What is Research Paradigm? Definition and Types [Explained]

What is Research Paradigm?

A research paradigm is a pattern of belief and practice upon which the research is based on. It is a model, pattern, or method of conducting research.

Research paradigms are important as they form a philosophical base for research projects. They help to make decisions regarding the selection of samples, information, and methods and provide a framework of assumptions to conduct research and get the findings.

Simply, a paradigm means a broad view or perspective on something. It is a pattern and belief that regulate inquiry within a discipline by providing frames and processes through which investigation is accomplished.

Types of Research Paradigm

The following are the major paradigms of research.


A researcher typically begins their inquiry by conducting an ontological study, which involves examining the nature of reality and developing a set of beliefs about what constitutes truth. This forms the foundation for subsequent epistemological and methodological investigations.

Essentially, ontology can be understood as the study of being or existence and is concerned with developing an individual’s understanding and interpretation of reality.

Ontology is often focused on whether social entities should be viewed as objective or subjective. This can be broken down into two key aspects: objectivism (or positivism) and subjectivism. Essentially, ontology is concerned with the fundamental question of how we understand the nature of social reality.

Objectivism is the belief that social entities have an existence that is independent of human perception or interpretation. This ontological position posits that social phenomena and their associated meanings exist objectively, regardless of the subjective views of those who observe or interact with them.

In other words, objectivism holds that social entities exist in a reality that is external to the social actors who are aware of them.

In contrast to objectivism, subjectivism suggests that social phenomena are not inherently real or objective, but are instead created through the perceptions and actions of those who are involved with them.

This ontological position holds that social phenomena and their associated meanings are constantly being constructed and re-constructed by social actors. Essentially, subjectivism asserts that social entities only exist insofar as they are perceived and interpreted by human beings.


Epistemology is concerned with the theory of knowledge, especially in regard to its methods, validation, and the possible ways to gaining of social reality whatever it is understood to be.

It focuses on the knowledge-gathering process and is concerned with the new knowledge and theories developing process.

The nature of knowledge and its acquisition is dynamic, and constantly evolving. Therefore, when examining theories and ideas, researchers must also critically consider the underlying assumptions that form their basis. The three epistemologies are given below.


Positivism is the research philosophy that is adopted from natural sciences. Its three basic principles are:

  • The social world exists externally and is viewed objectively.
  • Research is value-free.
  • Research is independent and takes the role of an objective analyst.

The positivist perspective suggests that knowledge is advanced by examining the social world through the observation of empirical evidence. This perspective has significant implications for both the interplay between theory and observation, and the methods utilized in conducting research.

Also Read: The Difference Between Basic and Applied Research


Interpretivists differ from positivists in their belief that the social world cannot be comprehensively understood through the application of research principles modeled after the natural sciences.

They argue that a distinct research philosophy is necessary for natural science. The followings are the basic principles of interpretivism.

  • The meaning of the social world is given by people subjectively.
  • The researcher is part of what he observes.
  • Research is driven by interest.

Interpretivists assert that the complexity of social phenomena cannot be fully comprehended by relying solely on basic fundamental laws.

Moreover, they contend that obtaining an objective observation of society is unfeasible due to the fact that the social world carries significance for individuals and is shaped by intentional behaviors and actions.


Realism is a research philosophy that incorporates elements from both positivism and interpretivism. Like positivism, realism acknowledges that social science can adopt the natural sciences’ empirical approach.

It also recognizes the existence of a reality that exists independently of human beliefs and behaviors. Realists, however, believe that there are social processes and forces that operate beyond human control and influence individuals’ beliefs and behaviors.


The methodology is the third research paradigm and it pertains to the fundamental principles that guide the investigation of the social world and the validation of the knowledge produced. It encompasses the processes of selecting a research design, data collection methods, and tools for analysis, as well as shaping the reporting of research findings.

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