All academic research is said to be grounded in a philosophical perspective. Easterby-Smith et al.5 provide a useful summary as to why a philosophical perspective on any research study is important. For example, it can help to clarify research design in terms of its overall configuration, what kind of evidence is gathered and from where, and how this can be interpreted to provide answers to the question(s) asked. It can help recognise those designs that are likely to work and those that will not, and highlight limitations of particular approaches. It can help the researcher identify research designs that may be outside his/her past experiences.
There continues however to be a great deal of debate among academic researchers around the most appropriate philosophical position from which methods of research should be derived. In this instance, the competing schools of thought are often described as positivist and phenomenological. These schools of thought are perhaps best viewed as extremes on a continuum. Each school has its own set of assumptions and a range of methodological implications associated with its position. However, there is a danger of oversimplification if this distinction is taken too literally. It is important to recognise that rarely does any piece of research work fit neatly into a particular school of thought. Rather a piece of research tends to subscribe to a particular school of thought.
The researcher's methodological, epistemological and ontological premises can be termed a paradigm or interpretive framework that encompasses a set of beliefs that guide the research action. This comprises:
Philosophy of science
Role of marketing research
• Methodology: focuses on how we gain knowledge about the world.
• Epistemology: asks: How do we know the world? What is the relationship between the inquirer and the known? (It is concerned with how things can be made known to the researcher.)
• Ontology: ontology raises basic questions about the nature of reality. (It is concerned with assumptions about the kind of things there are in the world.)
Research methodologies will differ according to both their ontological and epi-stemological assumptions, although generally there are two types of research methodology:
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