Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Aligning Philosophies

I agree with Creswell’s (2009) alignment of philosophies as long as the alignments are recognized, as Creswell discussed, as a guide for tendencies, not as binding rules. Various aspects of exploration, such as the research design, the issue of study, the researcher’s experiences and philosophy of science, all contribute to the choice of the research design.


I align empiricism with quantitative approaches, because empiricism deals with absolute truths, which can be better facilitated and explained by quantitative methods (Creswell, 2009), although empiricism may be applied to qualitative exploration as well. Quantitative approaches often deal with numerical data or quantities, as the name suggests. A long-standing belief held that empiricism was the only true science because it concerned itself with absolutes rather than subjective knowledge, meaning, or inference (Hammersley, 2004). I agree with Hammersley (2004) that although some empiricists argue that empirical or numerical data are irrefutable, no data exists that is not impervious to change or a shift in paradigm that more accurately identifies and explains traditionally accepted evidence. As paradigms shift, empirical findings can change or become obsolete (Creswell, 2009). Additionally, as science finds new ways of assessment, even the most exact data may be perceived differently. Hammersley notes that evidence that may not be observed or quantified can have value, although the narrow perspective of empiricism may not lean toward this belief.


Interpretism, which is closely aligned with constructivism seems to be most accurately aligned with qualtitative research design or may be used as part of a mixed methods approach (Blaikie, 2004; Creswell, 2009). Interpretism concerns itself with placing personal or subjective value into findings and creating meaning. It makes inferences and interpretations about data. It tends to examine personal or subjective meaning rather than numerical or absolute data (Creswell, 2009). Blaikie (2004) described interpretism as a social study rather than the empirical study of nature. As the study of people and human nature, it seems logical and appropriate that interpretism would be best expressed through qualitative research design.

Critical Theory

Critical theory aligns best with qualitative approaches, although may provide data for the quantitative approach (Creswell, 2009). Because critical theory concerns itself with disenfranchised or marginalized peoples and seeks to instigate change or transcendence of established challenges of these peoples (Creswell, 2009), a qualitative approach could determine the subjective experiences of the people and make inferences and suppositions that may contribute to change. May (2004) expanded critical theory's history to include Freud's identification and development of self-misunderstanding as a critical part of social theory. When exploring the intrinsic self beliefs of individuals, it makes sense that critical theory would ordinarily utilize qualitative approaches for its consideration of subjective and personal narrative (Creswell, 2009). It seems important to note, however, that the information gained through critical theory may provide data for a mixed methods or quantitative approach because it concerns itself with the interplay of theory and facts (May, 2004).

In Conclusion

In sum, although tendencies exist for specific types of exploration as it relates to methods and approaches, the lines should not be considered as binding limits for research design, only a loose guideline suggesting common tendencies. It seems important to understand that it is improbable that a scientist can begin research prior to committing to an ontology and an epistemology because these overarching perspectives contribute to the appropriate research approach (Scotland, 2012).


Blaikie, N. (2004). Interpretivism. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 509-511). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n442

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hammersley, M. (2004). Empiricism. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 307-308). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n277

May, T. (2004). Critical theory. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 224-225). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n198

Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the Philosophical Underpinnings of Research: Relating Ontology and Epistemology to the Methodology and Methods of the Scientific, Interpretive, and Critical Research Paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16. doi:10.5539/elt.v5n9p9

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