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August 04, 2015

Research Paradigm or Worldview

Follow-up to What is axiology and how does it relate to ontology and epistemology? from CES PHD Support Group

Special guest

As you may know, our last meeting (on the 25th June) we had a special guest; Dr Michael Hammod who graciously agreed to join us for a discussion about research in general and the topic of research paradigm in specific.

This is a quick account of the key themes that were raised during that discussion:

The terminology

By now, I think you know that:

Epistemology means the study of knowledge and it comes from the Greek ἐπιστήμη, epistēmē, meaning "knowledge, understanding", and λόγος, logos, meaning, "study of").

Ontology means the study of reality, existence and being. From the Greek ὄν, on (gen. ὄντος, ontos), i.e. "being; that which is", which is the present participle of the verb εἰμί, eimi, i.e. "to be, I am", and -λογία, -logia, i.e. "science, study, theory"

Methodology means the study of methods applied in a field of study. From the French méthodologie. Surface etymology is method + -ology

A matter of disconnect or consistency

Sometimes, there is a disconnect between the way people write about these concepts and what they actually do. Which means that introducing these terms (specifically epistemology and ontology) causes confusion as much as it helps. This is especially true when the researcher spends a lot of time worrying about his/her epistemological and ontological frameworks.

Having said that, this is not a problem per se. But it could snowball and cause a set back in. so for now I will call it a complication.

Dr Hammond advises that researchers can counter this complication by trying to be consistent and not worry too much about the labels. Coming up with the label is a hard job to do especially that there is no consensus on what the terms actually mean. Take Case study for example, a classic example of a term that stands for many meanings.

But how does being consistent actually come to be in reality? Well if you self identify as an Interpretivist your questions would focus a lot about people’s perceptions and feelings. You can’t really be an Interpretivist and then question your data for an answer in the form of an ultimate truth.

Do not overthink it

cuttyCrotty talks about not bothering talking about ontology! He advises researchers to talk about epistemology. The reasoning for this is that there’s not much to add to your ontology that you can’t say under your epistemology. (see Michael J Crotty: The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process Paperback – 26 Aug 1998)

So for example: your hierarchical paradigm might look something like this

Ontology: Objectivism

Epistemology: Positivism

Methodology: Experimental methods

This is all very fine and dandy if you believe in objective facts. But when it comes to Interpretivism it gets more complicated. Say for example that your epistemology is Social Constructivism. First of all you have to beware that Social Constructivism means a lot of things to different people. It stands as a sociological theory and a theory of knowledge with major contributors including the likes of Vygotsky, Foucault, Wittgenstein and Habermas. Secondly figuring out the ontology that goes with that is a complicated dilemma.

A great tip

Dr. Hammond advises us to think about how the research questions reflect overarching ideas about the world. This is specifically correct for the research questions. Then try to be consistent with the question you ask and with your view of the world.

Practically speaking, theses are rarely if not never are torn apart over ontology and epistemology, so no need to over worry about it.

Is it Paradigm or Worldview

Finally, so far I have used the term “paradigm” and “research paradigm” to refer to what is essentially a worldview. It might as well be called the Worldview or Stance. This might be especially appropriate in social sciences. So, if you prefer to say my Research Stance or Worldview is this and that instead of Research Paradigm that’s fine. Personally, I will continue using the term “Paradigm” just to be consistent.

June 15, 2015

Ethical research and Qualitative Research

Follow-up to Researcher's paradigm: useful resources from CES PHD Support Group

A while back i was talking with Elaine and she suggested two great books that she found helpful for her research. She advised that I post about the two books for everyone to get the chance of reading

The Author

Both books are authored by David Silverman who is a Visiting Professor in the Business School, University of Technology, Sydney. Professor Silverman has a PhD on Organization theory. He pioneered a taught MA in Qualitative Research at Goldsmiths in 1985 and supervised around 30 successful PhD students. Since becoming Emeritus Professor in 1999, he has continued publishing methodology books. He has also run workshops for research students in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

The Books

  • The first book is Doing Qualitative Research. (2009, 3rd edition). Library link

silverman1There's a chapter about Ethical research that Elaine found very helpful. So, I borrowed the book and scanned the chapter for you (you're welcome!) You can download the scan here

Here's what the Library catalogue has to say about the book

Written in a lively, accessible style, Doing Qualitative Research provides a step-by-step guide to all the questions students ask when beginning their first research project. Silverman demonstrates how to learn the craft of qualitative research by applying knowledge about different methods to actual data. He provides practical advice on key issues such as defining 'originality' and narrowing down a topic, keeping a research diary and writing a research report, and presenting research to different audiences.

