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Epistemology is a �general set of assumptions about the best ways of inquiring into the nature of the
world� (Easterby-Smith, et al., 2012, p.17). Epistemology addresses questions such as:
� What is knowledge?
� How is knowledge acquired?
� How do we know what we know?
� Is it possible to have knowledge at all?
In research, an epistemological stance will influence how you choose a research topic as well as the
methodology and methods you use. Review the resources this week to explore the role of epistemology
in research.

Ways in Which the Choice of an Epistemological Perspective or Stance Influence the

Formulation of a Management Research Problem


Epistemology principles play a critical role in formulation and improvement of
management research at different levels of research activities (Joullié, 2016). Each of the
different layers of epistemology arrangements is distinct in the way it engages with management
and carrying out management research. Numerous studies have been carried out to understand
how the choice of epistemology affects the outcome of management research with one of the
effects being the provision of primary methods of knowledge formation as it relates to research.
Thus, Epistemology assists researchers to understand, present, and judge management activities.
According to Umesh (2014), management research involves planning, acquisition,
analysis, and dissemination of information to organizational stakeholders so that they are able to
make worthwhile decisions and improve the productivity of an organization. Moreover,
management research not only focuses on the attainment of knowledge, but how this knowledge
is acquired. On the other hand, epistemology is a philosophical branch that deals encompass
knowledge attained from nature thus providing a foundation in which knowledge can be sought
through problem formulation (Kipping & Üsdiken, 2014). To better carry out management
research, epistemology provides the ground in which managers formulate problems and come up
with answers pertaining to the worldly beliefs of the organization or industry.
Epistemological choices impact the process by which managers formulate what is
perceived as world knowledge (Becker 2012). Assumptions on what we know impacts
experiences as either true or false, what true and false means, and if at all we perceive true and
false to be viable. Thus, choosing an epistemological choice in formulating a research problem
shows that researchers do not only accept common beliefs but assess the source of knowledge
since human beings are normally led by what they believe in rather than what they know. The
choice directs the way the research is going to be undertaken and the methodology applicable to

the research problem. Instead of focusing on beliefs, management researchers are able to
evaluate all inputs related to the research problem when there is a consideration of epistemology
perspective (Baskerville, Kaul, & Storey, 2015).
Another way that epistemological choice influence research problem is in the approval of
knowledge claims that validate the content of the problem. For instance, if something is factual,
it has to be analyzed in the epistemological foundation so that it can be approved and
implemented. If a certain variable is required in carrying out research or defining the research
problem, for instance, determination of skills required for competent managers, epistemology
comes into view since values and assumptions are used to construct the social realities. The
constructed social realities will then cause action with regards to answering the research problem
(Radaeli et al. 2015).
One choice related to epistemology perspective that influences management research
problem is the interpretive approach. In this approach, the social environment has its distinctive
view of the world (Glaub et al. 2015). However, the world view may not necessarily influence
research problem. Instead of applying the perceived knowledge, managers can use the
stakeholders that influence the stated problem to carry out their research. In this instance, it is
only through action that a research problem can be formulated since what is known and what it
deemed to be true or false might not necessarily be the origin of the problem faced by an
organization or an institution (Shepherd & Challenger, 2013). Thus, it is impeccable for
management researchers to understand both the internal and external environment of the
organization instead of applying the world views and beliefs to formulate a research problem.
Management research encompasses both theory and practice. Though it’s possible for the
researchers to be found at different points in the research, it is not possible for them to be in

either the practical part or the theoretical section. In the practice segment, the managers can
experience epistemic shifts that are brought about by finances or organizational politics.
Likewise, in the theoretical section, the researchers will be influenced by outcomes of other
researches or academic knowledge. Thus, epistemology enables managers to formulate research
problem by considering the ‘know what’ and ‘know how’ (Umesh, Raut & Nitin, 2014). The
research problem will, therefore, be based on a qualitative concept by looking for proved facts in
the books or articles and subjecting the problem to the organizational variables rather than using
the philosophical viewpoints.
In carrying out research, managers cannot just assume philosophy and disconnect from
the epistemological commitments if they were to do the research objectively (Morell &
Learmonth, 2015). The choice of epistemological perspective is necessary to be successful in
management research. It is important for management researcher to engage with all the
stakeholders of an organization in the formulation of management research problem so that the
outcome will be viable and bring positive results to all the functions of the organization. Instead
of the managers basing the problem on only their known facts or world view points,
understanding knowledge from the view point of epistemology should be utilized. Understanding
the problem as known by the society and interpreting information by involving all stakeholders is
what leads to successful research and provision of information needed to make wise decisions.
Thus, the choice of epistemological perspective is crucial in formulating a research problem and
if managers understood all concepts beforehand, the research problem would generate the
required results.


Baskerville, R, Kaul, M, & Storey, V 2015, ‘Genres Of Inquiry In Design-Science Research:
Justification And Evaluation Of Knowledge Production’, MIS Quarterly, 39, 3, pp. 541-
A9, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 31 May 2016.
Becker, J., & Niehaves, B. 2012. ‘Epistemological perspectives on IS research: a framework for
analyzing and systematizing epistemological assumptions’, Information Systems Journal,
17(2), 197-214.
Dasgupta, M. 2015. ‘Exploring the Relevance of Case Study Research’, Vision (09722629),
19(2), 147-160.
Glaub, M, Frese, M, Fischer, S, & Hoppe, M 2015, ‘Increasing Personal Initiative in Small
Business Managers or Owners Leads to Entrepreneurial Success: A Theory-Based
Controlled Randomized Field Intervention for Evidence-Based Management’, Academy
Of Management Learning & Education, 2015, 1, pp. 21-46, Business Source Complete,
EBSCOhost, viewed 31 May 2016.
Joullié, J. 2016. ‘The Philosophical Foundations of Management Thought’, Academy Of
Management Learning & Education, 15(1), 157-179.
Kipping, M., & Üsdiken, B. 2014. ‘History in Organization and Management Theory: More Than
Meets the Eye’, Academy Of Management Annals, 8(1), 535-588.

Morrell, K., & Learmonth, M. 2015. ‘Against Evidence-Based Management, for Management
Learning’, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 14(4), 520-533.

Radaelli, G., Guerci, M., Cirella, S., & Shani, A. 2014. ‘Intervention Research as Management
Research in Practice: Learning from a Case in the Fashion Design Industry’, British
Journal of Management, 25(2), 335-351.

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