Research Paradigms: An Overview

Masters Program in Renewable Energy Department of Mechanical Engineering, Institute of Engineering August 7, 2009


Presentation Outline
 What is Research?  What is Paradigm? Definition, Concept, the Paradigm Shift  Main Components of a Paradigm: Ontology, Epistemology & Methodology  Research Paradigms: Three Main Paradigms  Paradigm Positions on Selected Practical Research Issues

Presentation Outline
 Logic of Inquiry: Research Strategies  Quantitative/Qualitative Research: Salient Features; Mixed Methods?  Research Process

“Every discipline depends on Research Activities to expand its knowledge base.”

What is There are many ways of knowing and therefore many ways of approaching research? research.
•“ A studious inquiry or examination, especially a critical investigation or experimentation having for its aim the discovery of new facts and their correct interpretation, the revision of accepted conclusions, theories, or laws in the light of new discovered facts or the practical application of such conclusions, theories or laws.” • “Diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover facts or principles.”

Typologies of Research Designs used in Social Science Research
Research Design = Architectural Blueprint. A plan for assembling, organizing, and integrating information (data), and its results in a specific end product (research findings) McGrath (1970) Five Models 4. Controlled Experiment 5. Study 6. Survey 7. Investigation 8. Action Research Selltiz (1962) Three Broad Categories 11. Formative or Exploratory 12. Descriptive 13. Causal Hypotheses Testing

Isaac’s Nine Categories (1978) 2. Historical 3. Descriptive 4. Developmental 5. Co-rrelational 6. Case or Field Study 7. Casual-Comparative 8. True Experimental 9. Quasi-Experimental 10. Action

What is a paradigm?
 A broad framework of perception, understanding, belief within which theories and practices operate.  … a network of coherent ideas about the nature of the world and the functions of researchers which, adhered to by a group of researchers, conditions their thinking and underpins their research actions [Bassey, 1990: para 8.1]  A basis for comprehension, for interpreting social reality [Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000: 9]

What is a paradigm? (Continued)
 It pre-structures perceptions, conceptualisation & understanding  Shifts in scientific theory require new paradigms [Science is] …a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions … in which one conceptual world view is replaced by another. [Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000: 396]  Researchers from different disciplines [traditions?] may have different paradigms  There are competing paradigms in research

What is a PARADIGM ?
a mental model a way of seeing a filter for one's perceptions a frame of reference a framework of thought or beliefs through which one's world or reality is interpreted  an example used to define a phenomenon  a commonly held belief among a group of people, such as scientists of a given discipline     

Paradigm Shif


 In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution, and fathered, defined and popularized the concept of "paradigm shift" (p.10). Kuhn argues that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions", and in those revolutions "one conceptual world view is replaced by another".  Think of a Paradigm Shift as a change from one way of thinking to another. It's a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change.

Main Components of a Paradigm:

Ontology Epistemology Methodology

Main Components of Paradigm
 Ontology – ‘concerned with being’How do you look at reality?
 ‘Epistemology – ‘The branch of

philosophy concerned with the origin, nature, methods & limits of knowledge.’

On tolo gy
 Ontology is the starting point of all research, after which one’s epistemological and methodological positions logically follow. A dictionary definition of the term may describe it as the image of social reality upon which a theory is based

Ontol ogy
 Norman Blaikie offers a fuller definition, suggesting that ontological claims are ‘claims and assumptions that are made about the nature of social reality, claims about what exists, what it looks like, what units make it up and how these units interact with each other.  In short, ontological assumptions are concerned with what we believe constitutes social reality’ (Blaikie, 2000, p. 8)

Epi stemol ogy
 Epistemology, one of the core branches of philosophy, is concerned with the theory of knowledge, especially in regard to its methods, validation and ‘the possible ways of gaining knowledge of social reality, whatever it is understood to be.

Episte mol ogy
Derived from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (reason), epistemology focuses on the knowledge-gathering process and is concerned with developing new models or theories that are better than competing models and theories. Knowledge, and the ways of discovering it, is not static, but forever changing. When reflecting on theories, and concepts in general, researchers need to reflect on the assumptions on which they are based and where they originate from in the first place.

Ways of Knowi ng about th e Worl d: Inqui ry St rategi es Authority (parents, state, boss, etc) Religion (faith, belief, standard, morals, etc) Tradition (we have always done that way, folkways,
cultural patterns, we know how to behave in certain situation)

Intuition Creativity Science and scientific research

Resear ch Met ho ds and Met hodo log y Methodology refers to general principles which underline how we investigate the social world and how we demonstrate that the knowledge generated is valid. Research methods refers to the more practical issues of choosing an appropriate research design – perhaps an experiment or a survey – to answer a research question, and then designing instruments to generate data.