You can read the complete Table of contents here

  • The second book is Interpreting Qualitative Data, Fifth Edition (2015)

silverman2According to the publisher

Silverman walks the reader through the basics of gathering and analyzing qualitative data. The book offers beginners unrivalled hands-on guidance to help them get the best out of a research methods course or research project. This is the perfect companion for all those new to qualitative research.

Unfortunately this book is not yet available in the Library, however, we have an older version here

You can buy the books from Sage following these links:

  1. Doing Qualitative Research A Practical Handbook Fourth Edition
  2. Interpreting Qualitative Data Fifth Edition

June 06, 2015

Using NVivo in your research

Writing about web page

Free software

qsrThankfully, Warwick University provides all its students and staff members with a free licence of NVivo, this is available for use on University and personally-owned machines.

NVivo itself is not free, far from it! A copy of NVivo 10 for Windows Full License is listed on the website for a whopping $2,345.00! Even with the best discount it will still cost $670.00. A student version (limited functionality) would still set you back $215.00.

nvivoSo, when you hit that download link from the IT Services' website, make sure you make the best use of the software.

But what exactly is NVivo?

NVivo is a platform for analysing forms of unstructured data. NVivo provides an data interrogation using search and query and visualization tools.

Introducing NVivo 10 for Windows Software

In case you’ve missed it, Esther provided an introduction to using NVivo in our last CES Support Group meeting. You can watch a video recording of Esther’s speech at the 50-minute mark in this video

Practical resources for researchers

Our friend Hessah was generous enough to provide us with these resources for using NVivo:

  • The University of Warwick User Guide: Nvivo Working with Data (Download)
  • The University of Warwick User Guide: Nvivo 10 Further Features (Download)
  • QSR International NVivo 10 Getting Started Guide (Download)
  • Video on getting started with NVivo10 (New Project & AutoCoding)

June 03, 2015

What is axiology and how does it relate to ontology and epistemology?

Follow-up to Researcher’s paradigm from CES PHD Support Group

axioAccording to Encyclopaedia Britannica

Axiology, (from Greek axios, “worthy”; logos, “science”), also called Theory Of Value, the philosophical study of goodness, orvalue, in the widest sense of these terms. Its significance lies (1) in the considerable expansion that it has given to the meaningof the term value and (2) in the unification that it has provided for the study of a variety of questions—economic, moral, aesthetic, and even logical—that had often been considered in relative isolation.

But how does axiology sit within other elements of the research paradigm? namely ontology and epistemology

In order for us to be able to understand the different meanings of each of these lovely terms, we need a historical prospective.

I was able to find references to four major eras of human understanding of reality and knowledge generation. We will call these eras of realism.

  1. Plato & Aristotle (Sanzio)The first era of realism is called the idealism period. This era existed at the time of Socrates. According to idealism, reality or ontology is spiritual, epistemology is about rethinking tried and true ideas, and axiology is about the absolute and the eternal. Socrates believed that man is a temporal being.
  2. The second era of realism was popularized by Aristotle. Here reality is both objective and measurable and not spiritual, epistemology is through the use of senses, while axiology is based on nature’s laws and thus could be acquired. The Aristotelian teachings of realism are referred to as essentialism.
  3. The third era was the first of two radical ages; pragmatism. Pragmatists were very strict about what they accepted and they rejected. Any factors of ontology, epistemology and axiology that were to be included in their work (or even considered) have to be found useful; otherwise, they were instantaneously dropped. A philosophy stemming from the pragmatism stance was Progressivism. Progressivism was proposed by our much beloved hero John Dewey. Dewey instructed public schools to teach only what is of interested to students. Everything that is not regarded as useful was thrown away.
  4. Finally, the fourth era and the second radical age is Existentialism, which was born after WW2. According to Existentialism, reality is subjective (very daring indeed!), epistemology is only a personal pursuit or quest loaded with choice and axiology was the expression of freedom.

