What Is Positivism In Quantitative Research? A Detailed Guide

The positivism paradigm is a research philosophy researchers use in science, management and business fields. It allows a researcher to involve in systematic quantifiable research that yields high generalisability. Researchers can use positivism in quantitative research in experimental and correlational studies. But researchers are advised to learn its use, techniques and approaches before applying them in their research studies. Otherwise, they will suffer from theoretical incompetency that could affect the study’s validity and reliability.

What Is The Meaning Of Positivism In Research?

Positivism in research refers to getting factual knowledge accessed from observations and measurements. Also, the real-life or factual data should be trustworthy. In positivism research, the interference of the researcher is impartial during data collection and its interpretation. The research objectively interprets the data (free from any subjectivity). The objectivity concept entails that the researcher should distance itself from personal reflection (ideas, views, and opinions) in data collection and its interpretation. Hence, the researcher plays the “Objective Analyst” role in positivism research.

Positivism is most suitable in quantitative and observable research studies that intend to answer hypotheses in a study. Management, social science and business researchers apply positivism in doing academic research. Academicians can conduct a survey on consumer attitudes and preferences about a brand’s market offerings with its use. Besides, they can get respondents’ attitudes or opinions towards a certain phenomenon.

Research Approach

The deductive approach is most applicable in positivism research. In this approach, the researcher formulates research hypotheses at the start of the study. The researcher involves in data collection to affirm or reject these hypotheses. The aim is to test already built theory instead of generating a new one, as in the inductive approach. Hence, the researcher deduces theory in positivism research rather than building a theory.

Research method

The quantitative research method is most applicable in positivism research. The researcher gathers numeric or objective data to answer formulated research hypotheses. Getting a masters dissertation help in this regard can also be a good strategy.

Research strategy

For the primary quantitative research study, the questionnaire technique is most suitable. The researcher either adopts a questionnaire from prior research studies or develops a questionnaire according to the study’s objectives.

Time horizon

The time horizon is usually cross-sectional in positivism research. However, it can be longitudinal if researchers intend to identify differences in the data over time.

Data collection

The data collection takes place by distributing physically or online to the target population for the study.

Sampling

Researchers commonly use convenience and purposive sampling techniques in positivism paradigm research. They can opt for random and snowball sampling techniques as per the need of the study.

Sample Size

The positivism research comprises of large sample size. Using a large sample is effective, as it applies to a large population.

Data Analysis

The objective data is analysed by researchers from a statistical tool such as “Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS)”. The findings infer from SPSS help academicians affirm or reject hypotheses made in the study.

Ethical Considerations

During positivism in quantitative research, researchers should abide by ethical considerations. The researcher should get the informed consent of the respondents. They should not get the data by influencing them or by greed. The researcher should exhibit the purpose and significance of the study to the respondents. Also, he should communicate the respondents’ right to withdraw from the study. Confidentiality, as well as honesty, should be made by the researcher during data collection and analysis. The researcher should not indulge any bias during data interpretation. The respondents’ name, designation, and age or income should not be revealed in the study. Finally, researchers should also communicate the findings of the study to respondents.

What Is The Main Purpose Of Positivism?

Positivism involves the scientific study of the social world that could not be possible from subjective aspects. Its purpose is to formulate laws based on abstract and universal hypotheses. The formulation of the laws is made according to the operative dynamics of the social world. These laws denote possible associations between variables in the study. Positivism tests these laws through objective and systematic quantitative data. The notion of positivism philosophy exhibits that knowledge stems from human experiences. Human knowledge is discrete, observable and quantifiable. Researchers can evaluate these experiences from external reality by observing them without moving into details. The researcher operationalises the concepts and variables of the study to measure them quantitatively.

In simple words, positivism in research entails that human interest is impartial. The observer should be independent during data collection. It should not intervene within the study, such as influencing the opinion in respondents’ minds. If researchers emulate their research interests, the study will not be considered positivist.

What Is Positivism In Quantitative Research?

The positivist paradigm leads to an observable, scientific and systematic approach known as the quantitative method. The quantitative method quantifies and measures the extent of a phenomenon. This method is usually structured in which all the techniques are determined before data collection begins. Researchers can initiate positivism in quantitative research by using a confirmatory approach as follows;

Confirmatory approach

In this approach, researchers initiate with a theory to determine why it happens. To explore the theory, they develop hypotheses based on theoretical application. A researcher conducts an empirical investigation to affirm or reject the study’s hypotheses. If results affirm hypotheses, it is inferred to support a theory and vice versa. This approach is most applicable in a quantitative method where researchers support a theory based on hypotheses results.

Positivism in quantitative research refers to a research philosophy that guides how to gather data and conduct a quantitative study. It guides the researcher in doing an effective and comprehensive quantitative research study either from primary or secondary data collection. The researcher uses positivism in quantitative research by opting for the techniques as follows;

Experiment

Positivism in quantitative research works with an affirmative approach to testing hypotheses. To test hypotheses, the researcher can opt for an experimental research design. The researcher can experiment by controlling the variables. The experiments can further comprise three types field, laboratory and natural. The field experiment involves a naturalistic environment by controlling study variables. The laboratory experiment is an artificial environment where variables are controlled for exploration.

On the other hand, a natural environment is a purely natural environment where variables are naturally observed for study. Most students get frustrated when working on the experiments. They have an option to get a PhD dissertation to help to overcome issues.

Correlation

Researchers can opt for non-experimental techniques in using positivism in quantitative research. The non-experimental technique entails the use of a correlation research design. Researchers use it to identify cause and effect associations between variables under study.

Advantages Of Positivism Paradigm

The key advantages of positivism in quantitative research are as follows;

Refines a theory

Using controlled and quantifying techniques in the positivism paradigm, the researcher gets results to refine a theory.

Generalisability

As the researcher controls the variables, the results yielded are valid. These valid results enhance the generalisability and applicability of the study’s findings.

Large sample data

Positivism in quantitative research allows researchers to use large sample data. The use of large sample data is not possible in qualitative research. The reason is that it becomes difficult for the researcher to apply statistical techniques.

Limitations of the Positivism paradigm

Following are some of the limitations of positivism in quantitative research;

Trustworthy source

Positivism in quantitative research entails that human knowledge is factual and trustworthy. However, it fails to account for that cause, space and time in human knowledge that is not laid by experiences.

Impartial human behaviour

Positivism believes researchers should be impartial during data collection. The researcher should not interfere with or influence respondents and interpret finding without their involvement. However, this is not the same. The reason is that the researcher interferes in data collection and influences data interpretation.

Descriptive findings

The findings of positivism research are descriptive. These descriptive findings do not provide an in-depth and in-detailed analysis of the educational topic under study.

Inflexibility

Positivists scholars conduct data collection to believe that every phenomenon is measurable and observable. They observe and measure things in a way they are without in-depth analysis or becoming creative. For instance, if a theory states that A exerts indirect association with B and C, B and C can never be A. Hence, researchers do not explore creative and innovative ideas to solve a problem with this fixed approach.

Final thoughts

A positive paradigm is a systematic scientific approach in research suitable for quantitative research. Positivism in quantitative research allows a researcher to use large sample data by becoming impartial during data collection. However, this approach does not nurture creativity in any of the processes. Moreover, it provides descriptive findings without providing detailed insight into them—still, positivism in quantitative research assists in refining the theory and generalising the study’s findings.

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