epistemology help...again

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I'm trying to do a kind of 'paradigm' table, with 4 paradigms with a sentence overview of thier ontology, epistemology and methodology in each cell if that makes sense.

I think I've nearly got there with what all the paradigms say, but now I'm confused (AGAIN!) about what epistemology is. For some reason all the stuff in my table under epistemology relates to the relationship between researcher and the researched e.g. "Researcher andreality are separate"

Is that right? or should it be broader? - so confused!


Don't know if this will help but I've always thought about epistemology as being our preference as researchers for how we know the world. e.g. positivist - reality is something that is out there and can be objectively pinned down or constructivism - reality is something that is constructed and is contigent on our subjective experiences, perceptions, cultures etc.

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see I thought that was ontology. Argh! I hate all this stuff :-(

Avatar for Caterpillar27

I think it is something like this:

Ontology: what it is possible to know about the world - eg what reality is
Like, is it external to individuals or are there multiple realities? Realism etc

Epistemology: how is it possible to find out about the world - eg ways of finding out about reality
such as, interpretivsm, pragmatism, positivism

But I could be mistaken - this forum is great to thrash out things like this, so feel free to contest! :p

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you see I'm talking about positivism for example, as a paradigm, that has different ontology/epistemology and methodology compared to other paradigms (e.g. constructivist).

I've come across different authors using the different terms for different things though, so not surprised there's confusion. I'm going to go for just saying what I think and referencing people who think the same! lol. But still not completely sure if my explanation of what epistemology is is good enough?


The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research has some helpful definitions and explanations ( am reading it from online Google Books as my own copy remains loaned out to a colleague who is just about to submit their thesis!!)
This book describes at pg. 13 that a paradigm is the "net" that contains methodology, epistimology and ontology for the overall research paradigm. Epistiomology is the view on how knowledge is constructed. For instance, in positivism, the view is that knowledge is "out there" as a universal and unvarying "truth" that is discovered through hypothesis testing that has sufficient reliability and validity. Constructivists see knowledge as created through mutual interactions.

Ontology --how the world is constructed--what is reality. The online Handbook references Creswell at pg 103 for describing epistimology as the relationship between researcher/research. ie, how the researcher is finding/constructing knowledge--is it through hypothesis testing, through interpretive qualitative evaluation, etc.

Not sure if that is much help-- I find it useful to return to the oracle of the Lincoln and Guba charts anytime something like describing paradigms comes up!


Sneaks, I've only just seen this, so you might be alright, but as far as I know epistemology looks at validity of what we know, research, etc. I can probably dig out a definition and a ref if you need it too. Good luck!