How do different research paradigms influence the way research is undertaken?

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Business and the Entrepreneur

Do different ethical approaches to research apply more closely to one paradigm as opposed to others?


The requirements for research in the case of contemporary business organizations have been identified as mandatory elements for promoting business performance as well as sustainability. It is imperative to observe that research outcomes about market research and competitor analysis can provide suitable opportunities for contemporary organizations to garner the required competitive advantage (Awa Uduma & Sylva, 2017). The specific objective of the following essay is vested in the resolution of two questions. The first question reflects on the effect of research paradigms on the methodology for a research activity while the second question requests the extent to which certain ethical theories apply to particular research paradigms.

The approach that will be followed for addressing these questions would comprise illustrations of the philosophical assumptions underlying the common research paradigms of positivism and interpretivism. As to Chowdhury (2014), research paradigms do not dictate the nature of data collected in research activity (Chowdhury, 2014). On the contrary, they are responsible for framing the approach that should be followed by the researcher. The philosophical assumptions would comprise of specific references towards the perception of the constructs that would be subject to research, perception of human beings and social interactions that reflect on the nature of each paradigm. The individual reflection on each paradigm provides opportunities for identifying critiques for them that could lead to prolific inferences for determining their impact on the conduct of research activity.

The essay would then reflect on the role of ethical theories in research and their applicability in realizing ethical validation for the paradigms followed. The specific theories which would be brought into consideration are the utilitarian principles and duty ethics alongside an illustration of the individual theories and their application in research. The following sections of the essay would emphasize critical reflection on interpretivism and positivism that could lead to promising insights for the conclusion of the essay in which the answers to the questions would be presented.

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Philosophical assumptions:


The use of the term positivism has been subject to varying ambiguities over the last decade thereby implying distinct indications towards specific perspectives identified in each case (Dammak, 2017). The philosophical assumptions about positivism can be illustrated through references to the nature of constructs measured, assumptions regarding the nature of human beings and the nature of society and human interaction. The approaches for analytic reasoning are adopted in the case of positivism for obtaining legible inferences about the data as well as determining the basis for the reliability and validity of information collected for the research (, 2017).

The nature of the constructs that are measured according to the positivist paradigm of research is primarily scientific which implies the requirements for utilizing scientific approaches for control and prediction. The constructs are generally attributed to the two categories of generality among which ontological primacy and epistemological primacy serve as notable descriptors of the nature. The constructs are generally subject to the characteristics of recognition by the routes of practical experience. The social phenomenon which could be reviewed based on patterns, procedures, cause and effect issues, methods and generalizations are found to be significant constructs for positivism. On an overall basis, the constructs should be able to depict some sort of quantifiable patterns among them.

The positivism approach also implies specific consideration for the people subjected to research in the form of fabricating laws that can be applied to populations. As per E-International Relations (2107), the positivist paradigm entails that the nature of human beings is rational and reflects profoundly on the assumption that valid information can be generated only through the direct observation made by the senses (E-International Relations, 2017). Observation in the case of human beings in positivism is associated with the consideration of empirical evidence as valid evidence.

The nature of interactions between human beings is assumed to be based on physical contact and could be based on the precedent that the attitudes and thoughts of individuals are not subjected to consideration as appropriate evidence. The social interactions are based comprehensively on the visible manifestations of positivism without any concern for the mechanisms that underpin the interactions. Another explanation for the approach assumed in positivism for anticipating the nature of society is based on the perception of social reality on rational terms owing to the rational nature of the interaction between human beings. The positivist paradigm is also inclined toward perceiving human behaviour through specific references to the processes of isolation, analysis and understanding of the causes of the same (Fazlıoğulları, 2012). The nature of human interactions according to positivist philosophy is initiated through a specific entity that could be applicable for the explanation and prediction of human behaviour through considerable understanding.