So in short, ontology, epistemology and axiology used to mean different things in different times of history according to how people generally perceived the world and regarded knowledge as being created. Not very helpful? Here's somthing

Dr. Marcia Hills and Dr. Jennifer Mullett (from the University of Victoria, Canada) wrote a very useful account defining Paradigm, Ontology, Epistemology And Axiology. Here is what they had to say about these concepts and how they relate to research (these were directly copied from their article):

Defininitions of Paradigm, Ontology, Epistemology, Axiology and Methodology in research context

Participatory Paradigm

A paradigm is "a set of basic beliefs (or metaphysics) that deals with ultimates or first principles. It represents a worldview that defines, for its holder, the nature of the world, the individual’s place in it, and the range of possible relationships to that world and its parts, as , for example, cosmologies and theologies do" (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 105). Guba & Lincoln made a significant contribution in articulating four differing worldviews of research - positivist, post positivist, critical, and constructivist- based on their ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions. Heron and Reason (1997) argue for a fifth worldview – a participatory paradigm. Community-based research is situated within this paradigm and also embraces the ideology and methodology of co-operative inquiry created by Heron & Reason (1988; 1994; 1996; 1997).

A participatory paradigm rests on the belief that reality is an interplay between the given cosmos, a primordial reality, and the mind. The mind "creatively participates with [the cosmos] and can only know it in terms of its constructs, whether affective, imaginal, conceptual or practical" (Heron, p.10) "Mind and the given cosmos are engaged in a creative dance, so that what emerges as reality is the fruit of an interaction of the given cosmos and the way the mind engages with it" (Heron & Reason, 1997 p. 279). As Skolimowski (1992) states; "we always partake of what we describe so our reality is a product of the dance between our individual and collective mind and "what is there", the amorphous primordial givenness of the universe. This participative worldview is at the heart of the inquiry methodologies that emphasize participation as a core strategy", (p.20).

Subjective–Objective Ontology

Ontology refers to the form and nature of reality and what can be known about it (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). In contrast to orthodox research that utilizes quantitative methods in its claim to be value free (but which is more accurately described as valuing objectivity), and many qualitative approaches that value subjectivity, community based research endorses a subjective-objective stance.

An subjective-objective ontology means that there is "underneath our literate abstraction, a deeply participatory relation to things and to the earth, a felt reciprocity" (Abram, 1996, p. 124). As Heron and Reason (1997) explain, this encounter is transactional and interactive. "To touch, see, or hear something or someone does not tell us either about our self all on its own or about a being out there all on its own. It tells us about a being in a state of interrelation and co-presence with us. Our subjectivity feels the participation of what is there and is illuminated by it", (p.279). So community-based research is interested in investigating people’s understandings and meanings as they experience them in the world.


Epistemology refers to the nature of the relationship between the knower and the what can be known. Guba & Lincoln (1994) claim that orthodox science, because of its belief in a "real" world that can be known, requires the knower to adopt a posture of objective detachment in order "to discover how things really are" (p.108). There is a presumption that the knower and the known are separate and independent entities that do not influence one another. There is a search for the "truth"; for the facts in objective and quantifiable terms which holds empirical data in the highest esteem.

In contrast, community-based research rests on an extended epistemology that endorses the primacy of practical knowing. In community-based research, the knower participates in the known and that evidence is generated in at least four interdependent ways – experiential, presentational, propositional, and practical (Heron & Reason, 1997; Heron, 1996).


In addition to considering the three defining characteristics of a research paradigm suggested by Guba and Lincoln –ontology, epistemology and methodology, - Heron and Reason argue that an inquiry paradigm also must consider a fourth factor –axiology.

Axiology deals with the nature of value and captures the value question of what is intrinsically worthwhile? The fourth defining characteristics of a research paradigm, axiology, puts in issue "values of being, about what human states are to be valued simply because of what they are" (Heron & Reason, 1997, p. 287). The participatory paradigm addresses this axiological question in terms of human flourishing. Human flourishing is viewed as a "process of social participation in which there is a mutually enabling balance, within and between people, of autonomy, co-operation and hierarchy. It is conceived as interdependent with the flourishing of the planet ecosystem" (Heron, 1996, p. 11). Human flourishing is valued as intrinsically worthwhile and participatory decision-making and is seen as a means to an end "which enables people to be involved in the making of decisions, in every social context, which affect their flourishing in any way" Heron, 1996, p. 11).


One methodology that is particularly well suited to community-based research is co-operative inquiry (Heron, 1996; Reason, 1994). Co-operative inquiry is a participatory action methodology that does research with people not on to or about them. This methodology engages people in a transformative process of change by cycling through several iterations of action and reflection. Co-operative inquiry consists of a series of logical steps including; identifying the issues/questions to be researched, developing an explicit model/framework for practice, putting the model into practice and recording what happens and, reflecting on the experience and making sense out of the whole venture (Reason, 1988). Therefore, evidence about what constitutes "best practice" is generated by people examining their practices in practice and reflecting on these practices.

