O is for… Ontology, Epistemology and all that Jazz #AtoZChallenge

O is for… Ontology, Epistemology and all that Jazz

Two days ago I shared with you the image of me ‘Drowning in Words’. Not only did this relate to books and other reading material but all the new terminology too.

Two words I still haven’t fully integrated into my brain are Ontology and Epistemology – so I’m going to use today’s post to attempt that upload, along with a few others along the way.

 Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Creswell (2007, quotes below from pp.16 − 18) looks at five philosophical assumptions in qualitative research.

Ontology is a ‘stance toward the nature of reality’ – ‘Reality is subjective and multiple.’

This links very much with a personal philosophy about difference – that is is OK to have different viewpoints. Yes there may be similarities in experience but there will be differences too. Also ‘reality’ changes over time, as we gain further insights and as we change, so there can be multiple realities for the same person too.

‘Epistemology’ is the stance regarding how the researcher knows what they know  – ‘Researcher attempts to lessen distance between himself or herself and that being researched.’

I guess I’m lucky here because I will be researching something I already engage in – and what better excuse than to engage in it all even more. The worldview of social constructivism fits with my personal understanding of me coming to know what I do about my experience through interacting with other people (I think this also helps me understand why it has been hard to come up with my research question/s – I’m not sure I fully know until I’ve talked to the other people who will be involved). I’m going to be somewhere between the left of the qualitative continuum – artistic, impressionist and interpretative – and the middle-ground (further left though I think)(Ellingson, L.L. 2011).

‘Axiology’ is the stance regarding the role of values in the research – ‘Researcher acknowledges that research is value-laden and that biases are present.’

I am hugely biased – I’m a writer and I want to know more about my experience of writing. What it is going to be important to do is document the biases or ‘position myself’ (as discussing in the J post on Journalling and Reflexivity).

‘Rhetoric’ is the stance regarding the language of research – ‘Researcher writes in a literary, informal style using the personal voice and uses qualitative terms and limited definitions.’

Autoethnography encourages this kind of writing and that fits with my personal preference to write more creatively – links to the idea of narrative and story as discussed yesterday. I’m going to talk more about Rhetoric for my R post.

‘Methodology’ is the stance regarding the methods used in the process – ‘Researcher uses inductive logic, studies the topic within its context, and uses an emerging design.’

I haven’t even started yet and my ideas are constantly changing. My hope is to be quite fluid with the exploration. As I discussed in the E is for ethics post – I need to consider appropriate justification for this level of flexibility to get my research accepted by the ethics panel. Because I see myself learning from others all the time the last thing I would want is to list set ‘questions’ that I am bound by and can’t change in response to feedback and new insights. The worldview concept of pragmatism fits in here – doing what works best. As I’ve already mentioned the social constructivist worldview I was happy to read that it is not uncommon to use more than one, as long as they work together.

So just a few concepts/terms covered in one post – think that’s enough for today.

Creswell, J. W. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Ellingson, L. L. (2011) Analysis and Representation Across the Continuum. In: Denzin, N.K. And Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds) (2011) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 595-610

Do you think you empathise with the perspectives above or are you more to the right of the continuum?

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Posted on April 18, 2013, in April A-Z Challenge, PhD and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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