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Theories of Knowing

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GEOG 701 Research in Practice, 2017

'Ways of Knowing' Comparison

  1. Name: Allan Rarai
  1. Which 'way of knowing' from Week 2 do you select?

Positivism

Structuralism

  1. Which 'way of knowing' from Week 3 do you select?

Social constructionism

Humanism

  1. What are the typical features of research that uses the 'ways of knowing' that you have selected?

Positivism

It can be said that the philosophy of positivism dominates Science. Positivism believes in empiricism, where experiments such as observations and measurements are the core of scientific experiments, using theories to predict reality, which rely on quantitative data. Positivists believe that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations. For example, the properties of weather (humidity, air temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction) and how these properties are related (seasonal rainfall amount). Furthermore, there is a belief in the philosophy of positivism that the incorporation of new ideas may contradict old ideas, thus ideas tend to accumulate, allowing for knowledge to expand. Also, outcomes are separate or dissociated from personal and social status, and personal emotion is ignored.

Social Constructionism

The typical features of research that use these "ways of knowing" in Social Constructionism include the following: this way of knowing focuses more on social collectives or groups rather than on individualism, that is, the groups or communities are constructed based on their norms; what they are built on such as rules and ways of living, which pinpoint them within society thus making them what they are. For example, how responsibilities are distributed and channels of communication are constructed, where power or authority is organised; how traditions and cultures are constructed. This researched philosophy also reveals what has been constructed such as meanings being institutionalized and followed. Moreover, once knowledge has been constructed and used, it may be become resistant to change.

  1. What do you see as being the benefits associated with each of the 'ways of knowing' that you have selected?

Positivism

The benefits of positivism include knowledge building, that is, new ideas are built or continue to emerge from past knowledge errors or gaps. Also, results or outcomes are easily understood, visualised and compared to others. It does not involve perceptions, because it uses quantitative data to provide information that researchers use to make scientific assumptions. That is why it follows a well-defined structure during study and discussion.

Social Constructionism

The benefits associated with "Social Constructionism" are as follows: they reveal assumptions behind common sense, explain prevailing attitudes, and there is an understanding of key institutions and social transformation over time. For example, norms, values and rules constructed within different tiers of a society are transformed over a period of time and this way of knowing is well vested accordingly. Furthermore, it allows people to challenge assumptions and norms, and promotes knowledge sharing.

  1. What do you see as being the limitations associated with each of the 'ways of knowing' that you have selected?

Positivism

There are many limitations to this way of knowing. It focuses on the "How" rather than the "Why" questions. It does not investigate further as to why things are happening because it relies more on data, thus, is inflexible. It does not measures things that are not visible. Moreover, it assumes that scientific results are correct and emotions and perceptions are disregarded from interferences and conclusions.

Social Constructionism

Limitation of social constructionism is that, constructs change over time and can be misunderstood. This depends entirely on how society is constructed within its settings. Also, it ignores individual contexts and it can be difficult to apply this kind of knowledge in a new environment. Moreover, it does not need to be true, it invites relativism. This type of knowing requires more time (time consuming) and is expensive (requires funding).

  1. In a hypothetical scenario, you are asked to conduct research in/on a forest (the research can be on anything, but must involve data collection related to a forest location). Propose two separate research questions-one for each of the 'ways of knowing' you have selected-that incorporate data gathering opportunities in a hypothetical forest location, and provide a justification about why the research questions reflect your chosen 'ways of knowing'.

Positivism

What is the Relationship between Forest Harvesting (Clearing of Forest) and sedimentation accumulation on Big Bay River on Santo Island in Vanuatu?

This research question reflects this way of knowing because it requires observation and measurement of data to test the hypothesis that harvesting of a forest may have some impact on the sediment in the rivers. It will be easy to compare the results based on the analysed data (number of hectares (ha) of forest cleared & amount of sediment accumulation) that has been collected.

Social Constructionism

Restoration of Native Ecosystem to preserve and increase number of native plants and animals. (Research question: Will restoring Native Forest (NF) helps to increase the number of native species within the forest ecosystem?)

This research question reflects this particular way of knowing because it focuses on more collaborative ways of knowledge. It is common sense to assume that if a forest's ecosystem is restored, native plants and animals may increase. It looks like it is interconnected with the Positivism way of knowing. This type of research requires a lot of funding and may involve different groups/ stakeholders within the context of a society.


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