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Constructivism Paradigm in Social Science Research

Constructivism is an approach to conducting the research just like positivism. This approach is one of the most misunderstood because of its unconventional approach to using a confirm methodology. Constructivism is based on the belief that human behavior and their actions are based on the relative experiences they have of the society and how they perceive it. Constructivists believe that human beings construct their realities from their surroundings rather than accepting the single reality that positivists believe in. The researcher in constructivism does not believe in generalizing the findings and apply the cause and effect model on human behavior. The researcher studies the uniqueness of every human being, this uniqueness is defined by his family, work environment, friends and the overall culture. It also means that the researcher begins the research with some prerequisite knowledge and keeps in mind that every next step in his/her research can bring into light something new about human behavior that he has never explored before.

In short, constructivism and interpretivism are the two names for qualitative research in social sciences. The aim of this kind of research is to construct realities by studying distinct human behavior and interpret the realities subjective to every human being under study.

Definition

Interpretivism is a research paradigm that is based on the study and interpretation of the elements of human behavior and actions. It is based on constructing realities from studying human beliefs, actions, and behavior.Interpretivists and constructivists believe that social realities can be multiple and they regard human differences.

Interpretivism in Social Science

In social sciences, the concept of constructivism emerged from the work of carl max in the nineteenth century. It should be noted that social sciences itself emerged in the 19th and 20th century as opposed to the pure sciences. Several fields of social sciences like international relations, psychology, sociology, and anthropology emerged later in nineteenth and early twentieth century. Karl Max could not establish a definitive approach for social science research but he led the path for later scientists. In the late nineteenth century and in early twentieth century several scientists believed that social science is abstract as opposed to our natural world and it cannot be studied using objective realities. They opposed the study of social science with the scientific method of analysis.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, some German scientists led the way to a different approach to research that was called as interpretivism. The work of Weber in the early twentieth century pointed towards the importance of the subjective study of human behavior, he emphasized that human behavior should be studied by understanding human actions.

Methodologies in Interpretivism

Interpretivists emphasize on the study of distinct human behavior in the distinct situations from where they belong, this belief rejects the use of pre-proposed methodologies in research. This sometimes causes a debate about the validity and reliability of the research done using subjective methods. The qualitative methods of research focus on studying human behavior through observations,  interviews, and questionnaires. The reliability of any method can be enhanced by using both qualitative and quantitative method in the social science research. A mixed-method approach can improve the reliability and validity but its use is still under debate. Some social scientists prefer this type of methodology but other oppose it and do not consider it to be suitable for social science research. While using qualitative approach and methodology the researcher has to be very clear about the biases that can be introduced and how to avoid them to the minimum.

References

  1. Chowdhury, M. F. Interpretivism in Aiding Our Understanding of the Contemporary Social World, Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 432-438. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpp.2014.43047, 2014
  2. Porta, D. D. and Keating, M. Approaches and Methodologies in Social Sciences, Cambridge University Press, 2008
  3. Weber, M. The Nature of Social Action in Runciman, W.G. ‘Weber: Selections in Translation’ Cambridge University Press, 1991. p7.

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