Three research philosophies compared

 

Research paradigm:

Ethnographic

Action

Classical

Other names closely associated

Illuminative, grounded, heuristic, bottom-up, phenomenological, anti-positivist

Interpretative, reflective, evaluative, critical

Psycho-statistical, closed, top-down, positivist

Involvement of theory and previous research

 

 

Totally founded on prior consideration of these

Research question or hypothesis

 

 

Hypotheses stated in advance  from theory/past research. 'Hypothesis testing'. Confirmatory

Subjects: number

 

 

Many, often of several types to be compared

Generalisability to other subjects

 

 

Yes, random sampling, inference

Variables: number focussed on

 

 

Often few targeted in any one study

Variables: choice

 

 

Chosen in advance, following the hypothesis

Qualitative or quantitative

 

 

Quantitative and statistical (inferential). ‘Hard data’

Data gathering/  measuring: techniques

 

 

Often closed-item questionnaires, artificial tests, elicitation. Limited amount of data

Data gathering/ measuring: role of researcher

 

 

Independent observer/data gatherer

Design: time span

 

 

Usually short

Design: intervention

 

 

Often yes, but not necessarily

Design: control of extraneous variables

 

 

Yes, crucial

Ultimate aim

 

 

Understanding of some specific effect or relationship