What is Pragmatism?

Before discussing Pragmatism, it is important to understand Positivism and interpretivism. These are two different research philosophies used in research. Positivism is used in quantitative research while interpretivism is used in qualitative research. Both philosophies have different focus and aims. Positivism is used in explanatory research to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between variables using quantitative data. Interpretivism is used in exploratory and descriptive research to understand phenomenon in detail. Pragmatism is another research philosophy that is more flexible in design and methodology than positivism and interpretivism. Pragmatism requires a researcher to develop a research methodology that will work in the most effective way to address the problem statement. It provides more flexibility to researcher in designing research methodology. AlsoiIt states that research methodology should be developed by a researcher considering problem statement and research objectives, instead of focusing on research paradigms of qualitative and quantitative research.

Also read: What is Positivism in Research?

Enhancing Research Quality through Integration

Pragmatism supports mixed research methods to address the problem statement. It allows a researcher to integrate strengths of qualitative and quantitative research within a study. Qualitative research is used to understand context, emotions, responses, and social meanings developed by humans on the basis of their experience and interaction. However, qualitative research does not provide sufficient reliability and validity. The evidence provided by qualitative research is weak and needs stronger evidence. Quantitative research examines relationship between variables and uses a theory testing approach.

However, quantitative research does not consider the context or background of the study. It segregates the researcher from the context or environment of the research. Qualitative research has certain disadvantages that are advantages of quantitative research. Quantitative research has certain short comings that are covered by qualitative research. It is the reason that pragmatic research integrates strengths of qualitative and quantitative research within a study. The integration of qualitative and quantitative research enables a researcher to improve the quality of the research.

Freedom in Methodology: The Pragmatic Approach

Pragmatic research philosophy states that there are many different ways used by individuals to understand and interpret reality. Therefore, there is no single way of doing research to understand and interpret reality. It provides freedom to a researcher to develop research methodologies to address research problems and escape research or philosophical paradigms of qualitative and quantitative research. Pragmatic research is a practical way of understanding the reality using various tools and research designs. Pragmatic scholars are of the view that reality may have a single or multiple forms. Knowledge can be objective but most of the knowledge is socially constructed and affected by human behavior, society, and culture. Therefore, objectivism and subjectivism cannot be segregated. It is the reason that pragmatic studies use multiple tools to collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data within the scope of a single research.

Building Theories and Testing Hypotheses in Pragmatic Research

Pragmatic research allows integration of theory building approach, known as inductive reasoning, and theory testing approach, known as deductive reasoning within a single study. It allows a sequential flow of qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research is used to understand a phenomenon. The findings of qualitative research are used to develop hypothesis that is tested after collection of quantitative data from specific sample. Thus, pragmatic research allows integration of inductive and deductive reasoning instead of conducting two separate qualitative and quantitative research.

PhilosophyResearch DesignReasoning
PositivismQuantitative researchDeductive reasoning
InterpretivismQualitative researchInductive reasoning
PragmatismMixed researchInductive and deductive reasoning