The term research philosophy refers to a system of beliefs and assumptions about the development of knowledge. In layman’s terms, a research philosophy is the choice a researcher makes on how to pursue his research, consciously or subconsciously. Scholars have identified five of the most prominent research philosophies in academia, however, choosing one is a matter of debate.
Critical RealismShow moreShow less
Supporters of critical realism claim that reality is much more than our senses allow us to see, preferring to focus on the bigger picture.
Critical realism is a research philosophy which acknowledges the inherent bias in human observations of the world. This realisation that all humans are biased is used to create greater objectivity in research.
Critical realists believe that there is a 'real world' which exists independent of the human view because the human view will always be subjective, or biased. "[O]ur understanding of this world is inevitably a construction from our own perspectives and standpoint."
Critical realism acknowledges the struggle to achieve objectivity in research. This philosophy of research is especially useful for achieving objectivity because the researcher understands their bias. They will research the topic from various perspectives in order to get a more well-rounded view of the field. This allows researchers to gain a broad view of the field without being burdened by their own preconceptions and biases, leading to the development of more credible theories and arguments.
Critical realism argues that the world is divided into what is real and what is observable. The real-world lies beyond what humans can observe because what we see is always an interpretation of what is real. To acknowledge this distinction allows the researcher to acknowledge their bias and work around it. They know to look for multiple perspectives which will shed light on all sides of the topic to create a more objective analysis.
Critics argue that the objectivity that critical realism aims to offer is overstated. Critical realism exaggerates when it claims that it is impossible for humans to view reality objectively. Opponents of critical realism argue that there are many "empirically observable relatively enduring regularities in the social world." They point out that it would be impossible for humans to navigate the world if they were completely unable to view objective reality.
[P1] Humans are inherently biased.
[P2] There is no objective view of the world.
[P3] Critical realism acknowledges human subjectivity.
[P4] Critical realism uses multiple subjectivity perspectives to develop greater objectivity in research.