Question Alan Social Sciences

Research philosophy: positivism

What is the positivist approach to research?

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Answer Internal Staff

Positivism is a philosophical approach to conducting research. A widely accepted definition of positivism is presented here: The philosophical stance of entailing working with an observable social reality to produce law-like generalisations (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2016). This means that you, as a researcher, need to focus on data collection which adopts a scientific approach as you need to collect observable and measurable facts, with an objective approach being used throughout. You need to remain distanced from the data collection and not allow your own personal views to affect the data collection and analysis. A typical approach to data collection associated with positivism is a method that uses a deductive approach and is highly structured. Large samples are a common feature and the data collected should be quantitative data. A common technique used for collecting such quantitative data is a questionnaire.


Saunders, M., Lewis, P., and Thornhill, A. (2016). Research Methods for Business Students. 7th Edition. Harlow: Pearson.