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The role of positivism as a philosophy is associated with the collection of data through observation while limiting the role of the researcher to interpretation and data collection. The interpretation of data is based on an objective approach which leads to the proliferation of quantifiable and identifiable research findings. According to Gray (2013), the quantitative nature of the observations is reflective of potential inputs for statistical analysis that presents considerable ambiguities referring to the assumption of positivist paradigms as scientific paradigms. Interpretation of data is associated comprehensively with the inductive strategy wherein the existing facts derived from the research data are compared with scientific laws to present research findings according to a positivist research philosophy (Gray, 2013). However, the commonly used approach for data interpretation in a research based on positivism is deductive theorising which is based on gathering various propositions for testing that could be verified on the grounds of empirical data. The data analysis in the case of positivism should be supported by access to considerably large amounts of data that could lead to favourable opportunities for implementing quantitative methods in the analysis of large scale phenomena (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

The concerns for validity and reliability of the information in the positivist paradigm could be reflective of the fact that empirical observation and explanation of real events have to be based on logical analysis. The criteria for establishing the validity of the information accrued for the research in a scientific paradigm is based on the consistency of the theory-based predictions with the information acquired using senses. On the contrary, the positivist paradigm in research envisages the requirement of micro-level experimentation for excluding the concerns arising from external factors (Krauss, 2005). The inferences are compared with those obtained from the scientific paradigms to present viable inferences toward policies for validating the information. This approach could be considered a feasible contributor to establishing external as well as internal validity.


The nature of phenomena addressed by interpretivism could be anticipated through coherent references to the definition of the term. Interpretivism is based on the rationale for understanding people and could be related to the consistent approaches of individuals towards interpretation, creation, assignment of meaning, definition, justification and rationalization of the daily actions (Kinash, 2006). The objective of interpretivism is related to the exploration of complexity recognized in social phenomena with a creative approach to acquiring understanding. The nature of phenomena is identified in the daily happenings in the lives of people alongside the aspects of social structures, experiences and the set of values and beliefs assumed by people for the different phenomena. The paradigm of interpretivism is vested in addressing the complex social phenomena that are directed towards the objective of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena under concern. Interpretivism research could therefore be associated comprehensively with the anticipation of subjective realities alongside the provision of understandable explanations that could be significantly helpful for research participants (McGregor & Murnane, 2010).

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The primary focus of interpretivism is aligned toward the meaning of human interactions and a comprehensive understanding of the social element in the interactions. The paradigm is also based on the subsequent processes that reflect on the mind’s interpretation of various experiences and events thereby obtaining feasible inferences from the same. The basic principles applied for interpretivism could be able to depict the nature of the human interactions and social behaviour assumed for the paradigm. The rationale assumed about human beings and society could be identified in the construction of social reality through people and their subjective interpretations (Mack, 2010). The assumption about human beings reflects on their characteristics of consciousness that reflect on the impact on human behaviour through information regarding the social world. The interpretivism philosophy reflects the fact that social reality cannot be realized through objective inferences and should be directed towards the factors of intentional actions and behaviour of an individual. Interpretivism is based on the perception of the origins of the social environment and its reproduction through the daily activities of people.

The principles of interpretivism communicate that human beings can be considered social beings that are consistently involved in complex interactions. The nature of human beings can be validated on the grounds of the precedents for consistent changes in conditions and circumstances of the society thereby requiring the formation of new meanings. Human beings are perceived to be involved in anticipation of their reality through observation and assigning a specific meaning according to a personal set of values or beliefs (Patel, 2012). Another assumption that can be drawn in the context of the nature of human beings according to interpretivism is vested in the multiple perspectives which an individual has regarding a specific scenario or context that could vary according to time and the influence of external factors such as social pressure. The multiple perspectives approach that is evident in the interpretivism paradigm is responsible for presenting a comprehensive understanding of the specific research issue under concern.

