When I think of positivism and the related philosophy of logical positivism I think of the behaviorists in midth Century psychology. These were the mythical 'rat runners' who believed that psychology could only study what could be directly observed and measured.
Since we can't directly observe emotions, thoughts, etc. Skinner argued that psychology needed to concentrate only on the positive and negative reinforcers of behavior in order to predict how people will behave -- everything else in between like what the person is thinking is irrelevant because it can't be measured.
In a positivist view of the world, science was seen as the way to get at truth, to understand the world well enough so that we might predict and control it. The world and the universe were deterministic -- they operated by laws of cause and effect that we could discern if we applied the unique approach of the scientific method.
Science was largely a mechanistic or mechanical affair. We use deductive reasoning to postulate theories that we can test. Based on the results of our studies, we may learn that our theory doesn't fit the facts well and so we need to revise our theory to better predict reality.
The positivist believed in empiricism -- the idea that observation and measurement was the core of the scientific endeavor. The key approach of the scientific method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation.
OK, I am exaggerating the positivist position although you may be amazed at how close to this some of them actually came in order to make a point. Things have changed in our views of science since the middle part of the 20th century. Probably the most important has been our shift away from positivism into what we term post-positivism.
By post-positivism, I don't mean a slight adjustment to or revision of the positivist position -- post-positivism is a wholesale rejection of the central tenets of positivism. A post-positivist might begin by recognizing that the way scientists think and work and the way we think in our everyday life are not distinctly different.
Scientific reasoning and common sense reasoning are essentially the same process. There is no difference in kind between the two, only a difference in degree. Scientists, for example, follow specific procedures to assure that observations are verifiable, accurate and consistent. In everyday reasoning, we don't always proceed so carefully although, if you think about it, when the stakes are high, even in everyday life we become much more cautious about measurement.
Think of the way most responsible parents keep continuous watch over their infants, noticing details that non-parents would never detect. One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism.
A critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. This is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality -- we're each making this all up! Positivists were also realists. The difference is that the post-positivist critical realist recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is revisable.
In other words, the critical realist is critical of our ability to know reality with certainty. Where the positivist believed that the goal of science was to uncover the truth, the post-positivist critical realist believes that the goal of science is to hold steadfastly to the goal of getting it right about reality, even though we can never achieve that goal! Because all measurement is fallible, the post-positivist emphasizes the importance of multiple measures and observations, each of which may possess different types of error, and the need to use triangulation across these multiple errorful sources to try to get a better bead on what's happening in reality.
The post-positivist also believes that all observations are theory-laden and that scientists and everyone else, for that matter are inherently biased by their cultural experiences, world views, and so on. This is not cause to give up in despair, however. Just because I have my world view based on my experiences and you have yours doesn't mean that we can't hope to translate from each other's experiences or understand each other.
That is, post-positivism rejects the relativist idea of the incommensurability of different perspectives, the idea that we can never understand each other because we come from different experiences and cultures. Most post-positivists are constructivists who believe that we each construct our view of the world based on our perceptions of it.
Because perception and observation is fallible, our constructions must be imperfect. It is also important in positivist research to seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical approaches to research Carson et al. Statistical and mathematical techniques are central to positivist research, which adheres to specifically structured research techniques to uncover single and objective reality Carson et al.
The goal of positivist researchers is to make time and context free generalizations. They believe this is possible because human actions can be explained as a result of real causes that temporarily precedes their behaviour and the researcher and his research subjects are independent and do not influence each other Hudson and Ozanne, Especially, this is an important step in remaining emotionally neutral to make clear distinctions between reason and feeling as well as between science and personal experience.
Positivists also claim it is important to clearly distinguish between fact and value judgement. As positivist researchers they seek objectivity and use consistently rational and logical approaches to research Carson et al. The position of interpretivism in relation to ontology and epistemology is that interpretivists believe the reality is multiple and relative Hudson and Ozanne, Lincoln and Guba explain that these multiple realities also depend on other systems for meanings, which make it even more difficult to interpret in terms of fixed realities Neuman, The knowledge acquired in this discipline is socially constructed rather than objectively determined Carson et al.
Interpretivists avoid rigid structural frameworks such as in positivist research and adopt a more personal and flexible research structures Carson et al. They believe the researcher and his informants are interdependent and mutually interactive Hudson and Ozanne, The interpretivist researcher enters the field with some sort of prior insight of the research context but assumes that this is insufficient in developing a fixed research design due to complex, multiple and unpredictable nature of what is perceived as reality Hudson and Ozanne, The researcher remains open to new knowledge throughout the study and lets it develop with the help of informants.
The use of such an emergent and collaborative approach is consistent with the interpretivist belief that humans have the ability to adapt, and that no one can gain prior knowledge of time and context bound social realities Hudson and Ozanne, Therefore, the goal of interpretivist research is to understand and interpret the meanings in human behaviour rather than to generalize and predict causes and effects Neuman, ; Hudson and Ozanne, For an interpretivist researcher it is important to understand motives, meanings, reasons and other subjective experiences which are time and context bound Hudson and Ozanne, ; Neuman, Have direct access to real world.
