What is Epistemology in Research

Epistemology is a common term that is used in the field of research. It is imperative to know what epistemology is before you start on a research project. 

This article describes,

1. What is Epistemology?
2. What are Some Types of Knowledge?
3. What is Epistemology in Research?
4. Epistemology and Different Research Paradigms

What is Epistemology

Epistemology is a field of science that deals with the acquisition of knowledge. In simple words, it is concerned with how we gain knowledge or how we get to know something. It is specifically concerned with the nature, sources and limitations of knowledge. Thus, it can be defined as “a field of philosophy concerned with the possibility, nature, sources and limits of human knowledge” (Jupps, 2006).

There are many different ways or sources of acquiring knowledge. These different sources can be basically categorised into the following four groups.

Intuitive Knowledge: based on intuitions, beliefs, faith, etc. Feelings and emotions play a greater role than facts in this type of knowledge.

Authoritarian Knowledge: based on information that has been obtained from books, research studies, experts, etc. The credibility and strength of this knowledge depend on the strength of these sources.

Logical Knowledge: new knowledge is created through applying logical reasoning.

Empirical Knowledge: based on objective facts that have been established and can be demonstrated.

What is Epistemology in Research

What is Epistemology in Research

There are many different sources of information in the field of research. A research study may use a combination of these sources. Most research studies use all of the above-mentioned four types of knowledge.

Researchers use intuitive knowledge when coming up with an initial research area, topic and problem. Authoritative knowledge is gained during the review of the literature. Researchers gain logical knowledge when they analyse the primary data findings whereas the conclusion of the research can be considered as the acquisition of empirical research.

It is also important to note that epistemology and theoretical perspectives of a research study also depend on the type of research paradigm used by the researcher. In other words, researcher’s view regarding what constitutes acceptable knowledge may change according to different research paradigms. Given below are some common research paradigms and their epistemology.

Research Paradigm

Description

Epistemology

Positivism

There is a single objective reality to any research phenomenon or situation.

Reality can be measured.

Focus on credible, objective tools to collect data.

  Constructivisim

There is no single reality or truth; it is subjective.

Reality depends on the interpretation.

Focus on the details of situation, a reality behind the details, and  subjective meanings

    Pragmatism

Reality is constantly renegotiated, debated, and interpreted.

Subjective interpretations and/or objective phenomena can provide knowledge.

Image Courtesy:

Jupp, V. (2006). The SAGE dictionary of social research methods : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9780857020116

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.