Embarking on research in the social sciences: understanding the foundational concepts

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Written primarily for new or early-career researchers and postgraduate students, this paper problematises some of the foundational concepts any beginning researcher will come across when conducting research for the first time. Understanding the oft-confused, abstract, yet important notions of ontology, epistemology and paradigms can be a daunting obstacle in the experience of a new researcher, yet there are nearly no ways of sidelining these if we were to meaningfully plan, construct and execute our research. Through familiar examples, this article engages in discussing the research approach and design and how these are grounded in the ways a researcher thinks about and understands the world - in other words, how their ontological and epistemological positions determine the methodological choices they make. As well as problematising these concepts, the article also compares the qualitative and quantitative approaches, and critically considers how, in some ways, qualitative studies can yield richer results in the social science disciplines, including in Education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-113
Number of pages15
JournalVNU Journal of Science: Foreign Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2019


  • Education research
  • Research methodology
  • Epistemology
  • Ontology
  • paradigm
  • Methods
  • Axiology
  • Theoretical
  • conceptual framework

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