, a paradigm (/ˈpærədaɪm/) is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitute legitimate contributions to a field.

What are the 4 major paradigms in research? ›

Research Paradigms Described

Four major paradigms seem to compete in qualitative inquiry: positiv- ism, postpositivism, critical theory, and constructivism .

What are the 5 philosophical assumptions? ›

Creswell provides five philosophical assumptions that lead to the choice behind qualitative research: ontology, epistemology, axiology, rhetorical, and methodological assumptions. 2 These assumptions cover a range of questions that drive the researcher and influence the research.

Why are assumptions important to the study? ›

Assumption testing of your chosen analysis allows you to determine if you can correctly draw conclusions from the results of your analysis. You can think of assumptions as the requirements you must fulfill before you can conduct your analysis.

In what ways do epistemological assumptions affect education in general? ›

Reflecting on questions of epistemological nature can help educators to be more intentional in their teaching – allowing perhaps the students themselves to become aware of their own learning process and personal development. This one of the reasons why Epistemology is included in our curriculum.

What are the epistemological issues in philosophy? ›

Some historically important issues in epistemology are: (1) whether knowledge of any kind is possible, and if so what kind; (2) whether some human knowledge is innate (i.e., present, in some sense, at birth) or whether instead all significant knowledge is acquired through experience (see empiricism; rationalism); (3) ...

What are the 3 epistemological questions? ›

Epistemological questions include the following: What distinguishes knowledge from mere belief? What can be known with certainty? How can we know if we have knowledge?

What are the three main epistemological approaches? ›

Merriam (2009) identifies four primary epistemological perspectives including positivist/postpositivist, interpretive/constructivist, critical, and postmodern/poststructural.

How do I explain my epistemology? ›

In simple terms, epistemology is the theory of knowledge and deals with how knowledge is gathered and from which sources. In research terms your view of the world and of knowledge strongly influences your interpretation of data and therefore your philosophical standpoint should be made clear from the beginning.

What are the types of epistemology in philosophy? ›

Epistemology has many branches that include essentialism, historical perspective, perennialsm, progressivism, empiricism, idealism, rationalism, constructivism etc.

What is the role of philosophy in epistemology? ›

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge. Accordingly, the notion of epistemological development concerns the way that people's ideas about the nature of knowledge change as they grow up.

What are the 5 paradigms? ›

These five paradigms are 1) individual differences, 2) group behavior, 3) organizational behavior, 4) human factors, and 5) cognitive science.

What are paradigms example? ›

For example, you've probably heard the phrase 'the American way of life,' which is a paradigm because it refers to a collection of beliefs and ideas about what it means to be American.

What are the two paradigms in research? ›

Within research, there are two main paradigms, namely positivist and interpretive. The paradigm that a researcher uses depends on where they see themselves in relation to the world around them as well as their views and thoughts.

What is the purpose of paradigms? ›

A paradigm is a way of organizing and condensing sensory information . Like learning in general, paradigms help in the study of physical science by helping us to organize information and understand our world.

How many types of research paradigms are there? ›

The Nature of Paradigms

It was noted by Healy and Perry (2000) that there are four types of paradigms of research - positivism, critical theory, realism and interpretivism.

What are the principles of paradigm? ›

The Modern Paradigm for Standards is shaped by adherence to the following five principles:
  • Cooperation. ...
  • Adherence to Principles. ...
  • Collective Empowerment. ...
  • Availability. ...
  • Voluntary Adoption.

What is research philosophy in simple words? ›

In simple terms, research philosophy is belief about the ways in which data about a phenomenon should be collected, analysed and used. Although the idea of knowledge creation may appear to be profound, you are engaged in knowledge creation as part of completing your dissertation.

What is the simplest definition of a paradigm? ›

1 : example, pattern; especially : an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype.

What is the difference between paradigm and epistemology? ›

Essentially, your epistemological positioning is your stance on the kind of knowledge that you can acquire from your research; while your research paradigm is a wider conception of how to do research in a particular way---e. g. quantitatively or qualitatively; thus, in this way of thinking about research (there are ...

What are the 3 types of paradigms? ›

The three most common paradigms are positivism, constructivism or interpretivism and pragmatism. Each of these can be categorised further by examining their: ontology, epistemology and methodology.

What is research paradigm explain the types? ›

Your research is built on a philosophical framework known as a research paradigm. It provides a framework of assumptions and comprehensions upon which the theories and methods of your research study might be based. Ontology, epistemology, and research methods make up a research paradigm.

What are the most widely used research paradigm? ›

Methodology. The study investigated how the four most widely used research paradigms – pragmatism, interpretivism, positivism, and post-positivism – could be applied in information research. The four paradigms were used because it was clear from the literature that all paradigms could be grouped into these four.

