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Research Paradigm

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Research paradigm can be defined as a set of belief under which a research is based on. A paradigm is a set of basic belief that mainly deals with ultimate or with the first principles (Macdonald, Kirk, Metzler, Nigles, Schempp & Wright, 2002).  A research paradigm is therefore a worldview.  A paradigm is defined as a theory or hypothesis or a framework within which research theories can be developed and that will fundamentally influence how the researcher sees the world and shape the research understanding of how things are connected (Denzin, 1994). Therefore a paradigm gives a conceptual framework that is used to see and make sense of the social world. The importance of a research paradigm is that it helps to she who the research perceives the world (Macdonald et al., 2002; Henning, Rensburg & Smit, 2004). This means that a research paradigm will influence the way in which a research deigns the research, how data will be collected and analyzed, and how the research results will be presented and disseminated.  For a research, it is also important to understand that research paradigm helps them to identify their main role in research process.

There are many research paradigms that defines who the research sees the world. According to Macdonald et al., (2002) the three main research paradigms that have gained increased use in research include positivist, interpretivist, and critical research. These are the basic research paradigms that are used to guide research process.  Let us review each of these paradigms:

a) Positivist

Positivism paradigm is manly based on the philosophical ideas that were developed by French Philosopher August Comte (Macdonald et al., 2002). Positivism paradigm mainly emphasizes the need to use observation and reason as a way of understanding human behavior. This research looks at whether it is motivation or investment that motivates ESL, which means, it is dealing with human behavior.   According to positivism paradigm, true knowledge is mainly based on experience of sense and it can be obtained through observation and experimentation (Lather, 2006; Macdonald et al., 2002; Creswell, 2003).  However, this paradigm is criticized on the ground that it lacks regard for the subject states of individuals.  This paradigm mainly regards human behavior as passive, controlled and mainly determined by the environment. Critics of this paradigm argue that objectivity has to be replaced by subjectivity in the whole process of scientific inquiry. Due to this criticism, anti-positivism or naturalistic inquiry was developed. According to anti-positivism, social reality is viewed and interpreted by individuals according the ideological positions they have (Macdonald et al., 2002).  This means that knowledge is personally experienced rather than acquired. Anti-positivism is marked by three main schools of thought include phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and symbolicinteractionism (Lather, 2006; Macdonald et al., 2002). Phenomenology represents a theoretical view that argues that individual behavior is mainly determined by experience they have gained from their direct interaction with the phenomena and it mainly rules out any kind of objective external reality (Lather, 2006; Cohen, Lawrence & Morrison, 2000). On the other hand, ethnomethodology perspective argues that theoretical concerns are centered on the process by which common sense reality is mainly constructed in day to day face to face interaction (Lather, 2006). The perspective of symbolic interactionism emphasize on the understanding and interpretation that mainly takes place between human beings (Macdonald et al., 2002).  This approach argues that human beings interpret and define the action of other people instead of reacting to these actions. Human interaction is mediated by languages which gives meaning to objects (Lather, 2006).

b)  Interpretivism

According to Macdonald et al., (2002) interpretivism is the qualitative approach that refers to the way to gain insights through discovery of meanings by and by improving comprehension of the whole. According to interpretivism, there are multiple realities and not single realities of phenomena. It also argues that these realities are likely to differ with time and place (Lather, 2006; Macdonald et al., 2002). Interpretivism was developed from the notion that the subject matter that is investigated in natural science is different from that investigated by social science. Researchers acknowledge that both researchers and participants are likely to bring their own understanding and interpretation of research depending on their cultural assumptions. Interpretivism is also likely to use social collaborative process to bring about meaning and knowledge (Cohen et al., 2000). The case study methodology is especially suited for this approach. However, this approach is criticized on the ground that it does not allow for generalizations because it encourage study of only small number of cases  which may not apply to the whole population.

c) Critical research

This has its origin in critical theory that was attributed to Karl Marx, George Hegel and others who were aimed at bringing about change in the society (Macdonald et al., 2002; Cohen et al., 2000).  Critical research is therefore aimed at bringing change in the society through addressing inequality, in ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and others (Lather, 2006; Henning et al., 2004). Those in support of this paradigm argue that research is not value freed and the goal of research is to challenge interpretations and values to bring change. One of the most suitable methodologies to this paradigm is action research through interview, group discussions, and others that are likely to allow for collaboration (Cohen et al., 2000).

Which paradigm will be used in this study?

As was explored above, the traditional research paradigm is not suitable when dealing with human subjects. The traditional research paradigm is not appropriate when dealing with human subjects because the variables require manipulation and this can harm the human subjects. There are ethical and pragmatic reasons why there are variables in research that cannot be held constant or manipulated in an experiment. This study will mainly deal with human subjects.   This means that a different approach will have to be used and the research will have to use interpretivist research paradigm.   This will be like holding an in-depth interrogation of the subject to establish the trust like in a court of law rather than doing it experimentally. This research will be set in interpretivist paradigm in order to understand and how and why something mainly happens.

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