Positivism and Post-Positivism Approach – Research Aptitude

In this article, we will discuss an important topic of research aptitude: Positivism and Post-Positivism Approach. It is the part of UGC NET Paper 1

Positivism argues for the existence of a true and objective reality that can be studied by applying the methods and principles of natural sciences and scientific inquiry. It maintains that “the object of study is independent of researchers; knowledge is discovered and verified through direct observations or measurements of phenomena; facts are established by taking apart a phenomenon to examine its component parts” (Krauss, 2005, p. 759). According to this paradigm, the role of the researcher is to provide material for the development of laws by testing theories (Bryman, 2008). Positivists believe in five principles which include phenomenalism (knowledge confirmed by the senses can be regarded as knowledge), deductivism (the purpose of theory is to generate hypotheses that can be tested to make laws), inductivism (the gathering of facts provides the basis for laws and knowledge), objectivism (science should be value-free) and scientific statements (Bryman, 2008).

Post positivism is considered a contemporary paradigm that developed as a result of the criticism of positivism. Like positivists, post positivists also believe in the existence of a single reality, however, they acknowledge that reality can never be fully known and efforts to understand reality are limited owing to the human beings’ sensory and intellectual limitations (Guba, 1990). The aim of post-positivist research is also a prediction and explanation. Like positivists, post positivists also strive to be objective, neutral, and ensure that the findings fit with the existing knowledge base. However, unlike positivists, they acknowledge and spell out any predispositions that may affect the objectivity (Doucet et al., 2010).

Positivism and post-positivism were precluded from use in this study for several reasons. Firstly, research conducted under both of these paradigms is usually quantitative where a hypothesis is tested while the researcher remains objective and separate from the area of investigation. However, as a researcher, I was embedded within the research area as I belong to the same population and thus may hold the same values and beliefs as research participants. I believe that this could be a source of bias within a post-positivist paradigm given that I could not be objective and detached from the substantive topic of the study and participants. Secondly, the focus of the research was to better understand the phenomenon of IPV in the Pakistani population. The purpose of the study was not to test a theory but to ascertain if a more complete picture of the phenomenon of IPV from the perspectives of participants could be developed. This required exploring the perceptions and perspectives of different people, all of whom may have a different version and perception of reality. Thirdly, both of these paradigms assume that experiences and perceptions can be reduced to objective measurements and that standardized questionnaires (such as the conflict tactic scale) should be used. However, if one believes that definitions and interpretations develop from experiences, observations, perceptions, and that experience and perceptions are subjective in nature, using standardized questionnaires and objective outcome measurements as a proxy of experiences and perceptions can only provide limited information. It cannot capture participants’ conceptualization of IPV or improve understanding of what IPV means to them. Finally, both of these paradigms believe in the existence of a reality independent of social, cultural, political, economical factors, and therefore assume that the questionnaire developed in one culture can be applied in another culture or setting without alterations. However, I believe that people’s perceptions and perspectives about a phenomenon are shaped and influenced by the familial, emotional, psychological, social, cultural, political, and economical dimensions of their surroundings and it is important to take in to account the above-mentioned factors and the context in which a certain phenomenon occurs. Owing to these reasons, positivism and post-positivism were considered unsuitable for the present study.

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