Skip Nav

Interpretivism and Positivism (Ontological and Epistemological Perspectives)

Recent Posts

❶Have you put them up yet? Remember, understanding is the key here, not remembering the definitions.

What Is the Definition of Textual Analysis?

Looks like you do not have access to this content.
What Is Colaizzi's Method of Data Analysis?
Reader's Guide

For empiricism it is provided by the brute data of sensation, of experience. The empirical-analytic conception of inquiry appeals to both of these foundations. Inthis conception, knowledge comes from systematic testing of hypotheses, through experimentation or quasi-experimentation.

Measurement including psychological testing provides an objective, interpretation-free record of empirical regularities. Formal logic, especially the rules of statistical inference, allows both summary descriptive statements and testing of explanatory causal models. But these conceptions of inquiry founder on epistemological conundra that have their source in underlying--and often denied--ontological assumptions.

A mental-material dualistic ontology introduces problems that cannot be overcome. Knowledge mental is about things in the world material. Valid knowledge corresponds to the way things really are: Neither observation nor reasoning can provide this guarantee--they are not the interpretation-free foundations they have been claimed to be.

In short, empirical-analytic inquiry assumes, still, that there are epistemological foundations to inquiry. This assumption is abandoned as fruitless by interpretive research.

Hermeneutics Interpretive research is hermeneutic in character. This too is something we shall examine in more detail later, for now it suffices to say that hermeneutics is the reading, the interpretation, of messages and texts. A few basic but important points: A text must be read to make sense: Second, any text is open to more than one reading: Third, texts are read in context: But interpretive research works with action as well as texts; human action can be fixed as a text-analog with consequences that Paul Ricoeur has described.

It is sometimes said that interpretive research can only be descriptive, not explanatory. We shall see that this is not the case; at a certain point description rolls over into explanation. Instead, inquiry begins with the ordinary, everyday human understanding we have of one another. We start, that is to say, with the everyday grasp of people, actions and events that comes from being a participant, a practitioner.

One outcome is a sharpening of ones perception, an increase in insight, and sensitivity to what goes on in ordinary conversation and interaction; to the ongoing work of human relationship that we take for granted because it is ubiquitous. Remember, understanding is the key here, not remembering the definitions.

As a PhD student 7 years ago , I tried to understand by reading everything I could find but it only gave me a theoretical level understanding. I still use this in qualitative research sessions to aid student understanding. Nevertheless, let us begin with definitions. Ontology is the nature of reality Hudson and Ozanne, and the epistemology is the relationship between the researcher and the reality or how this reality is captured or known Carson et al.

Following is my understanding and interpretation of the two terms. Ontology is concerned with identifying the overall nature of existence of a particular phenomenon. When we seek answers reality to our research questions, we are referring to a particular type of knowledge that exist external to the researcher. It is just the way things are. On the contrary, epistemology is about how we go about uncovering this knowledge that is external to researcher and learn about reality.

So it is concerned with questions such as how do we know what is true and how do we distinguish true from falls? Therefore, epistemology is internal to the researcher. It is how they see the world around them. For example, if you were asked whether it will rain tomorrow, there are two obvious responses to this question YES or NO. Can they be any other responses here? What about the relationship between two constructs e. We know that there are at least a finite number of relationships.

But what is your response if I say that I have asked my partner to stay home, take care of the kids, and manage household things. Is it right or wrong? How many responses will we get from a classroom of students? The response to this question unlike the previous is contextually bound and multiple. The nature of reality ontological disposition that the above two questions refer to is distinct from one another.

The first question refers to a reality that is dichotomous. This dichotomous reality exists independent of who is doing the research and two different researchers, therefore, will be able to arrive at same conclusions. We see a positivistic ontology here. On the contrary, the nature of reality that the second question refers to is contextually bound.

These two types of students represent two epistemological dispositions: This is how these students perceive the world around them and approach to understand the realities that exist in the outside world. The positivist ontology believes that the world is external Carson et al.

Thus, they take a controlled and structural approach in conducting research by identifying a clear research topic, constructing appropriate hypotheses and by adopting a suitable research methodology Churchill, ; Carson et al. Positivist researchers remain detached from the participants of the research by creating a distance, which is important in remaining emotionally neutral to make clear distinctions between reason and feeling Carson et al.

They also maintain a clear distinction between science and personal experience and fact and value judgement. It is also important in positivist research to seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical approaches to research Carson et al. Statistical and mathematical techniques are central to positivist research, which adheres to specifically structured research techniques to uncover single and objective reality Carson et al.

