Research Paradigms: Implications in Research

Research Paradigms: Implications in Research

The theoretical framework is occasionally denoted as a paradigm and affects how knowledge is learned and understood. It is in the selection of a unique paradigm which establishes the determination, inspiration, and potentials for the research. Thus, this theory guides the way things are done and establishes a set of practices. This can vary through patterns and actions identified. In addition, without nominating a paradigm, there is no foundation for ensuing selections regarding methodology, methods, literature or research design. The paradigms which were analyzed and play a key role within research include positivist, interpretivist, critical, and pragmatic. The following sections of this paper discuss the differing paradigms and describes the paradigm’s implications within research and research methods.

Research Paradigms


Positivist research paradigm encompasses the use of existing theories to cultivate hypotheses to be tested in the course of the research process. A positivist approach adheres to the view that only truthful or realistic knowledge gained through observation or reliable and valid tools is dependable (Wahyuni, 2012). Within the positivist paradigm, the researcher role is limited to data collection and explanation through an objective methodology and thus, the research findings are typically evident and quantifiable (Wahyuni, 2012). The research findings and observations usually adopt a deductive approach, as the research test formulated hypotheses throughout the research process. During the research process, positivists seek balance and use reasonable and logical approaches to research. For this reason, positivist research relates to a perspective in which the researcher needs to focus on facts and the measure of reality (Wahyuni, 2012). According to Wahyuni, a researcher who dons a positivist method maintains the notion that he or she is impartial from the research with marginal contact with research participants, and thus, the research is entirely objective or fact based (2012). For this reason, positivist research is generally associated with the quantitative methods of data collection, sampling, and statistical analysis (Wahyuni, 2012). Therefore, studies within the positivist paradigm are based essentially on truth, evidence, and realities, and consider views of the world to be outward and objective.


Interpretivist research paradigm avoids firm structural frameworks and adopts a more subjective and variable research structures. Subjective and variable research structures are amenable to obtaining implications in human interface and make sense of what is professed as certainty (Black, 2006). An interpretivist approach takes on an interdependent role and becomes equally collaborative (Black, 2006). An interpretivist researcher maintains previous insight of the research framework, recognizes the impacts of their own background and experiences, and believes the information obtained thus far is inadequate in evolving a research design (Scotland, 2012). Within the interpretivist research paradigm, the researcher is amenable to gaining new information during the course of the study and allows for development from the help of research study participants. Thus, the objective of interpretivist research paradigm is to comprehend and explain the implications in human behavior rather than the need to streamline and determine cause and effect (Wahyuni, 2012). Therefore, as an interpretivist researcher, importance remains in the ability to apprehend intentions, implications, explanations and additional subjective encounters or incidents. The interpretivist research paradigm primarily relies on qualitative data collection, methods, and analysis which include: interviews, participant observations, obtaining life histories, and case studies (Wahyuni, 2012). Overall, within the interpretivist paradigm, reality needs to be interpreted and utilized to discern the essential meaning of the research.


Critical research paradigm takes a historical perspective and analyzes the world through more of a diplomatic lens. This perspective is one in which reality was shaped by “social, political, cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender values” (Scotland, 2012). Within critical paradigm language plays a key role and reign over value and the power it sustains. According to Scotland, within the critical paradigm, language contains associations related to power, so it is utilized to either inspire or debilitate (2012). Under this notion, the critical paradigm is associated with power relations and forms of supremacy and aims to “emancipate the disempowered” (Scotland, 2012). In addition, the critical paradigm “seeks to address issues of social justice and marginalism” through different theoretical perspectives (Scotland, 2012). This particular paradigm both researchers and participants work together to “unveil reality, critically analyze it, and recreate knowledge” (Scotland, 2012). Therefore, all participants of the research are directly involved within the research course and involved in design, data collection, and various explanations. Research methods within the critical paradigm include: “open-ended interviews, focus groups, open-ended questionnaires, open-ended observations, and journals” and associated with qualitative methods (Scotland, 2012). Overall, within the critical research paradigm, reality and knowledge are both socially fashioned and subjective or influenced by power associations.