The data interpretation approaches that could be outlined in the interpretive paradigm for research are reflective of the use of the humanistic approach since it emphasises considerably action as compared to structure thereby prompting researchers to perceive the data from the viewpoint of the human actors (, 2017). Qualitative research studies could therefore rely comprehensively on an inductive strategy to examine a scenario in a natural context so that the feelings and opinions of participants can be acquired. Data interpretation in the interpretivism approach could be associated comprehensively with a combination between causal analysis and “verstehen” which are considered effective indications of a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. This ensures that the researcher could not make inappropriate assumptions regarding the views expressed by the participants based on scientific knowledge (Phothongsunan, 2015). Causal analysis is also considered a feasible measure for data interpretation according to interpretivism and is associated with establishing precedents for social observers to identify similarities and differences among social institutions based on specific measures. Hence, the underlying philosophical assumption for interpretivism suggests that it is an intellectual process associated with the acquisition of knowledge regarding contemporary social issues that reflect on human actions.

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Role of ethics:

Ethical precedents are necessary elements for research activities and it is essential to understand the roles that various ethical theories have on research outcomes. The ethical theories present an appropriate interpretation of the perspectives from which a researcher forms decision-making guidelines. Ethical decision making should be implemented in research alongside determining the feasibility of applying the various ethical approaches in epistemological and ontological positions. Utilitarianism and duty of act theories are considered major precedents that could guide ethics in research activity (Research Methodology, 2017). Utilitarianism can be classified as consequentialism that focuses on the central nature of the consequences of various actions in moral judgement for the actions. The theory states that an action could not be validated as right or wrong without reviewing the moral relevancy of the consequences derived from the same action. As per (2017), Utilitarianism and its implications in research could be derived according to the generic perception of consequentialism that derives major inferences from the utility principle. Utilitarianism defines the moral relevancy of specific actions according to the amount of pain or pleasure obtained as outcomes from the same. Therefore, utilitarianism suggests the adoption of a research methodology that would be beneficial for the researcher as well as the participants involved in the process (, 2017). The utility principle creates potential implications for the subjective nature of pleasure and pain since an object of pleasure for an individual could be painful for another individual. Another criticism that can be presented for the utilitarian approach in research is the cost-benefit approach that could be reflective of the insufficiencies in the researcher’s ethical perspective by comparing the costs of research. The ethical fairness of utilitarianism could be ascertained through the distinct categories of rule and act utilitarianism in research. Act utilitarianism could be ascertained specifically through references to the generic definition of utilitarianism while rule utilitarianism is concerned with the integration of legal aspects that would imply the extent of ethical fairness. Rule utilitarianism could therefore be considered for framing appropriate precedents for research owing to the integration of elements such as valuing justice alongside benefiting the involved people. However, the consistent adoption of utilitarianism could lead to uncertainties in the predictions owing to the involvement of personal life experiences in determining research outcomes. In terms of data collection, a utilitarian approach could lead to exclusion of a certain social group that can provide critical research information while certain assumptions in the data interpretation can be excluded based on own perceptions as well as changes in conditions (Scotland, 2012).

The duty of act ethics theory is found in the deontological class of ethical theories which states the inherent responsibility of individuals for adhering to their duties and obligations for decision making. The implications of duty of action theory in research are prominently reflective of references towards a person’s compliance with obligations to another individual. Hence the researcher is bound to uphold ethical responsibilities for the participants that lead to a transparent and effective data collection and data interpretation framework in the research activity. However, application of deontology ethical theories in research would have to be preceded by the establishment of certain guidelines or a rationale for outlining the duties of the researcher. On a generic basis, it can be observed that ethical theories present a cognizable impression of the duties of a researcher that would lead to acquisition of the most applicable research findings alongside upholding the trust of the participants and moral consequences of the research activity.

Other ethical theories such as hedonism, virtue ethical theory and rights theory could be aligned effectively with research activities based on relevant requirements (Yen, 2017). However, the virtue ethical theory presents the most flexible and productive options for research validity since it is based on the assumptions about the reputation, morals and motivation of an individual for addressing the ethical validity of an action.

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Critical reflection: Objections To Positivist Method

Positivist paradigm has a notable unison with the scientific approach thereby facilitating opportunities for quantitative perception of research issues. However, application of positivism in research also has its own share of disadvantages which could be identified from a critical reflection on the underlying philosophical assumptions of the same. The foremost criticism raised for the paradigm of positivism is associated with the fact that it has been gradually abused rather being used as a technical term. The various evolutionary stages identified in the case of the paradigm of positivism could be associated with notable ambiguities in its application (E-International Relations, 2017).

