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Research philosophy by zewde alemayehu tilahun

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Research philosophy by zewde alemayehu tilahun

  1. 1. ARBA MINCH UNIVERSITY School of Graduate Studies College of Social Science Department of Geography and Environmental Studies Program: PhD in Environment and Natural Resource Management Course: Advanced Research Methods in Geography and Environmental Studies (GeES-811) Presentation on Research Philosophy By: Zewde Alemayehu Instructor: Abera Uncha (PhD) Arba Minch, Ethiopia November 2018
  2. 2. The Philosophy of Research  Philosophy is a system of beliefs and assumptions about development of knowledge. It is the study of the most general and abstract features of the world and the categories with which we think.  In philosophy the concepts with which we approach the world themselves become the topic of enquiry.  Investigation of nature, causes or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.  The study of the ultimate nature of existence, reality, knowledge and goodness, as discoverable by human reasoning.
  3. 3. Philosophy…  Research philosophy is an over-arching term relating to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge.  Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts.  It is a choice of approach  All research is guided by a set of philosophical beliefs  The philosophical beliefs influence or motivate the selection of topics for research.  And also it influences the manner in which completed research projects are subjected to evaluation
  4. 4. Philosophy…  A well-thought-out and consistent set of assumption will constitute a credible research philosophy.  There is no right or wrong research philosophy, but a well argued case for the one you prefer showing understanding of alternatives  Research philosophy will guide the methodology and the overall approach to PhD dissertation.  It’s hard but vital! An understanding of alternative philosophies will make a much better researcher.
  5. 5. Philosophy… Why philosophy? All research is based on assumptions  About how the world is perceived  About how we can best come to understand it.  Nobody really knows how we can best understand the world  Philosophers have been arguing about it for 1000s of years,  For us, as researchers, need to consider how we know about the world around us.
  6. 6. Philosophy… How to determine your own research philosophy Consider your own research background/experience  Consider your topic (theoretical basis, research subjects, desired knowledge etc)  Read widely on research philosophy – there are many often contrasting and contradictory views  Many more specific views e.g. relativism, subjectivism, hermeneutics, deconstructivism, constructivism, feminism etc.  Engage in philosophical debate with peers, supervisors, yourself  Show this in your thesis, building a case for your own philosophical stance  Let this then lead your methodology
  7. 7. Philosophy… Paradigms/ School of thought Paradigms is the way you see something, your point of view, frame of reference or belief  It is the way we perceive, understand and interpret the world  A paradigm is like a map in our head.  We assume that the way we “see” things is the way they really are or the way they should be.
  8. 8. Philosophy… A Paradigm Shift A paradigm shift is a way of looking something differently.  When we make a paradigm shift we can see, think, feel and behave differently.  Example: Ptolemy thought the earth was the center of the universe.  Copernicus believed the sun was the center of the universe. (There is a paradigm shift)  Not all paradigm shifts are instantaneous– some happen gradually over time.
  9. 9. Philosophy… There are a number of Paradigms/schools of thought on the best way to approach the relationship between society, space, place and environment. 1. Empiricism:  Refers to the school of thoughts where facts are believed to speak for themselves and require little theoretical explanation.  It holds that science should only be concerned with objects in the world and seek factual content about them.
  10. 10. Philosophy…  As such, all knowledge is derived from the evidence provided by the senses and processed in an inductive fashion.  Normative questions concerning the values and intensions of a subject(s) are excluded as we cannot scientifically measure them.  Empiricism is based around the notion that science can only be concerned with empirical questions
  11. 11. Philosophy… 2. Positivism  Positivism argues that by carefully and objectively collecting data regarding social phenomena, we can determine laws to predict and explain human behavior in terms of cause and effect.  Like empiricism, Positivism reject normative questions that can not be measured scientifically (relating to being).  Positivism differs from empiricism because it requires propositions to be verified (logical positivism) or hypothesis falsified (critical rationalism) rather than just simply presenting findings  Comte cited in Unwin (1992) notes that the term ‘positivism’ to refers to the actual, the certain, the exact and the relative rather than the imaginary, the undecided and the undecided.  Reality consists of what is available to the senses- that is, what can be seen, smelt, touched, etc.
  12. 12. Philosophy…  The goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience  Study what we can observe and measure  Impossible to know about anything else  Deductive reasoning to postulate theories that we can test  Empiricism -- the idea that observation and measurement is the core of the scientific endeavour  Main method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation
  13. 13. Philosophy… Post-positivism  Rejection of positivist ideas has lead to an array of alternative approaches  One end of post-positivism  Critical realism - there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. Recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is revisable  The other post-positivist extreme  Subjectivism - there is no external reality . It’s all in our heads!
