Research is broadly defined as the approach adopted to find facts about a specific phenomenon of interest. To assist in testing the hypotheses that usually guide the direction of sociological research, two paramount methods are taken into consideration. They are classified as positivism and interpretivism. Positivism is concerned with truths that are obtained through scientific measurements. It entails the collection of quantitative data and using appropriate statistical methods to test the hypothesis. On the other hand, interpretivism researchers hold the fact that realities can only be achieved through social approaches and using instruments(Rivas,2010). In other words, they focus on interpreting human behavior, rather than envisaging the consequences (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988).
Understanding the two categories of research methods would shed insight, on what to choose, in a given study. To start,the philosophical foundation of interpretativism comes from subjectivis m. The assertion placed across by the proposers of this method argues that truth about a particular phenomenon is based on visible and surface information. For example, studying the cause of unrest in school would be based on qualitative data, which is the foundation of interpretative. Contrary, the positivism is mostly reliant on quantitative data, hence classified as objective. This makes it more accurate, as facts are tested with real data from the sample. In the same vein,positivism holds that knowledge is acquired through observation and experimentation, which results in constant repetition to prove the experiment. Thus, the method appliesto the study and summarize observed phenomena (Collins, 2010）. For example, to explore the relationship between education and social strata.Mertler (2017) is of the idea that interpretivism is dependent on an individual’s view. This means that a similar situation can be construed differently, based on the prevailing environment, without delving into cause and reasons, which renders the method inaccurate(Mertler,2017).
Hanson et al. (2005) affirm that scientific methods are the appropriate channels of discovering new knowledge, and are characterized by the following elements: objectivity, universality,and reliability through observation. His assertion was seconded by Mertler (2017) who noted that positivism holds the same convention, as it seeks to unravel new concepts, through employing procedures that can be replicated. Dissimilar observation is noted on interpretative which is believed to be applicable in scenarios where individuals perceive issues differently, as a result of using various methods. Sociologists, therefore, need to understand what happens in a particular context, not just to explain it(Rivas,2010).
Fourth, the point of consideration is freedom of values. Positivism holds that to acquire objective knowledge, it is necessary to exclude personal factors, such as own views and beliefs. That is to say, judging facts must be separated from individual ideals. Values cannot be verified by observation, but truth can. It is because of this that scientific knowledge is more accurate than other knowledge. Interpretativebelieves that values influence knowledge construction of people. But, together with positivism they have one thing in common. Finally, in positivism, necessary knowledge entails applicability to society. Through this acquaintance, people can understand the world better and use it to solve problems. The interpretative researcher explains a phenomenon through observation. The observed results are not objective, because they do not exclude other factors, which ameliorate the chances of making a precise conclusion(Amory,1999)
Conclusively, positivism and interpretivism are two broad research philosophies, that are essential in conducting a study. The choice of either determines the quality of the final work, hence the need to understand the nature of the sample and methodology to use.
Amory, Frederic.”Euclides da Cunha and Brazilian Positivism”, Luso-Brazilian Review. Vol. 36, No. 1 (Summer, 1999), pp. 87–94.
Collins, H. (2010) “Creative Research: The Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries” AVA Publications
Hanson, W. E., Creswell, J. W., Clark, V. L., Petska, K. S., & Creswell, J. D. (2005). Mixed methods research designs in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 224-235. doi:10.1037/0022-018.104.22.168
Hudson, L. A., & Ozanne, J. L. (1988). Alternative Ways of Seeking Knowledge in Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(4), 508. doi:10.1086/209132
Mertler, C. A. (2017). Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators. doi:10.4135/9781483396484
Rivas J. (2010) Realism. for Real this Time: Scientific Realism is not a Compromise between Positivism and Interpretivism. In: Joseph J., Wight C. (eds) Scientific Realism and International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan, London
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