Researchers interpret the world from various philosophical paradigms. The philosophical paradigms form the base of knowledge which is the fundamental starting point to guide research inquiry and comes before the choice of methods. This philosophical paradigm is known as ‘epistemology’ which is concerned with various ways of knowing and learning about the social world and trying to understand how people can know about reality. The use of epistemology guides the methodology in any research which is how the researcher goes about obtaining the necessary information to validate the main research question. It also provides a philosophical background for deciding what kind of knowledge is legitimate. More specifically, epistemology is the theory of knowledge which justifies knowledge. Therefore, the choice of epistemology allows the researcher to stand on a definitive ground of the knowledge that is pertinent to the research question.
There are various epistemological paradigms depending on researcher’s own way of viewing the world. Some believe in a realist viewpoint and some see the world from constructivist perspective. Before embarking on an exploration of the research questions, a fundamental distinction needs to be made between the realist and the constructivist paradigms. The realist approach interprets the world with evidence, facts and figures. It also sees the world from the scientific point of view which asserts that science is capable of viewing reality. Constructivist approach, on the other hand, describes and interprets the world from the observed truth.
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