Thursday, May 21, 2015

Inquiry, Paradigms and Epistemologies

by Anton Antonio
April 19, 2015

Is the statement “Forms of research are equivalent to paradigms” accurate?  There is also a school of thought that says that inquiry and paradigms are taken as equivalents of epistemologies.  How then do we differentiate or relate the terms “inquiry”, “paradigms” and epistemologies”?
Let us begin by agreeing that the terms “inquiry, paradigm and epistemology” have something to do with research.  “Each of the three major forms of research (empirical-analytical, interpretive and liberatory) is based on a distinct paradigm.  A paradigm or mindset is a specific world view about the nature of society and how knowledge is produced and is to be used.  Each has underlying, taken-for-granted assumptions… by placing these three forms of research side-by-side in a table, it is possible to compare their methodologies and (epistemological and ontological) assumptions.” (Smith, 1999)  “Generally speaking, the positivist paradigm underlies most conventional agriculture research and education.  The constructivist paradigm is gradually making headway through the introduction of participatory methodologies and indigenous knowledge research.  The transcendentalist paradigm is more oriented towards the cosmovision of indigenous peoples and local groups from non-western cultures who are often involved in research and development programmes.”  (Van Eijk, 1999)

Does the foregoing paragraph sound super complex and confusing?  Well… let’s see how we can narrow down these terms to narratives we simple-minded mortals can all understand.  Perhaps we could first define these terms and examine their different forms.

  • INQUIRY – an act of asking for information.
  • PARADIGM – a model; a typical example or pattern of something; and, a set of linguistic items that form mutually exclusive choices in particular syntactic roles.
  • EPISTOMOLOGY – the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope; the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

Forms of Inquiry:
  • EMPIRICAL-ANALYTICAL – relying on or derived from observation or experiment; verifiable or provable by means of observation or experimentation; and, guided by practical experience and not theory.
  • INTERPRETIVE – relating to or explained by interpretation to resolve significant ambiguity often pertaining to the text of any medium.
  • LIBERATORY – to tend, to serve, and to liberate traditional mindsets through observation and experimentation.

Forms of Paradigms:
  • POSITIVIST – a doctrine contending that sensory perceptions are the only admissible basis of human knowledge and precise though patterns while applying logic, epistemology and ethics.
  • CONSTRUCTIVIST – a school of thought based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information.
  • TRANSCENDENTALIST – a belief that calls on people to view the objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe and to trust their individual intuitions.

Forms of Epistemology:
  • NOMOTHETIC – pertains to or based on a single basic idea or principle.
  • HERMENEUTIC – includes both verbal and nonverbal communication as well as semiotics, presuppositions and preunderstanding.
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL – the use of investigation and experimentation to produce justified beliefs from ordinary opinions.

Let’s throw-in another mind-boggling term “cosmovision” as an additional mental pain for all of us… a particular view or understanding of the world, especially the temporal and spatial view of things using their ritualized representation and enactment by Mesoamerican peoples.  Hopefully, cosmovision and the other information (meaning and definitions) will help differentiate and understand research inquiry, paradigms and epistemologies.

Just my little thoughts…

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Banzon- Cabanilla, D. (2002).  “Cultures and Societies in Typical Forest Ecosystems”.  University of the Philippines Open University, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines

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