The determination of certainty is a major flaw in the case of positivist paradigms in research since formulating scientific information from given data is considerably different from the factor associated with the objective nature of scientific knowledge alongside considering its validity, accuracy and certainty. The works of scientists such as Bohr and Heisenberg contribute to the possibilities of uncertainty in positivist research findings as well as suggest the impact of observations on the identification of uncertainties. Therefore a researcher adopting the positivist approach could be subjected to criticism of his methods on the grounds of the extent of their independence from a specific discipline and the possibilities for acquiring relevant information about the research topic (Dammak, 2017).

The evolution of post-positivism could also be accounted as another critique of the positivist paradigm based on the significance of induction attributed to positivism in scientific approaches. Hence it was imperative to observe that establishing universal laws by considering the implications of positivist research findings was illogical. The findings from a positivist research paradigm suggest that the lack of objectiveness and empirical nature directs towards intrinsic nature of a non-empirical logical principle for scientific observation. Positivism is also subject to criticism on the grounds of disparities between practice and theory in scientific approaches. The criticisms reflect on the fact that the experiences of an individual are subject to the influence of the concepts used for their analysis alongside indicating the fact that experience cannot be described or categorized without its interpretation. However, positivism favours objectivity thereby negating this criticism.

Chowdhury (2014) said that the underlying explanation that can be presented in this context reflects the domination of science by a single paradigm that dictates the epistemological and ontological positions for research thereby impinging considerable impacts on the final research outcomes (Chowdhury, 2014). Therefore, the generic disadvantage that can be noted in positivist paradigm reflects comprehensively on its inability to present demarcation between the social and natural realities. The paradigm does not focus on the disparities such as relations between actions and relevant social structures emerging from them, social structures and agent’s perceptions and the influence of factors related to agent’s actions on the formation of social structures. The perception of marriage as a social structure derived from people’s actions tends to be a lived experience for people thereby impinging a formal impact on their perception. The perception is responsible for determining the involvement of agents that define the social structure. The factors which are responsible for ascertaining the effect of an agent’s actions on social structures are the location and timing of the action.

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Interpretivism: Objections to Interpretivist Methods

The criticisms for the interpretivist paradigm are identified in the form of the subjective nature of the information collected in the approach. The major concern is drawn forward in the form of indications of false consciousness to the relevance of the interpretive paradigm. The studies conducted in the Nissan automobile factory suggest outcomes that direct towards a virtuous circle and vicious circle from two different studies thereby emphasizing the multiple layers of reality.

While the interpretivism approach considers the experiences of people for presenting the research findings, it fails to explain the validity of the coexistence of different realities in a similar context. Another notable pitfall that can be identified in the case of interpretive paradigm reflects on the bias that could arise on behalf of the researcher (Awa Uduma & Sylva, 2017). The data acquired in an interpretive research paradigm is characterized by distinct perspectives and values of the participants which lead to considerable issues in its generalization. This factor is responsible for considering the micro-experimentation of the data through following a positivist approach to ensure its validity. Hence the representation and the reliability of data could be subject to considerable ambiguities in these conditions. The data interpretation in the case of interpretivism is based on “verstehen” and is also indicative of another notable pitfall in the approach. The generic description of verstehen suggests that every individual in the society is inherently engaged in rational behaviour which is not reflective of the factors that arise from social pressures and external conditions (, 2017). Furthermore, the interpretivism approach blindly assumes that every individual can justify the motivations for the actions undertaken.

The constructions of reality in the interpretivism paradigm are subject to the bias of the researcher and perception of the agent’s behaviour in the relevant contexts. The dependence of the researcher on lived experiences for categorizing and describing the data can be a foremost pitfall in research activities implying the insufficiency of research findings. Furthermore, the researcher is required to identify the impact of other additional factors apart from the perspectives of the respondents and existing knowledge regarding the subject.

