There are certain styles of thinking and methods to follow when doing research. They are called ‘Paradigms’. Here are various ways people explain them:
Newby describes paradigms as ways of thinking about a subject and proceeding with research which are accepted by the people who work in that area. Both purpose and process should be widely agreed within a discipline or a part of a discipline, and the research results should change or enlighten the professionals or researchers about their understanding of the world more effectively.
Cohen, Manion and Morrison define a paradigm as a method of investigating or examining a view or phenomena that is an established model or pattern (Kuhn). They claim that it takes the form a collective belief system or principles; it marks the identity of a research community, it is a way of pursuing knowledge or reaching a consensus.
Therefore, ‘Paradigm’ is a way of thinking and exploring about phenomena. There are distinct types of paradigms and they are ‘Positivist’ and ‘Anti-positivist’ paradigms.
The philosophical doctrine of positivism became known in the 19th century with the progress of science and technology. Being a social movement, it intended to employ technological and scientific achievements in order to elevate the welfare of mankind (Schön)
The French philosopher Auguste Comte was the first thinker to use the word for a philosophical position (Beck). He gave rise to sociology as a distinct discipline. Observation and reason as means of understanding behaviour form Comte’s positivism. He explained behaviour through scientific description. Comte believed that social phenomena can be researched with the ways of physical phenomena. This research can generate rules, theories and laws. His belief led to a general doctrine of positivism. He also believed that all genuine knowledge is based on sense experience, which can only be advanced by means of observation and experiment. The philosophers use positivism as a residual meaning of always present and it results from an acceptance of natural science.
In positivist paradigm, research approach is quantitative, over a period of time, variable related, based on scientific experiments, almost identical and applied retrospectively. For example; the research of Smith, Mahdavi, Carvalho, Fisher, Russell and Tippett from Goldsmith University of London which is called ‘Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils’ employed the quantitative approach in positivist paradigm by using surveys, previous data, experiments and hypothesis testing.
The biggest criticism to positivist approach is that it undermines life and mind (Cohen, Manion, Morrison).
‘The precise target of the anti-positivists’ attack has been science’s mechanistic and reductionist view of nature which, by definition, defines life in measurable terms rather than inner experience, and excludes notions of choice, freedom, individuality and moral responsibility, regarding the universe as a living organism rather than as a machine (e.g. Nesfield-Cookson,)
In the research, we can see some examples of this criticism as they did not interview the students face to face and they did not consider the emotions of these students who may have been going through a really difficult phase because of the different kinds of bullying. They targeted too many students at once. The conclusion was open-ended and there was not a lot of clarity about what to do next.
Pollard declares that ‘Interpretive research’ is research which aims to inform judgement as a basis for improvement. Its characteristic methods are flexible designs, involving detailed, holistic case studies and emphatic gathering of qualitative data.
The forms of knowledge for interpretive research are subjectivist, describing cases and developing understanding. Interpretive researches presume that the prime responsibility of the teachers is to describe and analyse social processes. Their involvement in the change of these processes is considered to be of little significance.
One example of interpretive research is demonstrated by Troyna & Hatcher. Its name is Racism in Children's Lives. (A study of mainly white primary schools). On page 19, they explain that in their investigation they used a quantitative research based method, known as sociometry, to try to establish how far ethnicity informs the formation and structure of school based friendship groupings (Pollard).