  14. 14. Philosophy… Post-positivism generally Multiple measures and observations, each of which may possess different types of error,  Triangulation across these multiple errorful sources to try to understand better what's happening in reality.  All observations are theory-laden  All researchers are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views etc  Most post-positivists are constructivists who believe that we each construct our view of the world based on our perceptions of it  Objectivity by triangulation across multiple fallible perspectives. Thus, objectivity is not the characteristic of an individual, it is inherently a social phenomenon
  15. 15. Philosophy… Objectivity without positivism? “ The best way for us to improve the objectivity of what we do is to do it within the context of a broader contentious community of truth-seekers (including other scientists) who criticize each other's work.  The theories that survive such intense scrutiny are a bit like the species that survive in the evolutionary struggle. (This is sometimes called the natural selection theory of knowledge and holds that ideas have 'survival value' and that knowledge evolves through a process of variation, selection and retention). They have adaptive value and are probably as close as our species can come to being objective and understanding reality” William Trochim, (2002) Research Methods Knowledgebase
  16. 16. Key Features of Positivist and Phenomenological Paradigms Phenomenological paradigm Positivist paradigm Basic beliefs: Science is driven by human interest Observer is independent The world is socially constructed and subjective Science is value-free Observer is part of what is observed The world is external and objective Researchers should: Try to understand what is happening Focus on facts Develop ideas through induction from evidence Formulate and test hypotheses Focus on meanings Look for causality and fundamental laws Look at totality of each situation Reduce phenomena to simplest elements Preferred methods: Small samples investigated in depth or over time Take large samples Use multiple methods to establish different views of phenomena Operationalise concept so they can be measured Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe 1994 pp. 27
  17. 17. Positivist paradigm Phenomenological paradigm Basic beliefs: The world is external and objective Observer is independent Science is value-free The world is socially constructed and subjective Observer is part of what observed Science is driven by human interests Researcher should: Focus on facts look for causality and fundamental laws reduce phenomena to simplest events formulate hypotheses and then test them Focus on meanings try to understand what is happening look at the totality of each situation develop ideas through induction form data Preferred methods include: Operationalising concepts so that they can be measured taking large samples Using multiple methods to establish different views of phenomena small samples investigated in depth or over time
  18. 18. Considerations for successful research Validity Does an instrument measure what it is supposed to measure? Has the researcher gained full access to the knowledge and meanings of informants? Reliability Will the measure yield the same results on different occasions (assuming no real change in what is to be measured)? Will similar observations be made by different researchers on different occasions? Generalisability What is the probability that patterns observed in a sample will also be present in the wider population from which the sample is drawn? How likely is it that ideas and theories generated in one setting will also apply in other settings? Positivist viewpoint Phenomenological viewpoint
  19. 19. Deductive vs Inductive reasoning
  20. 20. Circular model of research process  Inductive: begin at A (observation/description) , proceed to B (analysis), arrive at C (explanation)  Deductive: begin at C (hypothesis), proceed to A (gathering data to test hyp), proceed to B to test hyp against data A: observation/ description B: Analysis C: Explanation/ Hypotheses/ Theory
  21. 21. Philosophy… 3. Pragmatism  Argue that understanding must be inferred from  Behavior and rooted in experiences, not knowledge.  By exploring the lives of people within a community, it  Is hoped that the nature of the beliefs and attitudes  Which shape society will be uncovered.  Concerned with the construction of meaning through practical activity.  Problem centered, real world practice oriented
  22. 22. Philosophy… 4. Phenomenology  Rejects the scientific, quantitative approaches of positivism  Instead Suggests that we concentrate upon understanding rather than explaining the world.  The goal of phenomenology is to reconstruct the worlds of individuals, their actions, and the meaning of the phenomena in those worlds to understand individual behavior without drawing upon supposed theories.  Phenomenology is sometimes considered a philosophical perspective as well as an approach to qualitative methodology. It has a long history in several social research disciplines including psychology, sociology and social work. Phenomenology is a school of thought that emphasizes a focus on people's subjective experiences and interpretations of the world. That is, the phenomenologist wants to understand how the world appears to others.
  23. 23. Philosophy… 5. Realism  Concerns the identification of how something happens (causal mechanisms).  Realists want to find out what produces changes, what makes things happen and what allows or forces changes. 6. Postmodernism  Argues that there is no one absolute truth and that there is no truth outside interpretation.  Postmodernism, rather than seeking ‘truth’, offers ‘readings’ rather than ‘observation’, and ‘interpretations’ rather than ‘findings’.  Seeks inter-textual relations rather than causality.
  24. 24. Philosophy… 7. Feminism  Suggest that there needs to be renegotiation of the role and structure of institutions and the production of knowledge. There needs to be renegotiation of power relation within society so that how we come to know the world is more reflective of people living in it.

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