What are the four 4 main points of philosophy? ›

There are four pillars of philosophy: theoretical philosophy (metaphysics and epistemology), practical philosophy (ethics, social and political philosophy, aesthetics), logic, and history of philosophy.

What are the 4 philosophical views of research? ›

Research philosophy Research philosophy consists of four main types of researches these types will cover wide range of researches displaces, "1) Pragmatism, 2)Positivism, 3)Realism, and 4)Interpretivism (Interpretivism)" (Research Methodology, 2017).

What are the four basic assumptions? ›

The four basic assumptions that form the basis of financial accounting structure are business entity assumption, accounting period assumption, going concern assumption, and money measurement assumption.

What is an example of an assumption in research? ›

One of the more common assumptions made in survey research is the assumption of honesty and truthful responses. However, for certain sensitive questions this assumption may be more difficult to accept, in which case it would be described as a limitation of the study.

How do assumptions affect us? ›

Assumptions negatively affect our relationships in several important ways. We unconsciously make assumptions and judgments about (1) other people's behavior, (2) other people's intentions behind their behavior, and (3) our own behavior and intentions.

How do you respond to assumptions? ›

Here are 5 ways to challenge your assumptions:
  1. Ask rather than assume.
  2. Respond don't react.
  3. Decide to see positive intentions.
  4. Empower and Equip Everyone.
  5. Shift from expectation to shared understanding.
11 Dec 2015

What is epistemology in philosophy of education? ›

Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. It is concerned with the mind's relation to reality.

How does epistemological beliefs affect learning? ›

In particular, epistemological beliefs affect the learning process and outcomes primarily by influencing students' understanding of the learning task and the knowledge to be acquired (Bromme et al., 2009).

What is the main epistemological problem? ›

The central problem in the epistemology of perception is that of explaining how perception could give us knowledge or justified belief about an external world, about things outside of ourselves.

What does epistemology mean in simple terms? ›

Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. It is concerned with the mind's relation to reality. What is it for this relation to be one of knowledge? Do we know things? And if we do, how and when do we know things?

What is a epistemological statement? ›

Defining Epistemology

It involves an awareness of certain aspects of reality, and it seeks to discover what is known and how it is known. Considered as a branch of philosophy, epistemology addresses cognitive sciences, cultural studies and the history of science.

What are the 3 epistemological perspective? ›

ABSTRACT: Three epistemologies-pragmatism, positivism, and her- meneutics-are sociologically explained as the ideologies of different groups doing various kinds of scientific work. These ideologies are shaped by the material conditions and social structures of scientific work in differ- ent areas of the sciences.

What is the importance of epistemology in philosophy? ›

Epistemology is important because it influences how researchers frame their research in their attempts to discover knowledge. By looking at the relationship between a subject and an object we can explore the idea of epistemology and how it influences research design.

Why is epistemology the most important? ›

The importance of epistemology cannot be overstated since it underlies what people think, what they believe and how they apply new information. It informs political, social, religious and ethical decision making.

Why do we need epistemology answer? ›

The study of epistemology in philosophy is important because it helps us evaluate what we see or perceive. It helps us determine the true from the false and helps us gain productive knowledge i.e. knowledge that we can actually use to benefit oneself and others.

What is an example of epistemology in research? ›

An example of an epistemological question would be: “How is it possible to know whether God exists or not?” Research Methodology answers the question: “How do we go about discovering the answer or reality?” This includes the process of data collection and analysis.

What are the 5 Epistemologies? ›

Core topics of epistemology
  • Perception.
  • Memory.
  • Introspection.
  • Inference.
  • Testimony.

What are the epistemological questions in philosophy? ›

Epistemological questions include the following: What distinguishes knowledge from mere belief? What can be known with certainty? How can we know if we have knowledge?


1. Ontology epistemology methodology and methods I ontology and epistemology in research examples
(IfD_Qualitative Research Specialists)
2. Philosophical assumptions, paradigms and worldviews in mixed methods research
(Research with Dr Kriukow)
3. What are Ontology & Epistemology?
(Philosophy Quest)
4. Philosophical Assumptions a Quick Introduction
(Candace Hastings)
5. Ontology, Epistemology, Positivism and Interpretivism explained in (under) 5 minutes
(Research with Dr Kriukow)
6. Ontology, Epistemology, Methodology and Methods in Research Simplified!
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Otha Schamberger

Last Updated: 03/01/2023

Views: 6412

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Otha Schamberger

Birthday: 1999-08-15

Address: Suite 490 606 Hammes Ferry, Carterhaven, IL 62290

Phone: +8557035444877

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: Fishing, Flying, Jewelry making, Digital arts, Sand art, Parkour, tabletop games

Introduction: My name is Otha Schamberger, I am a vast, good, healthy, cheerful, energetic, gorgeous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.