Differences Between Ontological And Epistemological Presuppositions

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Different epistemologies?

So far it seems that there are differences in questions the two research methods answer. It is necessary now to consider whether they imply different epistemologies, as this is often argued to be the case. For example, Schwartz-Shea and Yanow (2002: 480) claim that while qualitative-quantitative dichotomy is erroneous because both count and interpret, they do so with different understandings of what this means for their study and knowledge, and that “The more appropriate taxonomy today would be one that reflects differences in ontological and epistemological presuppositions”. For Yilmaz (2013: 312), quantitative research strictly has an objectivist epistemology and qualitative research a constructivist one.
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First, ethnographies emphasise the point of view of the actor. However, as Becker (1996: 57-8) argues, this a technical rather than an epistemological point. All researchers need to interpret actions and guess meanings. What separates quantitative questionnaires and ethnography is only that ethnographers demand more accuracy in interpretation. But as Becker (1996: 59) notes, ‘”don’t make up what you could find out” hardly requires being dignified as an epistemological or philosophical position’. Second, as Bryman (1984) discusses, it is sometimes argued based on epistemologies that one research method is better than another because it revealed something that another one did not when asking the same questions. Yet there is no logic here in knowing which result is correct, and even if there was, the question being the same, we can only conclude that the research method suited the question better. Third, it is also argued that the epistemologies differ because qualitative research is exploratory and quantitative verify these explorations. This, however, in fact suggests same epistemological assumptions, because then to actually know anything that qualitative research suggests, quantitative verification is needed.

Thus, to re-emphasise, this essay argues with Martin Trow (1957: 33) that “different kinds of information about man and society are gathered most fully and economically in
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