RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
This chapter looks at the methodology and sampling employed for the study and at the researcher’s epistemological stands. Methodological principles in the social sciences ensure that we are able to defend our findings, and are those guidelines that researchers agree on, that they rely on to give us acceptable research practices. Methodological principles further enable researchers to attain knowledge by providing the researchers with necessary techniques or tools.
EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE STUDY
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature of knowledge and truth – with what and how we know and the limits of human understanding. It comes from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (theory). Epistemologists explore questions such as the following: What is knowledge? What does it mean for someone to “know” something? How much can we possibly know? What is the difference between belief and knowledge, between knowledge and opinion, between knowledge and faith? How do we know that 2 + 2= 4 or that the square root of 49 is 7? Says who, or what? Is there an ultimate ground of knowledge, a world of absolutes? Do we know something from reason or from direct observation, or from a little both? But no one can “observe” 2 + 2 = 4, so how do we know that the statement (or formula) is true? What is truth? Is truth absolute or relative? What is the relationship between the observer and the observed, the knower and the known? Is there an external world which we can make meaningful statements 42
about and know? Is an object of knowledge a construction of mind? Is the world my idea of it, as Schopenhauer would say, or does it exist independently of all observers? These are just some of the problems that epistemologists address.
Over and above, Epistemology − as a branch of philosophy that studies knowledge − furthermore attempts to answer the basic question: What distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this question translates into issues of scientific methodology: How can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories? It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition, which developed from the information processing approach to psychology, and from artificial intelligence, as an attempt to develop computer programs that mimic a human’s capacity to use knowledge in an intelligent way. When we look at the history of epistemology, we can discern a clear trend in spite of the confusion of many seemingly contradictory positions. The first theories of knowledge stressed its absolute permanent character, whereas the later theories put the emphasis on its relativity or situation-dependence, its continuous development or evolution, and its active interference with the world and its subjects and objects. The whole trend moves from a static, passive view of knowledge towards a more and more adaptive and active one. http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/epistemology.htm
In Plato’s view knowledge is merely an awareness of absolute, universal ideas or forms, existing independent of any subject trying to apprehend to them. Though Aristotle puts more emphasis on logical and empirical methods for gathering knowledge, he still accepts the view that such knowledge is an apprehension
Renaissance, two main epistemological positions dominated philosophy: empiricism, which sees knowledge as the product of sensory perception, and rationalism which sees it as the product of rational reflection. 43
The implementation of empiricism in the newly developed experimental sciences has led to a view of knowledge which is still explicitly or implicitly held by many people nowadays: the reflection-correspondence theory. According to this view knowledge results from...