Research Terminology: Definitions and Distinctions
As you begin your research process, you will come across new terms and concepts that seem unique to
research�in fact, they may seem like another language. When learning a new language, reference
materials, such as a dictionary or grammar book, are always important to have close at hand. The
Walden Library provides a helpful reference tool called The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science
Research Methods to guide you through the language acquisition of research terminology and concepts.
(While encyclopedias are useful in certain instances such as this, it is important to remember that citing
them in your coursework, KAMs, dissertations, or thesis is not appropriate.) In this Discussion, you will
use this resource, along with your text and video segments, to work with the philosophies of science and
RESEARCH TERMINOLOGY 2
The terms philosophy of science, paradigm, epistemology, and ontology are used to
describe the different guidelines used in scientific research. It is subjective to understand what
knowledge is and how to discover it. It is necessary for a person conducting research to
understand the underlying assumptions, relation to the methodology used as well as to the
research findings. It will help the researcher or reader to understand and improve their
comprehension of the research, application of the theory and engagement of any academic
related debate (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2013).
Definition of terms
A paradigm is a model or an established way of doing things. It consists of epistemology,
ontology and methodology and how they relate to each other. Epistemology is the theory of
knowledge. It deals with the nature and the different forms of knowledge and how it can be
created, acquired and communicated (Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao, 2013).
Ontology is mainly concerned with what is the reality of things and what nature is all
about. It helps the researcher to have a perception of how things are and how they work.
Philosophy of science is the branch of science that deals with exploration and understanding of
the nature of science. It examines ontology and epidemiology, their basis and how they help in
expanding a researcher’s knowledge and the implications of research findings (Patton, 2008).
Importance to a Researcher
The following terms are important to the researcher as they contribute to his perspective,
standpoint, theories and beliefs. It guides the researcher to form a framework that builds his
research and communication (Creswell, 2009). They further help a researcher to understand and
grasp the concept of other researchers and their perspective.
RESEARCH TERMINOLOGY 3
Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches
(3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Lewis-Beck, M., Bryman, A., & Liao, T. F. (2013). Encyclopedia of Social Science Research
Patton, M. Q. (2008). Research Design: A Framework of Design. Sage.