What is Research Paradigm?

Each time we plan a research study and begin writing Chapter 3, we start by stating our research paradigm; this is often called a research “lens.” Much like the lens of a pair of glasses, depending upon the circumstances, we see things differently.

For example, with bifocals we see one way, with reading glasses another way, and with a traditional pair of glasses yet another. The same happens with our research paradigm; the circumstances of our situation will point us in one direction or another.

Each of these paradigms has four major components :

1. Axiology—a researcher’s beliefs about what is ethical and valuable.
2. Ontology—a researcher’s beliefs about reality. Is there only one reality that we can identify and verify,               or are there multiple realities that we can construct?
3. Epistemology—a researcher’s beliefs about his or her role during the research process. Should he or                 she be actively involved or try to act as an observer?
4. Methodology—based on the researcher’s axiology, ontology, and epistemology, this is the                                 methodological approach to answering research questions or testing hypotheses.

A combination of the first three components (i.e., a researcher’s axiological, ontological, and epistemological beliefs about a given research project) identifies a specific paradigm (e.g., positivistic, constructivist, experimental) with each of these paradigms generally representative of either a quantitative method or a qualitative method.

Researchers using a quantitative method believe they must be objective and separate themselves from the problem they are investigating; this is termed dualism.

Paradigm Quantitative research method

1. Traditional - Surveys, correlational studies
2. Positivistic - Quasi-experiments, experiments
3. Empirical  - etc.

Paradigm Qualitative research method

1. Constructivist - Ethnography, grounded theory
2. Interpretive - case studies, phenomenology,
3. Historical - narratives
4. Postmodern  

Quantitative research is deductive; it begins with a specific research problem that is better understood with an extensive review of the literature. From that a hypothesis is formulated and tested using a quantitative research design. The results from data collection and analysis allow researchers to either support or fail to support their hypothesis. This, they feel, leads to the discovery of a truth that is objective, measurable, and real.

The qualitative method is inductive in nature. Researchers emphasize developing a research environment that is trusting, balanced, and ethical with all parties respecting the opinions and participation of others. Qualitative researchers begin with a broad area of interest or opportunity and actively work within the research space to interpret, create, or construct meaning. Emphasis is placed less on a solid literature foundation and more on working closely with the participants in the study to discover meaning or develop theories that could subsequently be tested quantitatively.

Finally, when we get to the idea of mixed methods research, we’ll objectively collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data, and then blend them to answer the study’s overarching research question.