ROUTE #1: Getting Started
ROUTE #1: Chapter-by-Chapter


Research paradigm

In our experience, understanding and setting the research paradigm is without doubt the most confusing part of the dissertation process for students. It is easy to switch off when people talk to you about the philosophy of research, when they start to use words like epistemology and ontology, positivism, post-positivism, critical theory or constructivism, or ask you questions like: What is your view of the nature of reality? We sympathise!

Broadly speaking, research paradigms (e.g., positivism, post-positivism, critical theory, constructivism, etc.) are ways of explaining the basic set of beliefs that you have (i.e., at a philosophical level) and how these influence the way you do research (i.e., the practical aspects of doing a dissertation). We all have these basic sets of beliefs, but you may not know what they are or what to call them. Whilst they can be very abstract and complicated to understand, we have tried to make these as straightforward as possible in the Research Paradigms section of the Fundamentals part of Lærd Dissertation.

Your dissertation guidelines may not mention the need to discuss research paradigms or research philosophies; and in some cases, your supervisor may have explicitly told you not to include them. If this is the case, move onto STEP TWO: Research design. However, since most students have to produce a Research Paradigm section within their Research Strategy chapter (usually Chapter Three: Research Strategy), even if their dissertation guidelines do not mention such things, it is still worth checking with your supervisor whether this is a requirement. If you leave it out at the start, but are later told it needs to be included, it can be much more difficult to incorporate at a later date. This is because when applied properly to your research, it is so instrumental in shaping the choices you make when setting your research strategy, as well as affecting the conclusions that you make based on your findings (something that we discuss in Chapter Five: Discussion/Conclusions within the Route #1: Chapter-by-Chapter part of Lærd Dissertation).

Since you are taking on a Route #1: Replication-based dissertation, you will ideally need to understand the research paradigm that underpins your main journal article so that you can compare this with your chosen research paradigm. Unfortunately, journal articles rarely state the research paradigm that underpinned their research, usually because journals do not require such information to be included, or because many academics will either not think about such things or they will be implicit in the way that the research was carried out or written up. Since understanding the principals and characteristics of research paradigms can be a difficult process in and of itself, especially at the undergraduate and master's level where you're limited in the time you'll have to look into such things, this makes it very tricky to recognize the characteristics of different research paradigms in the main journal article you are interested in. As a result, assuming that including a Research Paradigm section within your Research Strategy chapter is a must, this leaves you with two choices:

By the end of STEP ONE: Research paradigm, you should be able to state, describe and justify the research paradigm underpinning your dissertation (i.e., typically a positivist or post-positivist research paradigm), and if using a philosophical justification for your choice of route, and approach within that route, explain your philosophical justification.

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