The factors could include references to differential characteristics of respondents, entities responsible for conflict, nature of conflict and the consequences of the individual issues that may lead to discrepancies in resolving issues noted in the natural data (Awa Uduma & Sylva, 2017). The aspects of labelling observed profoundly in the domain of research according to the interpretive paradigm are reflective of the fact that social actors are receptive to the fact that they are being labelled according to certain precedents thereby emphasizing a critical disadvantage. The limited concerns for resistance labels could be a major impact on determining the final outcome of the research since there would be potential insufficiencies in estimating the perceptions of the specific target group.

The recognition for participant observation and ethnography in context of interpretive research paradigm suggests the opportunities for reaching out to target respondent groups without any specific concerns for being noticed actually. However, the observation of existing data in demography and illustration of the demographics of target group could be considered a violation of the interpretive paradigm. The qualitative studies engaged in the interpretive philosophy also entail smaller participant groups in which the sole purpose is directed toward the exploration of the meanings of the participant’s opinion (Kinash, 2006).

A conclusive outcome cannot be drawn feasibly owing to the smaller size of sample used in this approach commonly primarily implying references to the limited opportunities for generalization. The lack of generalization in the acquired data is responsible for creating ambiguities related to the meaning of new data and the association between the ideas. Hence one of the critical aspects of the interpretivism approach in research could also be directed towards the emphasis on a particular area of interest as noted in case studies that could be accounted responsible for limited depth in the research outcomes. Other notable criticisms which have been presented for the interpretivism paradigm could be identified in the characteristics of qualitative research designs such as multiplicity of sources of data, distinct meanings depicted by participants, emergent designs for research, variations in the natural settings of data collection and the requirement of a holistic account of information collected and interpretations of the same.

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Discussion and conclusions:

The essay reflected comprehensively on the two distinct paradigms used in contemporary research for organizations i.e. positivism and interpretivism with an illustration of the philosophical assumptions underlying them. The essay also implied notable references towards ethical precedents that can be derived from theories and are reflective of the application of utilitarianism and duty ethics in research. Thereafter, the essay presented critiques for the selected research paradigms that lead to a comprehensive understanding of the significance of research paradigms and the required ethical standards for obtaining plausible research outcomes. The findings of the essay present a feasible answer for the question regarding the influence of different research paradigms on the approach to undertaking a research activity and the applicability of ethical approaches to research in specific research paradigms.

First of all, the essay depicted the underlying philosophical assumptions for each paradigm that reflected comprehensively on the perception of constructs being measured, human beings and the construction of social reality. The other aspect that was used for addressing the question included references to the nature of techniques used for data interpretation. The positivism approach influences research activities which have a quantitative set of data to be collected and analyzed. Therefore the positivist paradigm directs the researcher to collect quantitative information for addressing research objectives. The collected data is based on the independent nature of the observer and the other specific indications that are induced by a positivist paradigm in conducting research imply specifically towards causality in the explanations and the necessity for operationalised concepts for facilitating ease of measurement. The sampling approaches in research followed according to an interpretive paradigm are indicative of the random selection of large numbers of participants. The other factors which can be identified in positivist research include references towards the use of deductions and hypotheses for the progress of the research activity alongside presenting viable inferences for generalization of the data using statistical probability.

On the other hand, the interpretive approach perceives people as the source for creation of knowledge thereby relying on their experiences and opinions to estimate the truth. The primary characteristics that could be identified in an interpretivist research include the collection of data in a natural setting thereby enabling acquisition of information based on thoughts and experiences of an individual and multiple data sources. The interpretivist approach entails the understanding of the meaning of participants’ views in order to derive data interpretation outcomes. The data analysis approach followed according to an interpretive paradigm is aligned with an inductive strategy that is associated with the classification of data into different categories followed by collation of the categories through collaborative involvement of participant and researcher. Another potential highlight that must be noted in the case of interpretivist paradigm is the possibility for changes in the design of the data collection instruments.

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