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400755 Evidence Based Nursing 1

Comparing Research Paradigms

Prepared by: Dr Sansnee Jirojwong & Dr Elizabeth Halcomb


Revised by: Dr Kath Peters 2009

● By the end of this session & with additional
readings you will be able to;
– Explain the differences between the naturalistic
(qualitative) and positivist (quantitative) paradigm
– Understand the meaning of key terms, such as
epistemology, ontology, logic, paradigm
– Define what is meant by mixed methods research
– Identify reasons for using mixed methods research
– Identify limitations of mixed methods research

Philosophical concerns related to knowledge

● Epistemology
● Ontology
● Logic


● The study of the theory of knowledge

– What is it to ‘know’?
– Who is a ‘knower’?
– What is knowledge?
– What does it mean to ‘know’ something as
opposed to merely having an opinion?

● The study of existence, the nature of being

● Ontological question:
– What is the nature of reality?
– Is it fixed and external, or shaped by individuals’

● It provides the ‘world-view’ that guides the study

(Polit & Beck, 2006)

● Logic
– Involves valid ways of relating ideas to promote understanding.

● Inductive reasoning
– Moves from particular to general
– Starts with component parts and builds into a whole
– Conclusions are drawn from specific observations

● Deductive reasoning
– Moves from the general to the specific
– Starts with a whole and breaks into component parts
– Conclusions are deducted from theory and tested
(Borbasi et al 2008; Burns & Grove, 2009)

● “A paradigm is a world view, a general
perspective” (Polit & Beck, 2006, p. 13).

● Major paradigms that guide disciplined enquiry

or research are:
- Positivism and Postpositivism
- Naturalistic / Constructivism / Interpretive
- Critical theory / Critical social theory
(Guba, 1990, pp 17-27)

Research Paradigms
“are characterized by the way their proponents
respond to….the ontological, the epistemological
and the methodological questions….
(1) Ontological: What is the nature of the ‘knowable’?
Or what is the nature of reality?
(2) Epistemological: What is the nature of the
relationship between the knower (the inquirer) and the
known (or knowable)?
(3) Methodological: How should the inquirer go about
finding out knowledge?” (Guba, 1990, p. 18).

Positivist Paradigm (Quantitative)

● Widely used since 1800s –scientific and
experimental approach (Padgett, 2004, p 8)
● Assumption-objective reality
● Determinism
● Deductive processes
● Inquirer independent from those being
● Emphasis on discrete, specific concepts, narrow
scope, and measurable quantifiable information
● Seeks generalisations
(Polit & Beck, 2006, p 14)

Naturalistic / Interpretive
Paradigm (Qualitative)
● Assumption-reality is not fixed, it is multiple,
subjective and mentally constructed
● Health discipline-explain human behaviours and
their context (contextual) (Padgett, 2004, p. 8)
● Subjectivity and values desirable
● Inquirer interacts with those being researched
● Emphasis on narrative information
● Seeks patterns
(Polit & Beck, 2006, p. 14.)

Critical Social Theory

● Social change
● Emancipatory
● Contextual (Roberts & Taylor, 2002, pp. 342-343)
● Reality socially and economically-based
● Recognised existence of inequality, especially
power relations (Schneider et al., 2003, p. 213)

Quant & Qual Approaches

● Reductionist ● Holistic
● Focus is specific ● Focus broad and complex
● Objective ● Subjective
● Deductive reasoning ● Inductive reasoning
● Cause and effect ● Meaning, discovery
● Tests theory ● Develops theory
● Control ● Shared interpretation
● Instruments ● Communication, observation
● Numbers ● Words
● Generalisability ● Uniqueness

Mixed Methods Research
● Mixed method research is the use of both
qualitative and quantitative approaches in a single

● Multi-method research involves the use of two or

more data collection methods from the same
research tradition

Mixed Methods Designs

● Concurrent
– qual. and quant. data is collected at the same time,
but independently of each other.

● Sequential
– where the findings from one type of data collection
(eg. interviews) provides a basis for the collection of a
second set of data (eg. survey).

Reasons for Using Mixed Methods

(Andrew & Halcomb, 2009)
● Confirmation
– To corroborate results using data collected through
different methods

● Complementarity
– To seek elaboration, illustration or clarification of the
results from one method with the data collected from
the other method.

Reasons for Using Mixed Methods
(Andrew & Halcomb, 2009)
● Initiation
– To increase the depth and breadth of understanding of
the phenomenon by exploring it from different methods
and paradigms.

● Development
– These studies are sequential designs where the data
from the initial data collection informs the development of
the subsequent method.

Reasons for Using Mixed Methods

(Andrew & Halcomb, 2009)
● Expansion
– These studies extend the depth & scope of the enquiry
by using different measures to explore different enquiry

● Enhance Significant Findings

– Significant findings from one method of data collection
can be specifically explored by another data collection
method thereby enhancing the finding.

Limitations of Mixed Methods

● Takes more time
● More expensive
● Increased Investigator knowledge & skill
● Difficulty in assigning weight to data sources
● May increase errors
● Publication difficulties
● Replication difficulties
(Andrew & Halcomb, 2009)

Mixed Method Considerations
● Research questions should be clear
● Explain method in detail & give reasons for
choosing design
● Provide evidence of how using mixed methods
added to the study
● Evaluate the use of design

Andrew, S., & Halcomb, E. (2009). Mixed methods research for nursing & the health
sciences. London: Blackwell-Wiley.
Borbasi, S., Jackson, D. & Langford, R.W. (2008). Navigating the maze of nursing
research: an interactive learning adventure (2nd ed.). Marrickville: Elsevier.
Burns, N. & Grove, S.K. (2009). The practice of nursing research: Appraisal, synthesis and
generation of evidence St Louis: Saunders.
Dempsey, P. A., & Dempsey, A. D. (2000). Using nursing research: process, critical
evaluation and utilization. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Guba, E. G. (Ed.) (1990). The paradigm dialog. California: Sage Publications. Padgett,
D.K. (2004). The qualitative research experience, Belmont, CA: Thomson.
Polit, D.F., & Beck, C. T. (2006). Essentials of nursing research: Method, appraisal and
utilisation (6th ed.), Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Roberts, K. & Taylor, B. (1998) Nursing research processes: An Australian perspective,
Melbourne: Nelson.
Schneider, Z., Whitehead, D., Elliott, D., Lobiondo-Wood, G & Haber, J. (1999) Nursing &
Midwifery research: methods and appraisal for evidence-based practice. (3rd ed.),
Sydney: Mosby.