Table 1.

Common Paradigms in Health Care Research

PositivismThere is a real world of objects apart from people
Researchers can know this reality and use symbols to accurately describe, represent and explain this reality
Researchers can compare their claims against this objective reality. This allows for prediction, control, and empirical verification
RealismThere are real-world objects apart from people
Researchers can only know reality from their perspective of it
We cannot separate ourselves from what we know; however, objectivity is an ideal researchers strive for through careful sampling and specific techniques
It is possible to evaluate the extent to which objectivity or truth is attained. This can be evaluated by a community of scholars and those who are studied
InterpretivismReality as we know it is constructed intersubjectively. Meaning and under- standing are developed socially and experientially
We cannot separate ourselves from what we know. Who we are and how we understand the world are linked
Researchers’ values are inherent in all phases of research. Truth is negotiated through dialogue
Findings or knowledge claims are created as an investigation proceeds and emerge through dialogue and negotiations of meanings among community members (both scholars and the community at large)
All interpretations are located in a particular context, setting, and moment