Paradigmatic Perspectives for Social Justice Research: Method, Paradigm, and Design for Dissertation Research

Paradigmatic Perspectives for Social Justice Research: Method, Paradigm, and Design for Dissertation Research

Robin Throne, Abeni El-Amin, Lucinda Houghton
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8479-8.ch016
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This chapter presents a conceptual analysis of the current trends for research paradigmatic perspectives used in doctoral social justice research approaches. The chapter offers a concise resource for doctoral scholars and their research supervisors to establish and illustrate a relevant paradigmatic perspective aligned with the research method and design choice to view the dissertation research problem in doctoral social justice research. Paradigmatic perspectives from feminist, critical theoretical perspectives, and grounded theory are also included as examples of specific approaches.
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Doctoral researchers’ understanding of the selection of a paradigmatic philosophical perspective for the dissertation research as aligned with the method and design can be a complex and daunting process for many new investigators (Baškarada & Koronios, 2018; Rehman & Alharthi, 2016; Varpio & MacLeod, 2020). The paradigm has been described simply as providing the lens by which the study views the world (Kankam, 2019). Moreover, the intricacies of paradigm formulation may be even more complicated for doctoral researchers who desire to conduct social justice research or include a component of social justice research within the dissertation study. “These ideas, which are notoriously difficult to understand, are much closer to philosophy than to science as commonly understood, and while growing in popularity, they currently form a slim minority of the social science literature” (Baškarada & Koronios, 2018, p. 15). Thus, new researchers must learn to apply a paradigmatic perspective underscored by the tenets and principles underpinning the doctoral study's philosophical approach in alignment with the discipline (Kankam, 2019). The selection of a specific paradigmatic viewpoint serves to allow the new doctoral researcher to contribute new knowledge to the discipline from the contextual findings of the dissertation research study.

Situating where emerging doctoral researchers’ positionality may lie within the nature of reality, understanding for how new knowledge is constructed, and the unique ontological and epistemological worldview can be an intimidating and overwhelming conceptual process for new investigators1. As Clemente et al. (2020) explained, the paradigmatic perspective for the doctoral research study must be constructed from the ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological considerations for the study. The same can be said for the doctoral research supervisor, so much so that the foundational philosophical paradigmatic perspective for the new researcher is enhanced. Thus, the dissertation study may be confined to the rationale for the study research method and design choice, or for the theoretical framework, without requiring a discussion of the paradigmatic philosophical assumptions for the method and design choices. At minimum, a choice of paradigmatic perspective by the new researcher must not only demonstrate methodological alignment but also ontological alignment with the new researcher (Alharahsheh & Pius, 2020).

Makombe (2017) noted the gap in the application of paradigm aligned with methodology across many dissertation research studies and stressed the importance of a clear use of not only the term paradigm, but paradigm and methodology alignment as well as clarity in the choice of paradigm. The integration of the expectations for descriptions of the philosophical underpinnings may be too elusive or abstract and thus requires the guiding hand of the researcher supervisor (Kivunja & Kuyini, 2017; Makombe, 2017). However, when a new investigator is required or desires to articulate the philosophical paradigmatic assumptions that underscore the dissertation research study, it may serve to frame and ground the study and the emerging researcher’s ontological and epistemological viewpoint (Varpio & MacLeod, 2020). This added layer of transparency for the work serves to clarify the researcher’s positionality, which may in turn reduce researcher bias for the dissertation study findings (Throne, 2021a). More often in social justice research, these insights may further enhance the new investigator’s agency, fidelity, and understanding of the sociocultural implications for the dissertation research otherwise not seen or attended. “When this lens involves the transformative or interpretivist paradigmatic perspective, new knowledge may emerge with valuable societal implications for the research focus,” (Throne, 2021b, p. 25).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Justice Research: Social justice research involves full and equal participation from within the community of research to achieve the objective and seek truth. Social justice researchers engage self-determination, interdependence, initiative, situate themselves as a transformative agent with a commitment to act in solidarity with others ( Throne & Bourke, 2019 ).

Axiology: Axiology involves the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings for values of the discipline, the individual, and/or society as well as ultimately the value for methodological choice within the specific inquiry ( Varpio & MacLeod, 2020 ).

Epistemology: Epistemology is a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and how one’s knowledge is acquired, validated, and communicated ( Rehman & Alharthi, 2016 ).

Critical Theory: Developed by theoreticians at the Frankfurt School. Although Horkheimer was the progenitor of critical theory, other theorists of critical theory consisted of Adorno, Benjamin, Fromm, and Marcuse (Horkheimer, 1937 AU25: The in-text citation "Horkheimer, 1937" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; Rehman & Alharthi, 2016 ). While the term has been largely applied particularly to the work of the Frankfurt School, critical theory is generally defined as a lens to critique and confront the social, historical, and ideological frameworks and structures as used across the social sciences and philosophy.

Ontology: Ontology refers to the nature of one’s beliefs about reality and form the foundation of beliefs that comprise one’s comprehensive worldview ( Rehman & Alharthi, 2016 ).

Critical Inquiry: Critical inquiry is defined generally as “research undertaken beyond the theoretical to intentionally engage the political discourse to advance the public good, social justice, power structures, or critical consciousness within a socially-just democratic society” (Throne, 2020, p. 173 AU24: The in-text citation "Throne, 2020, p. 173" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Grounded theory: Grounded theory is meticulous qualitative method of conducting research in which researchers assemble conceptual scaffolds or theories by way of constructing inductive theoretical examinations from data and successively verifying the notional analyses ( Charmaz, 2012 ).

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