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Research Methods Room

The constellations in this room are concerned with how you will be doing your research. There is a very wide range of research methods available to you, and you will have to spend some time deciding which method or methods are the most appropriate, both with regard to your topic and to the approach you have decided to take. If you are a student in the physical sciences then you will probably find you tend toward quantitative or positivist methods. If you are studying the social sciences then qualitative or interpretive methods may be more appropriate. But this is a generalization, and much of the really interesting and innovative research uses a blend of both qualitative and quantitative methods. As you study the constellations visible from this room, keep referring to the continuum on the left and see if you can spot your position on it, and if you might move along it.

Research methods > Choosing your approach

Research methods

Choosing your approach

"The term paradigm refers to the process of scientific practice based on people's philosophies and assumptions about the world and the nature of knowledge; in this context, about how research should be conducted."
Collis and Hussey (2003)

For you, the researcher, the issue of the paradigm is about choosing a model for the acquisition of knowledge which reflects a belief in how the knowledge can be most effectively represented by the research process and findings.

Two of the commonest paradigms associated with research, and sometimes displayed at opposite ends of a linear continuum, are the positivist/scientific approach and interpretivism. Phenomonology is an example of an interpretive approach, which concentrates upon induction and the meaning of the findings in the view of the participants, rather than upon hypothesis testing, measurement and deduction.

The distinctions between positivism, and interpretative techniques such as phenomenology, are theoretical distinctions of the assumptions, purpose, design, process, data collection strategy and conclusions for the research. You can view an interactive table of the main differences between the positivist and phenomenological approaches. (Alternatively, you can also view a static version of the diagram).

Here you will explore what this means for the methods associated with the paradigms, and the different skills you will need to develop for each of the approaches.

Evaluate your approach in Second Life!

You can now have the opportunity to reflect on the different approaches to research in Second Life (SL). We have an island called Elearning at UWE where the Research Observatory has a building that enables you to carry out a range of socialising and simulation activities. If you are already a resident in SL just click on the island name above and you can teleport there. If you are not yet a resident and would like to join, go to the Second Life website where you will find instructions. Accounts can be set up for free. You will have to go through a bit of orientation, but once you have finished that come back here and follow the island name link to teleport there.




1. Positivist / scientific research
2. Phenomenological Research3. Essential Differences
4. More on essential differences
5. Research skills 6. Positivist methods and the required research skills7. Phenomenology and the required research skills
8. Do you have the required skills?

Author: Deborah Street, University of the West of England, Bristol