Logic o f In quiry : Re search St rate gie s

Deductive and Inductive Thinking
 Deductive Thinking = "top-down" approach. Narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or confirming hypotheses. Deductive Thinking

Inductive Thinking

Inductive Thinking = "bottom up" approach. Open ended and exploratory.

The Research


 Survey = Deductive, variables are selected for investigation from a theory or conceptual model before the study. Results are generally presented quantitatively.  Case study = Inductive, impossible to identify all the important variables ahead of time. Results are presented qualitatively, using words and pictures rather than numbers

Positivism, Critical Theory et. al, Interpretivism/Constructivism: A Comparison Among Paradigms

Positiv ism
Quantitative purists (Positivists):  Believe that social observations should be treated as entities in much the same way that physical scientists treat physical phenomena.  Contend that the observer is separate from the entities that are subject to observation.  Maintain that social inquiry should be objective.  That time- and context-free generalizations (Nagel, 1986) are desirable and possible, and  Real causes of social scientific outcomes can be determined reliably and validly.

Interpre ti vi sm/ Constr ucti vi sm  Qualitative purists (also called constructivists and interpretivists) reject positivism.  Argue for the superiority of constructivism, idealism, relativism, humanism, hermeneutics, and, sometimes, postmodernism.  Contend that multiple-constructed realities abound,  That time- and context-free generalizations

In terp re tivis m/ Constr uctivis m
(Cont ’d)

 That research is value-bound,  That it is impossible to differentiate fully causes and effects,  That logic flows from specific to general (e.g., explanations are generated inductively from the data), and  That knower and known cannot be separated because the subjective knower is the only source of reality.

Quantitative Versus Qualitative Research: Salient Features; Mixed Methods?

Quantitative research
 Its purpose is to explain social life  Is nomothetic – interested in establishing law-like statements, causes, consequences, etc  Aims at theory testing  Employs an objective approach

Qualitative research
 Its purpose is to understand social life  Is ideographic – describes reality as it is

 Aims at theory building  Employs a subjective approach

Quantitative research
 Is etiological – interested in explanations over space and time  Is a closed approach – is strictly planned  Research process is predetermined  Uses a rigid and static approach

Qualitative research
 Is historical – interested in real cases

 Is open and flexible in all aspects  Research process is influenced by the respondent  Uses a dynamic approach

Quantitative research  Employs an inflexible process  Is particularistic, studies elements, variables  Employs random sampling

Qualitative research  Employs a flexible process  Is holistic – studies whole units

 Employs theoretical sampling

Quantitative research  Places priority on studying differences  Employs a reductive data analysis  Employs high levels of measurement  Employs a deductive approach

Qualitative research  Places priority on studying similarities  Employs an explicative data analysis  Employs low levels of measurement  Employs an inductive approach


Quantitative Methodology

Qualitative Methodology

Nature of reality

Objective; simple; single; tangible sense impressions Nomological thinking; cause – effect linkages

Subjective; problematic; holistic; a social construct Non-deterministic; mutual shaping; no cause – effect linkages Normativism; value-bound inquiry

Causes and effects

The role of values Value neutral; value-free inquiry

Feature Natural and social sciences

Quantitative Methodology Deductive; model of natural sciences; nomothetic; bases on strict rules Quantitative, mathematical; extensive use of statistics

Qualitative Methodology Inductive; rejection of the natural sciences model; ideographic; no strict rules; interpretations Qualitative, with less emphasis on statistics; verbal and qualitative analysis Active; ‘knower’ and ‘known’ are interactive and inseparable


Researcher’s role

Rather passive; is the ‘knower’; is separate from subject – the known: dualism Inductive generalizations; nomothetic statements


Analytical or conceptual generalizations; timeand-context specific

Criteria: Quantitative Research --- Criteria: Qualitative Research

Internal validity External validity Reliability Objectivity

Credibility Transferability Dependability Confirmability

The Qualitative-Quantitative Debate
 The debate is between the general assumptions involved in undertaking a research project (qualitative, quantitative or mixed). At the level of the assumptions that are made, the differences can be profound and irreconcilable (which is why there's so much fighting that goes on). There are some fundamental differences, but that they lie primarily at the level of assumptions about research (epistemological and ontological assumptions).  The quantitative-qualitative debate is philosophical. Many qualitative researchers operate under different epistemological (source of knowledge) and ontological (how we look at reality) assumptions from quantitative researchers.

Some questions???
§ So, if the difference between qualitative and quantitative is not along the exploratory-confirmatory or inductive-deductive dimensions, then where is it? § Is it true that now-a-days, we find researchers who are interested in blending the two traditions, attempting to get the advantages of each?

