Three research philosophies compared


Research paradigm:




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