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Understanding your research philosophy

Research philosophy is an over-arching term relating to the development of knowledge and the
nature of that knowledge

The research philosophy you adopt contains important assumptions about the way in which you
view the world. These assumptions will underpin your research strategy and the methods you
choose as part of that strategy

In part, the philosophy you adopt will be influenced by practical considerations. However, the
main influence is likely to be your particular view of the relationship between knowledge and the
process by which it is developed

There are three major of thinking about research philosophy: epistemology ontology and
axiology.

What is Epistemology?

• ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from Greek epistēmē ‘knowledge,’ from epistasthai ‘know, know
how to do.’
• Epistemology is the branch of Philosophy that studies knowledge, by attempting to
distinguish between ‘True’ (and adequate) knowledge and ‘False’ (inadequate) knowledge.
(Erikson and Kovalainen, (2008:14).

Epistemology is concerned with addressing the facts by asking what the acceptable
knowledge is. It asks you to define what is acceptable knowledge about your field of research and
what information is known to be true due to rigorous testing and treated as fact. This philosophy
is most commonly used in scientific research as it searches for facts and information that can be
proved without doubt rather than changeable situations and opinions.
To explain this philosophy further one should look at the philosophical positions associated with
it. These are positivism, critical realism and interpretivism.

Positivism
Positivism is an epistemological position that advocates the application of the methods of the
natural sciences to the study of social reality and beyond.
But the term stretches beyond this principle, though the constituent elements vary between
authors.

Ontology
Ontological philosophy is concerned with the nature of reality. It requires researchers to ask
themselves how they think the world operates, how society is constructed and how this
influences
everything around us.
Ontology talks about the difference between reality, our perception of reality and how this
influences people’s behaviour.

In part, the philosophy you adopt will be influenced by practical considerations. However, the
main influence is likely to be your particular view of the relationship between knowledge and the
process by which it is developed