Three Main Types of Research Questions
1. Descriptive
When a study is designed primarily to describe what is going on or what exists. Public opinion polls that seek only to describe the proportion of people who hold various opinions are primarily descriptive in nature. For instance, if we want to know what percent of the population would vote for a Democratic or a Republican in the next presidential election, we are simply interested in describing something.

When a study is designed to look at the relationships between two or more variables. A public opinion poll that compares what proportion of males and females say they would vote for a Democratic or a Republican candidate in the next presidential election is essentially studying the relationship between gender and voting preference.

§ Causal
When a study is designed to determine whether one or more variables (e.g., a program or treatment variable) causes or affects one or more outcome variables. If we did a public opinion poll to try to determine whether a recent political advertising campaign changed voter preferences, we would essentially be studying whether the campaign (cause) changed the proportion of voters who would vote Democratic or Republican (effect).

Introduction to Validity
Validity = The best available approximation to the truth of a given proposition, inference, or conclusion.

External validity

Introduction to Validity: Four types of validity

Four Types of Vali di ty

 The four validity types are: Internal validity, External Validity, Construct Validity and Conclusion Validity. They build on one another, with two of them (conclusion and internal) referring to the land of observation on the bottom of the figure, one of them (construct) emphasizing the linkages between the bottom and the top, and the last ( external) being primarily concerned about the range of our theory on the top.

 Internal Validity deals with the question of how one’s findings match reality. Do the findings capture what is really there? Are investigators observing or measuring what they think they are measuring?  One of the assumptions underlying qualitative research is that reality is holistic, multi-dimensional, and ever-changing; it is not a single, fixed, objective phenomenon waiting to be discovered, observed, and measured. Then how do we assess the validity of what is being observed or measured?

 External validity is related to generalizing. That's the major thing you need to keep in mind. Recall that validity refers to the approximate truth of propositions, inferences, or conclusions. So, external validity refers to the approximate truth of conclusions the involve generalizations. Put in more simple terms, external validity is the degree to which the conclusions in your study would hold for other persons in other places and at other times.

Threats to externa l valThere are three major threats to external validity because idi ty 

there are three ways you could be wrong -- people, places or times. Your critics could come along, for example, and argue that the results of your study are due to the unusual type of people who were in the study. Or, they could argue that it might only work because of the unusual place you did the study in (perhaps you did your educational study in a college town with lots of high-achieving educationally-oriented kids). Or, they might suggest that you did your study in a peculiar time. For instance, if you did your smoking cessation study the week after the Surgeon General issues the well-publicized results of the latest smoking and cancer studies, you might get different results than if you had done it the week before.

 Perhaps the best approach to criticisms of generalizations is simply to show them that they're wrong -- do your study in a variety of places, with different people and at different times. That is, your external validity (ability to generalize) will be stronger the more you replicate your study.

Criteria: Quantitative Research --- Criteria: Qualitative Research

Internal validity External validity Reliability Objectivity

Credibility Transferability Dependability Confirmability

Dealing with the issue of validity and reliability
 All researchers is concerned with producing valid and reliable knowledge in an ethical manner.  Basic question: TO WHAT EXTENT CAN

 The first thing we have to ask is: "validity of what?" When we think about validity in research, most of us think about research components. We might say that a measure is a valid one, or that a valid sample was drawn, or that the design had strong validity. But all of those statements are technically incorrect. Measures, samples and designs don't 'have' validity -- only propositions can be said to be valid. Technically, we should say that a measure leads to valid conclusions or that a sample enables valid inferences, and so on. It is a proposition, inference or conclusion that can 'have' validity.

 Internal Validity = It deals with the question of how one’s findings match reality. Do the findings capture what is really there? Are investigators observing or measuring what they think they are measuring?  External Validity = Ability to generalize. The extent to which the findings of one study can be applied to other situations.  Construct Validity = How well you have translated a concept or construct into a functioning and operating reality (the operationalization).  Reliability = The extent to which there is consistency in one’s findings. This is enhanced by the investigator explaining the assumptions and the theory underlying the study, by triangulating data, and by leaving a audit trail, that is, by describing in detail how the study was conducted and how the findings were derived from the data.

Co nclu si on
“I keep six honest serving men, (they taught me all I knew), their names are what, and why, and when, and how, and where and who.” --Rudyard Kipling

Co nclu si on
 “The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution”

Albert Einstein

Su ggest ed Re adings
 Norman W. H. Blaikie, Approaches to Social Inquiry, Polity Press, UK,1993.  Norman W. H. Blaikie, Designing Social Research Polity Press, UK, 2000.  Norman K, Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, Handbook of Qualitative Research, SAGE Publications, USA,1993.

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