You have read alot, here's a funny comic


  • Abram, D. (1996), The spell of the sensations. New York: Pantheon
  • Arif, M. (2007). Baldrige theory into practice: a generic model. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(2), 114–125.
  • Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.
  • Guba E., & Lincoln, Y., (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y (Eds.) Handbook on qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage. 105-118.
  • Hills, M and Mullett, J., (2000). Community-Based Research: Creating Evidence-Based Practice for Health and Social Change. in Proceedings of the Qualitative Evidence-based Practice Conference, Coventry University - May 15-17 2000, Coventry, UK.
  • Heron, J. (1996) Co-operative inquiry. London: Sage.
  • Heron, J. & Reason, P. (1997). A participatory inquiry paradigm. Qualitative Inquiry. 3 (3) 274-294.
  • Reason, P. (Ed). (1988) Human Inquiry in Action. London: Sage.
  • Reason, P. (Ed). (1994). Participation in Human Inquiry. London: Sage
  • Skolimowski, H. (1992). Living philosophy: Eco-philosophy as a tree of life. London: Arkana

May 28, 2015

Researcher's paradigm: useful resources

Follow-up to Researcher’s paradigm from CES PHD Support Group

The nicest thing a fellow student could do is to share his/her resources. Especially when they give you the best of their resources, straight to the point, bite-sized and concise.

Well, this is exactly what our colleague Hessah did when she sent me a couple of book chapters on Researcher's paradigm and research philosophy. Her intension was to share these resources with other students (which I am gladly doing through this post).


So, here you will find some useful documents. I will be updating this blog post with more resources as soon as I come across any good ones.

Book Chapters

  • Rubin, H.J. & Rubin, I.S. 2012. Chapter 2. Research Philosophy and Qualitative Interviews. In: Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data Third Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc. pp. 13-24.


  • CreswellCreswell, J.W. & Plano Clark, V.L. 2011. Chapter 3. Choosing a Mixed Methods Research Design. In: Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research (2nd Ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc, pp. 53-106.


Journal Articles

  • Mackenzie, N. & Knipe, S. 2006. Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology. Issues In Educational Research, 16, 2006.


Other Documents

  • Flowers, P. 2009. Research Philosophies – Importance and Relevance. Research Philosophies – Importance and Relevance, 1, 2009.

flowers_2009.pdfnote: this is not a peer-reviewed article but is still useful

  • Alsalahi, S.M. 2015. Paradigmatic Standpoints of Master’s and Doctoral THESIS. Exeter University.

alsalahi_2015.pdfnote: this powerpoint document is in Arabic & English

I wish you find these useful. Special thanks to Hessah.

May 17, 2015

Researcher’s paradigm

Researcher’s paradigm

paradigmResearcher’s paradigm is tricky concept. The problem starts with the term itself, with authors using various terms to refer to the same concept. The used terms include Researcher’s philosophy, philosophical worldview and Researcher’s framework.

Regardless, the paradigm is essentially an umbrella term that refers to the researcher’s ontology and epistemology.

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, Ontology refers to the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of existence. Epistemology on the other hand refers to the part of philosophy that deals with knowledge. Epistemology is a theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

To read more on the difference between ontology and epistemology check my entry to the ARM programme blog and make sure you download the attached PowerPoint file. Here

A great resource I found online is an article by Professor Ørjan Totland, I found on the Norwegian University of Science and Technology website. Here

Book suggestions

In our first meeting of the CESPHD support group, we had a lively discussion on the researcher’s paradigm. Thankfully, some great books were suggested. Here’s a detailed account of the suggested books:

A Practical Guide for Beginners1) An easy to read and great with real-life examples book is Braun & Clarke's Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. Library link

Book details:

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd (28 Feb. 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1847875823

ISBN-13: 978-1847875822

2) An authority on Research is John W. Creswell who has many books, except they might be a bit dry. See all Creswell's books in the Library here

3) Another authority on Research is David Silverman whose books are also hard to approach. See all Silverman's books in the Library here

4) Another authoruty is Stephen Gorard, whos provides hugely critical review of other authors. This makes him a great resource for those who want a critical edge to their work. See all Gorard's book in the Library here

A Practical Guide for the Social Sciences5) A must-have book is Matthews & Ross's Research Methods: A Practical Guide for the Social Sciences See Library Link or View Online

Book details:

Paperback: 520 pages

Publisher: Longman; 1 edition (9 Jun. 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1405858508

ISBN-13: 978-1405858502

Feel free to suggest your own favourate books in the comments below

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