A guide to ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives for interdisciplinary researchers – Integration and Implementation Insights – Moon and Blackman (drawing on their 2014 article)

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A guide to ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives for interdisciplinary researchers – Integration and Implementation Insights

A guide to ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives for interdisciplinary researchers

May 2, 2017

By Katie Moon and Deborah Blackman

katie-moon
Katie Moon (biography)

How can understanding philosophy improve our research? How can an understanding of what frames our research influence our choices? Do researchers’ personal thoughts and beliefs shape research design, outcomes and interpretation?

These questions are all important for social science research. Here we present a philosophical guide for scientists to assist in the production of effective social science (adapted from Moon and Blackman, 2014).

deborah-blackman
Deborah Blackman (biography)

Understanding philosophy is important because social science research can only be meaningfully interpreted when there is clarity about the decisions that were taken that affect the research outcomes. Some of these decisions are based, not always knowingly, on some key philosophical principles, as outlined in the figure below.

Philosophy provides the general principles of theoretical thinking, a method of cognition, perspective and self-awareness, all of which are used to obtain knowledge of reality and to design, conduct, analyse and interpret research and its outcomes. The figure below shows three main branches of philosophy that are important in the sciences and serves to illustrate the differences between them.

guide-to-ontology-moon
Social science research guide consisting of ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives. When read from left to right, elements take on a more multidimensional nature (eg., epistemology: objectivism to subjectivism). The elements within each branch are positioned according to their congruence with elements from other branches so when read from top to bottom (or bottom to top), elements from one branch align with elements from another (eg., critical realist ontology, constructionist epistemology, and interpretivist philosophical perspectives). Subcategories of elements (ie., 3.5a–c and 3.6a–c) are to be interpreted as positioned under the parent category (ie., 3.5 interpretivism and 3.6 critical theory).

(Source: Moon and Blackman 2014)

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A guide to ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives for interdisciplinary researchers – Integration and Implementation Insights