The goal of positivist researchers is to make time and context free generalizations. They believe this is possible because human actions can be explained as a result of real causes that temporarily precedes their behaviour and the researcher and his research subjects are independent and do not influence each other Hudson and Ozanne, Especially, this is an important step in remaining emotionally neutral to make clear distinctions between reason and feeling as well as between science and personal experience.

Positivists also claim it is important to clearly distinguish between fact and value judgement. As positivist researchers they seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical approaches to research Carson et al. The position of interpretivism in relation to ontology and epistemology is that interpretivists believe the reality is multiple and relative Hudson and Ozanne, Lincoln and Guba explain that these multiple realities also depend on other systems for meanings, which make it even more difficult to interpret in terms of fixed realities Neuman, The knowledge acquired in this discipline is socially constructed rather than objectively determined Carson et al.

Interpretivists avoid rigid structural frameworks such as in positivist research and adopt a more personal and flexible research structures Carson et al.

They believe the researcher and his informants are interdependent and mutually interactive Hudson and Ozanne, The interpretivist researcher enters the field with some sort of prior insight of the research context but assumes that this is insufficient in developing a fixed research design due to complex, multiple and unpredictable nature of what is perceived as reality Hudson and Ozanne, The researcher remains open to new knowledge throughout the study and lets it develop with the help of informants.

The use of such an emergent and collaborative approach is consistent with the interpretivist belief that humans have the ability to adapt, and that no one can gain prior knowledge of time and context bound social realities Hudson and Ozanne, Therefore, the goal of interpretivist research is to understand and interpret the meanings in human behaviour rather than to generalize and predict causes and effects Neuman, ; Hudson and Ozanne, For an interpretivist researcher it is important to understand motives, meanings, reasons and other subjective experiences which are time and context bound Hudson and Ozanne, ; Neuman, Have direct access to real world.

No direct access to real world. No single external reality. Possible to obtain hard, secure objective knowledge. Research focus on generalization and abstraction. Thought governed by hypotheses and stated theories. Research focuses on the specific and concrete. Seeking to understand specific context. Role of the researcher. Techniques used by researcher.

Concentrates on description and explanation. Clear distinction between reason and feeling. Aim to discover external reality rather than creating the object of study. Strive to use rational, consistent, verbal, logical approach. Seek to maintain clear distinction between facts and value judgments.

Distinction between science and personal experience. Formalized statistical and mathematical methods predominant. Concentrates on understanding and interpretation. Researchers want to experience what they are studying. Allow feeling and reason to govern actions. Partially create what is studied, the meaning of phenomena.

Use of pre-understanding is important. Distinction between facts and value judgments less clear. Accept influence from both science and personal experience. The Social Construction of Reality: The presentation of interpretivist research.

An International Journal , 9 4 , — Basic Marketing Research 3 rd Ed. Journal of Consumer Research , 12, Journal of Consumer Research , 14 4 , — The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Vol. Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches 4 th Ed. Between Single and Multiple reality, which one is good for Business or Management research? Hi Chisala, Did you get anything on single and multiple reality.

Would be interested to have a read on this. Have you put them up yet?


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Interpretivism (interpretivist) Research Philosophy Interpretivism, also known as interpretivist involves researchers to interpret elements of the study, thus interpretivism integrates human interest into a study.

Privacy FAQs

While many research projects begin with a hypothesis and work to prove or disprove that original theory, an interpretivist approach lets the results evolve naturally from the research. This honors the significance the researchers place on meaningful human actions and their historical context.

About Our Ads

Interpretive research focuses on analytically disclosing those meaning-making practices, while showing how those practices configure to generate observable outcomes. Interpretive research methodologies and methods are not new but are today in a minority position in political science disciplinary training and mainstream journals. An Interpretivist approach to social research would be much more qualitative, using methods such as unstructured interviews or participant observation Interpretivists, or anti-positivists argue that individuals are not just puppets who react to external social forces as Positivists believe.

Cookie Info

Chapter 12 Interpretive Research. The last chapter introduced interpretive research, or more specifically, interpretive case research. This chapter will explore other kinds of interpretive research. Recall that positivist or deductive methods, such as laboratory experiments and survey research, are those that are specifically intended for. Interpretive research is a framework and practice within social science research that is invested in philosophical and methodological ways of understanding social reality.