A researcher's dilemma- philosphical and methodological pluralism

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Knox, KT (2004)
  • Publisher: Management Centre International Ltd

In many research textbooks the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is inadvertently linked with philosophical perspectives. This in essence creates a mutually exclusive relationship between method and philosophy. Initially researchers are led to believe, from these textbooks, that research is neatly divided into mutually exclusive categories, these being quantitative and qualitative research and ‘never the twain shall meet’. This divide is further strengthened with the inference that the relationship extends further; associating deduction with quantitative methods and similarly induction with qualitative methods. What happens in most texts is that qualitative research methods and quantitative research methods are set against each other as polar opposites (Crotty 1998, p19). This paper argues that methodological pluralism is acceptable but what is not acceptable is philosophical pluralism. By naively linking methods and approaches to specific philosophy researchers and students may miss out on potentially innovative or creative data collection methods. Alternatively and more importantly by feeling tied or constrained by their philosophical stance to particular methods and approaches, associated with them by textbooks, they may in fact reduce the credibility, validity, and or significance of the research. There maybe an elective affinity between certain philosophies and methods but this should not necessarily constrain the methods chosen.
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