A pragmatic research paradigm is not dedicated to any one classification of idea or reality. Rather, pragmatic paradigm maintains focus on the research question, with primary focus being on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the question (Wahyuni, 2012). All approaches taken within the paradigm are aimed at understanding the research question or problem. Therefore, the pragmatic paradigm and research question determines the direction of data collection and research analysis methods utilized and deemed most appropriate for that precise research (Wahyuni, 2012). With the research problem or question being the main focal point, data collection and analysis are chosen to provide insights into answering the question or problem without any specific ties to other paradigms or theoretical considerations. Thus, most often a mixed methods approach is utilized within the pragmatic paradigm and can involve techniques found within both qualitative and quantitative research (Wahyuni, 2012). Within the pragmatic paradigm, reality is constantly deliberated and clarified to account for its aptness for variable situations and accounts for the need to adapt to change or a mixed methods approach. Overall, within the pragmatic paradigm the eminent method is the one that solves the problem at hand, while aiming to address necessary changes with regards to the problem, and advise of probable solutions.

Similarities and Differences

After assessing similarities and differences of each paradigm, one may notice each paradigm has somewhat different implied principles.  For example, positivism primarily deals with data collection and objectivity; whereas, interpretivist, primary interest is with the participant and justifying the participant’s point of view.  In addition, critical paradigm includes all participants of the research and each participant is directly involved within the research course and involved in design, data collection, and various explanations.  Lastly, pragmatic paradigm primary focus is the research question, which determines the direction of data collection and research analysis methods utilized and deemed most appropriate for that precise research.  Each of the four paradigms, positivist, interpretivist, critical, and pragmatic, offer differences and various approaches with regards to ontology, epistemology, theoretical perspectives, methodology, and methods in obtaining data.  A key distinguishing factor between paradigms is the language utilized in reference to the separate paradigms.  For example, language utilized in the positivist paradigm includes: experimental, quasi-experimental, correlational, or determination; whereas, language within the interpretivist paradigm includes: ethnographic, naturalistic, interaction, multiple participant (Wahyuni, 2012).  In addition, language found within the critical paradigm includes: political, critical theory, feminist (Scotland, 2012); whereas, pragmatic language consists of problem-centered, pluralistic, and real-world practice (Wahyuni, 2012).  Although, incidents may occur where some language associations overlap within paradigms, more often than not the language within the separate paradigms is a key difference as it helps to distinguish specific features. To conclude, a key feature in identifying similarities and difference amongst the paradigms is the associated research method.  For instance, as previously mentioned positivist is a quantitative approach that often utilizes methods statistical analyses, scaling, and sample measurements, interpretivist relies on qualitative data collection, methods, and analysis which include: interviews, participant observations, obtaining life histories, and case studies, critical paradigm is mostly correlated with qualitative methods as well through the use of unrestricted and flexible interviews, focus groups, open surveys and observations (Scotland, 2012), and pragmatic paradigm takes a completely different approach with a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods in order to best address situational changes (Wahyuni, 2012). Overall, the similarities and differences between each of the paradigms helps the researcher to associate the best suited approach when undertaking various research.


No matter the research question, problem, or topic there is a unique research paradigm to correlate with the specific research. Paradigms offer varying approaches to ontology and epistemology which in turn addresses theoretical perspectives and areas such as research methodology and methods. No matter the chosen paradigm, each paradigm offers guidance as to how to complete or address that specific problem and tools that can be utilized within each paradigm for effective research discussion or conclusions.


Black, I. (2006). The presentation of interpretivist research. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 9(4), 319–324.

Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16.

Wahyuni, D. (2012). The research design maze: Understanding paradigms, cases, methods and methodologies. Journal of Applied Management Accounting Research, 10(1), 69-80.