Difference between Epistemologies and Theoretical Frameworks

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The study of how we think: Epistemology

The study of how we think is known as epistemology. Epistemology studies the processes that the mind goes through in order to obtain a conclusion. As a result, different fields have distinct epistemological lenses. For example, how religiously based beliefs about man's origin are built, structured, and the limits they contain varies greatly from similar thoughts in the context of science. These are various networked notions that, when combined, provide a clear understanding of a phenomenon (Jabareen, 2009). Similarly to epistemologies, various cultures have distinct frameworks for explaining comparable phenomena. What makes phenomenology a theoretical framework are the different concept components that are involved (Mastin, 2017). The concepts knowledge is never definitely correct and it changes according to context, meaning is fluid, experiences are subjective, that as a people we try giving meanings to everything and grouping them to have organization (typification as Husserl calls it), and that some meanings are universal together make up phenomenology. Other theoretical frameworks include ethnography, grounded theory, case study, critical theory, and feminism. Of the eight different forms of phenomenology, how different people will view things differently based on their personal experiences falls under hermeneutic phenomenology which studies the interpretive structure of experiences.

Overview of Epistemologies

Epistemologies on the other hand are made of three components which are knowledge, beliefs and truth (Loyno, 2017). Positivism, for example, is an epistemological theory claiming that certain 'positive' knowledge is rooted in natural phenomena and their relations. Thus, the main source of knowledge is from the information that comes from sensory experiences interpreted through logic and reasoning. Knowledge being the subject, beliefs are within the reasoning and both logic and natural phenomena represent the truth, giving evidence of the three components. The same cuts across all epistemologies including constructivism, post-structuralism, post-positivism, and post-modernism.

Overview of Theoretical Frameworks

Theoretical frameworks are multiplicities in that there is no concept that has only one component, as much as not every multiplicity is conceptual (Jabareen, 2009). The definition of grounded theory is a good example. The grounded theory in essence refers to a finite set of systematic inductive methods that are employed in qualitative research. These methods are always aimed toward the development of a theory. A method being a procedure through which a particular objective is achieved or accomplished, it goes without saying that there is a concept behind it. Thus, these methods form the components of the grounded theory theoretical framework, proving that indeed a theoretical framework is made up of a group of concepts.

Critical theory is yet another theoretical framework. It qualifies for the very reasons that qualifies both grounded theory and phenomenology. Otherwise known as social critical theory, it is a school of thought that encourages the reflective analysis and critique of culture and society. It goes on to suggest how this must be done, and this is through the application of social science knowledge along with that of the humanities. The concepts used in the application of this theory being from social sciences and humanities, it is evident here too that a theoretical framework is a group of concepts that make phenomena understandable.

Importance of Epistemology and Theoretical Frameworks

The topics of research in qualitative research often are from real-world observations, especially from the researcher's direct experience, tacit theories, political commitment, interests in practice and other times from theoretical traditions and their attendant empirical research (Marshall, 1999). This and the explorative nature of the research demand a clear understanding of epistemology and theoretical frameworks.


Marshall, G. B. (1999). Designing Qualitative Research. 25-27.

Jabareen, Y. . (2009). Building a Conceptual Framework: Philosophy, Definitions, and Procedure. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 2009, 8(4), 50-51.

Loyno. (2017). Basic Concepts of Epistemology. Retrieved from www.loyno.edu: http://www.loyno.edu/~folse/episbasic.html

Luke Mastin. (2017, October 17). The Basics of Physlosophy. Retrieved from www.philosphybasics.com: http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_phenomenology.html

May 10, 2023

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