No direct access to real world. No single external reality. Possible to obtain hard, secure objective knowledge. Research focus on generalization and abstraction. Thought governed by hypotheses and stated theories. Research focuses on the specific and concrete. Seeking to understand specific context. Role of the researcher. Techniques used by researcher. Concentrates on description and explanation.
Clear distinction between reason and feeling. Aim to discover external reality rather than creating the object of study. Strive to use rational, consistent, verbal, logical approach. Seek to maintain clear distinction between facts and value judgments. Distinction between science and personal experience.
Formalized statistical and mathematical methods predominant. Concentrates on understanding and interpretation. Researchers want to experience what they are studying.
Allow feeling and reason to govern actions. Partially create what is studied, the meaning of phenomena. Use of pre-understanding is important.
Distinction between facts and value judgments less clear. Accept influence from both science and personal experience. The Social Construction of Reality: The presentation of interpretivist research. An International Journal , 9 4 , — Basic Marketing Research 3 rd Ed. Journal of Consumer Research , 12, Journal of Consumer Research , 14 4 , — The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Vol.
Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches 4 th Ed. Between Single and Multiple reality, which one is good for Business or Management research? Hi Chisala, Did you get anything on single and multiple reality.
Would be interested to have a read on this. Have you put them up yet? I would quite like to read them and be able to reference them myself in an assignment I am doing. Perhaps they can, but when researching into writing theory I came across a lot of literature that would suggest there are pretty big differences between what kinds of things arts and science people value about writing — basic beliefs and attitudes. Chandler, for example, has approached characteristic differences between Classical and Romantic ways of thinking.
Classical writers value planning, logic, order, structure, purpose, rigour, and objectivity. Romantic writers, by contrast, favour discovery, freedom, lack of structure, enjoyment, and emergent form.
Classical relates to the sciences, Romantic relates to the arts. Similar characteristic differences can be found between positivism and interpretivism. Can you send me your reference page for this information. You never posted it. If you need my info, let me know. Article revised and references are listed. Thank you for all the comments and I am glad it has helped in your work.
An International Journal, 9 4 , — Hi, I am really sorry for this late response. I would have been happy to discuss this with you but I was busy shifting from one country to another with my family after the PhD. You may contact me on prabash. Had a seminar today on the philosopher Karen Baras wish I had stumbled onto this yesterday. Thanks for this post. But the title has incorrect spelling. Thank u so much for this very clear, constructive and helpful post and I hope that you will post more from now on.
Once you have an idea of the research approach that you are going to take, you next need to think about a research strategy that will lead you to find answers to your research question. That is, you need to think about your methodology and methods. You should get going on this near the start of your project and certainly before you do any data collection. It is at this stage that you would consider, for instance, whether your research is going to involve a survey, one or more case studies, some action research, participant observation, or some other methodology.
Whatever choice you make, you must be able to justify it in terms of your learning objectives, your research question, and your research approach. Your thinking at this stage should involve quite a high level of detail. For example, if your project were to involve in-depth interviewing, you would need to justify:. You are expected to be methodologically aware; — this means not only that you know what you are doing but also that you are able to provide the rationale for why you are doing it.
For example, the design of interview questions should normally be based upon appropriate theory. Therefore, you will be expected to read and refer to appropriate textbooks on research methodology. Your reading might begin with the recommended text book see section 3. Issues that you are likely to encounter in the course of your thinking and discussion about methodology include:.
In other words, studies with positivist paradigm are based purely on facts and consider the world to be external and objective. The five main principles of positivism research philosophy can be summarized as the following: There are no differences in the logic of inquiry across sciences. The research should aim to explain and predict.
Assumptions and beliefs of the Positivist Paradigm: realist ontology - assumes that there are real world objects apart from the human knower. In other words, there is an objective reality. representational epistemology - assumes people can know this reality and use symbols to accurately describe and explain this objective reality.
Positivism and Interpretivism are the two basic approaches to research methods in Sociology. Positivist prefer scientific quantitative methods, while Interpretivists prefer humanistic qualitative methods. This post provides a very brief overview of the two. CHAPTER 4 Research Methodology and Design research paradigm is an all-encompassing system of interrelated practice and thinking Positivism The positivist paradigm of exploring social reality is based on the philosophical ideas of the French Philosopher August Comte. According to him, observation and reason.
eventually undermined the validity of positivism. The positivist paradigm asserts that real events can be observed empirically and explained with logical analysis. The criterion for evaluating the validity of a Positivist research methodology (methodological individualism). Full-Text Paper (PDF): Positivist and Non-Positivist Paradigm in Social Science Research: Conflicting Paradigms or Perfect Partners?