Extended Commentary: Pandemic, Paradigm, and Philosophy in Social Science Research.

At its most basic, social science research is the pursuit of information to answer questions about specific aspects of social life. (1) Philosophical considerations underlie all social science research, (2) and the philosophical foundations and the issues that emerge thereof deeply impact the way we carry out social science research within particular methodological frameworks using specific methods. Methods here refer to the range of techniques that are used to collect data or evidence of the social world, while methodology which provides the logical framework of research design concerns the research strategy as a whole. (3) What methods to employ (i.e., techniques for acquiring data) and within which methodological framework or paradigm is dependent on the underlying philosophical foundations and assumptions. (4) In speaking about the relationship between philosophy and social science research, Hughes (1990) writes "every research tool or procedure is inextricably embedded in commitments to particular versions of the world and to knowing that world... ," (5) Thus, every research tool and method used whether a questionnaire, interviews or observations involves a certain conception of the world, and this is where philosophy plays a major role in social science research. (6)

The Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc and created disruptions across all aspects of social life and existing institutional systems. The Covid-19 restrictions on movement, the need for physical isolation, the closure of many educational and public institutions and the resulting shift from physical to virtual mode of communication to prevent the spread of the virus necessitated us to rethink, and strategize ways to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. In the fields of social sciences research--which have also been severely impacted due to the disruptions caused by the sudden shift from the "real" to the "virtual" mode--has forced researchers to rely heavily on phone interviews, virtual interviews, and other secondary modes of data collections, which seem to be inadequate to conduct rigorous research. This sudden change from "real" or "physical" to "virtual" or "digital" has necessitated the need for a new research paradigm to be reflective of changed social realities.

To understand the impact of covid-19 pandemic on the practice and conduct of social science research, it is important to engage with the philosophical (ontology and epistemological) underpinning of social sciences research. Before attempting to engage with the philosophical foundations of social research, it is important to clarify certain terminologies. What are Paradigms and Worldviews?

Paradigm is a term that was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn in his influential book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," published in 1962, in which he argued that the development of science is driven by adherence to a paradigm. (7) A paradigm supplies puzzles for scientists to solve and also provides tools for their solution, a crisis in science occurs when a particular paradigm is unable to solve a puzzle, also called anomalies. Following the crisis is a scientific revolution whereby the old paradigm is replaced by a rival one. (8)

When applied to social sciences, it means a set of basic belief systems based on ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions. (9) A world-view or weltanschauung, (10) is a "world outlook" that has philosophical origins, it means a conception of all that there is, philosophy itself is a worldview, a theory of everything. When the term worldview is applied to social sciences, a paradigm is considered a worldview, while a worldview may not always be a paradigm. A worldview defines for its holder the nature of the "world," the individual's place in it, and a range of possible relationships to the world and its parts. (11) Further to establish the philosophical and theoretical foundations of social science research, Guba and Lincoln (1994) argue that, "Questions of method are secondary to questions of paradigm, which we define as a basic belief system or worldview that guides the investigator, not only in choices of method but in ontologically and epistemologically fundamental ways." (12) Understanding Ontology and Epistemology in Social Sciences Research

There are three major social science research paradigms: positivist, interpretivist, and critical research. The theoretical and philosophical framework of each paradigm are based on the ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions.

Ontology is the theory about the nature of existence, it addresses questions about what can be known. (13) Ontological questions are central to social research, all research is anchored to the basic beliefs about how the world exists, hence, the ontological question would be how much is the world objectively real? or is the world socially constructed? or is the...

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