RES 701, Week 2, Ontology & Epistemology

Research Philosophy

It is essential to have some philosophy while we are doing research on a topic or field. Everyone will have their own philosophy towards the research analysis. Hence Research Philosophy can be defined as dealing with the source, nature and development of knowledge on which we focus to research. It can be simply abbreviated as the way of which data should be collected, analyzed and used. In-order to answer the research question you need to collect the available primary and secondary data and should analyze it so that the question will be answered. This analysis and result will result to the makeup of new knowledge in the desired field. You should be aware and should be able to come with your beliefs and assumptions which helps the research work. Assumptions which we have, and the nature of research questions is the base of each stages in the research process. Hence it is very important that the assumptions we have should be very related to the question which we need to answer.

Ontology

Ontology can be defined as the study of ‘being’ and is concerned with ‘what is’. Simply it focuses on several inter-related questions such as

  1. What is existence?
  2. What is the nature of existence?
  3. What categories they belong?
  4. Does objective reality exist?
  5. What does the verb ‘to be’ mean?

Some of these are not relevant, abstract and not very useful but, very important to philosophers who believes that to solve a question it is necessary to discuss/start with the most fundamental issues. Derived from the Greek word ‘ontos’ which means being and ‘logos’ which means study, Ontology tries to describe the nature of being existence and their difference and similarities.

In Information Technology (IT), Ontology refers to the working model of entities and interactions in some domain of knowledge. Example: ‘the activity of planning’. At same time in Artificial Intelligence (AI) it can be defined as ‘the specification of conceptualizations, used to help programs and humans share knowledge’ (Tom Gruber, AI scientist, Stanford university).

Since Ontology helps to understand and work on all these questions, for a research it is quite relevant. As it is said above, in IT ontology helps to find out what are all the entities needed to connect and how their interactions can be made in-order to achieve a working system. Hence it is necessary to have all these types of questions to understand what we going to do? or on what research questions we are working on?

Epistemology

We should realize among different ways of learning research, Epistemology is the prominent one. The branch of philosophy which deals ‘knowing’ is called Epistemology. Simply Epistemology can be defined as the study of knowledge. It is very important since it influences how researches formulate their research in accordance with their ways to discover knowledge. It concerns with all the aspects of validity, scope and methods of acquiring knowledge. It may include

  1. What constitutes a knowledge claim?
  2. How the knowledge can be acquired?
  3. How much extent its transferability can be accessed?

Epistemology in business is concerned with the possibilities, source, limitations and nature of knowledge which depends on the area where the research involves. Epistemologists are those who deal this and at least four different sources of knowledge can be recognized by them. Research often tries to use of all four.

  1. Intuitive – coming up with an initial idea for research
  2. Authoritative – reviewing professional literature
  3. Logical – reasoning from findings to conclusions
  4. Empirical – engaging certain procedure which lead to findings

The above all 4 are used carefully and most importantly in research and thus the need of epistemology in the research is much important than any other. Like in research we must initiate a topic/idea for the research. Then only remaining 3 steps can be successfully completed. It is must in order to determine whether the idea we need to research is true or can be applied and if not, what are all the limitations or critical points which makes it non applicable. Hence while research the role of epistemology is inevitable.

Since Ontology helps to understand and work on all these questions, for a research it is quite relevant. As it is said above, in IT ontology helps to find out what are all the entities needed to connect and how their interactions can be made in-order to achieve a working system. Hence it is necessary to have all these types of questions to understand what we going to do? or on what research questions we are working on?

What is the connection between ontology and epistemology in a research context?

Ontology and Epistemology play very significant parts in philosophy since both terms are relevant to the discussion of theoretical issues. In-order to explain the connection between Ontology and Epistemology I would like to use the term reality.

Ontology refers to What is reality? and Epistemology refers what and how can I know reality? From this itself the connection between these two are cleared. First, we should have the idea of what is reality? then only we could think of what to know in-order to achieve that reality or how to know that reality?

References :-

  1. Bajpai, N. (2011) “Business Research Methods” Pearson Education India
  2. Demystifying Ontology and Epistemology in research methods, Hashil Al-Saadi, PhD Research Student, School of Education University of Sheffield
  3. https://philosophyterms.com/ontology/
  4. http://salmapatel.co.uk/academia/the-research-paradigm-methodology-epistemology-and-ontology-explained-in-simple-language/#sidr-main
  5. https://i2insights.org/2017/05/02/philosophy-for-interdisciplinarity/
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