Paradigms of Research – Positivism and Interpretivism

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Paradigms of Research - Positivism and Interpretivism

Paradigms of research 

A paradigm is a particular way of viewing the world, a framework of assumptions that reflect a shared set of philosophic benefits about the world that places guidelines and principles on how research should be conducted. The two major paradigms are the positivist paradigm commonly known as positivism and the interpretivism or constructivist paradigm commonly known as interpretivism. 

The scientific quantitative and the qualitative research method are used while conducting business and management research. The scientific quantitative research method reflects to positivist paradigm and the qualitative research method reflects the interpretivist paradigm. 


Positivists believe that social scientist can and should use the same methods and approaches to study the social world as “natural” sciences such as biology and physics to investigate the physical world. The approach of research would be much more quantitative. 

We live in the context of a worldview, which influences our thinking and behavior and way of organizing our lives. But worldviews often go unnoticed, and we often fail to realise that the assumptions we carry about research are related to a particular worldview or mental model. It means the research conducted considering to the natural setting rather than perception and interpretation of the people is known as positivism. Positivism paradigm interprets only phenomena which we know through our senses like smell, light, happening, tasks, etc. positivism is associated with quantitative research. It involves hypothesis testing to generate new theory. It is also used to predict what may happen in the future. Researchers primarily rely on quantitative data to follow positivists approach. The main elements of the positivist paradigm include 

  • A positivism research is more objective rather than subjective statement. 
  • Value free contexts. 
  • The use of precise and objective measures usually associated with quantitative data. 
  • Researcher remains separate from the subjects. 
  • It believes in testing and experimenting to prove or disprove hypothesis. 
  • It helps to create new theory by putting facts together to generate laws or principles. 
  • Methods includes experimental studies, re-analysis of secondary data, structured questionnaires and structured interviews. 
  • The implication of scientific research method with inductive reasoning. 


This approach of research is common in social sciences and business management. Interpretivism is associated with qualitative research. It is used to obtain an understanding of an individual perspective. Interpretivists believe that people make own choices and is not connected to laws of science or nature. Research tends to be undertaken to be greater detail and looked at culture and how people live their lives, unlike positivist’s who tend to look at the general overview, therefore has high validity because it is a true representation. And is trustworthy. Interpretivists use interview and observation methods for research. Interpretive proposes that there are multiple realities, not only realities of phenomena, and these realities can differ across time and place. An interpretivist research aims to see the world through the eyes of people being studied, allowing them to put multiple perspectives of reality. The main elements of the interpretivist paradigm are: 

  • A subjective world where people experience physical and social reality in different ways. 
  • A socially constructed reality with subjective evaluation and meaningfulness of experience for the individual. 
  • Researchers becomes fully involved with individual subjects. 
  • Explicit values. 
  • Flexible research process which flows from the materials provided by participations. 
  • Methods include ethnography, participant observation, focus groups decision, depth interview and generally inductive reasoning is used. 

Difference Between Positivism and Interpretivism

The key differences between two paradigms of research are listed below:

Positivism Interpretivism
As per positivism, knowledge develops by investigating the social reality through observing the facts. As per interpretivism, social world cannot be understood by applying research principles adopted.
Social world exists externally and is viewed objectively. Social world is viewed subjectively.
Research is value free. Research is driven by interest.

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