Research Philosophy: Paradigms, World Views, Perspectives, and Theories

Research Philosophy: Paradigms, World Views, Perspectives, and Theories

Candauda Arachchige Saliya
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6859-3.ch004
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The purpose of this chapter is to summarize the philosophical developments in the academic research field and provide a framework for non-native English-speaking budding researchers. Revealing the philosophical stance of the authors of a research paper is crucial in understanding their arguments. Therefore, an understanding of this historical evolution is useful in justifying authors' choices and presenting them clearly in the research report. Authors' perceptions of different theories, perspectives, and worldviews influence and affect many aspects of research, and it is important to mention personal stances on them in the research report at the very beginning. The choice of underpinning philosophy is significantly influenced by the author's psychosocial, economic, and cultural backgrounds. Multivism is a dynamic position of a researcher who is not confined to the bipolar-disordered extremism of objectivism and subjectivism of ontology, epistemology, methodology, and methods.
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Paradigms And Worldviews

“Choosing a paradigm is important because it allows you to start forming research questions (RQs). This is useful, even if your questions start off vague” (Gournelos et al., 2019, p. 8)

Paradigm is the entire sets of beliefs, values, techniques that are shared by members of a community (Kuhn, 2012). Guba and Lincoln (1994) who are leaders in the field define a paradigm as a basic set of beliefs or worldview that guides research action or an investigation. Paradigms are thus important because they provide beliefs and dictates, which, for scholars in a particular discipline, influence what should be studied, how it should be studied, and how the results of the study should be interpreted. The paradigm defines a researcher’s philosophical orientation and, as we shall see in the conclusion to this paper, this has significant implications for every decision made in the research process, including choice of methodology and methods. And so a paradigm tells us how meaning will be constructed from the data we shall gather, based on our individual experiences, (i.e. where we are coming from). It is therefore very important, that when you write your research proposal, you clearly state the paradigm in which you are locating your research.

Scholars have identified three main paradigms: positivism, interpretivism / constructivism and critical thinking. Pragmatism is also cited by some scholars as the latest paradigm shift. Positivists aim to explore, explain, evaluate, predict, or test theories. The goal of interpretivists as well as constructivists is to understand human behavior. Critical theorists aim to critique social reality, liberate, empower people, and propose solutions to social problems. The pragmatic paradigm refers to a worldview that focuses on ‘what works’ rather than what might be considered absolutely and objectively ‘true’ or ‘real.’ Early pragmatists rejected the idea that social inquiry using a single scientific method could access truths regarding the real world.

Critical realism is a branch of philosophy that distinguishes between the 'real' world and the 'observable' world. The basis of this theory is that 'reality' cannot exist or be excluded from human cognitions, theories and creations. By interpreting the world scientifically through cause-and-effect mechanisms, it contradicts / alternates the methods of empiricism and fundamentalism.

Pseudoscience and Social Constructivism

Born in 1984 and still in his early career, Maarten Boudry is best known for his skepticism and critical attitude towards pseudoscience. He studies the errors of human reasoning, which can be subject to pseudoscience and irrationality. Pseudoscience is described as an 'imitation of real science'. Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge in which human development is socially situated and knowledge is built by interacting with others. Like constructism, social constructivism states that people work together to create something.

Social constructism focuses on the objects created through the social interaction of a group, while the worldview of social reformism focuses on the learning of an individual as a result of his or her interactions within a group. Strong social reformism as a philosophical approach suggests that the natural world has little or no role in the construction of scientific knowledge.

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