Data Collection Methods: Positivist and Interpretative Research Designs

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Positivist and Interpretative Research Designs

  • Data collection methods can be broadly grouped into two categories: positivist and interpretive.

  • Positivist methods, such as laboratory experiments and survey research, are aimed at theory (or hypotheses) testing, while interpretive methods, such as action research and ethnography, are aimed at theory building.

  • Positivist methods employ a deductive approach to research, starting with a theory and testing theoretical postulates using empirical data. In contrast, interpretive methods employ an inductive approach that starts with data and tries to derive a theory about the phenomenon of interest from the observed data.

  • Positivist research uses predominantly quantitative data but can also use qualitative data. Interpretive research relies heavily on qualitative data, but can sometimes benefit from including quantitative data as well

  • Positivist designs seek generalized patterns based on an objective view of reality, while interpretive designs seek subjective interpretations of social phenomena from the perspectives of the subjects involved.

  • Examples of positivist designs include laboratory experiments, field experiments, field surveys, secondary data analysis, and case research while examples of interpretive designs include case research, phenomenology, and ethnography.

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