In the previous post, I briefly explained ontology, which can be understood as ‘what exists in the world’ or ‘the reality’ – the source of knowledge. What about epistemology?
Epistemology is how we see knowledge. In other words, it is the study of knowledge. Different from ontology which reflects how researchers perceive the reality, epistemology is about how knowledge (which is obtained from the reality – from what exists in the world) is constructed. Let me write it again. It is about how knowledge is constructed. This affects the way researchers see a research object (or objects)
Objectivist epistemology assumes that the meaning of an object (research object) exists within the object. That’s why it’s called objective 🙂 Researchers with this epistemological position believe that a research object has an objective meaning. On the other hand, constructionist epistemology assumes that the meaning of an object derives from the interaction between the object and the subject/researcher. Imagine this, the meaning of a book emerges from the interaction between the book (the object) and the researcher/reader (the subject). Different researchers/readers might experience different interactions, and the different/various meanings from such interactions contribute to the reality or the knowledge – to what we know about a research object.
Subjectivist epistemology is the opposite pole of objectivist epistemology. Researchers with this stance believe that the meaning of an object come from -or- is given by the researchers, not from the object. An apple is an apple because I call it an apple, because I give meaning to it.
What we believe about the meaning of a research object frames/guides the way we conduct research. Therefore, epistemology becomes the foundation of our methodology.