Social Research - Generic Terminology of Social Research - Assessment Answer

December 28, 2018
Author : Sara Lanning

Solution Code: 1AACJ

Question: Social Research Case Study

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Social Research Assignment

Case Scenario/ Task

Given the variety of uses of the terms and terminology of social science research, it is hardly surprising that students rarely have a firm grasp of the tools of their trade. Different academics in different disciplines attach a wide range of meanings and interpretations to the terminology of research. It is my contention that before students actually get down to research they need to be exposed to the 'building blocks' of generic social research, that is, the basic language of research that comes before they are trained in disciplinary traditions. This may sound trivial, but given the fact that many students - and seasoned academics, for that matter - have dif ficulty in differentiating between crucial terms such as ontology (that is, what is out there to know about) and epistemology (that is, what and how can we know about it), their subsequent research is bound to suffer, as knowledge of these terms and their place in research is essential to understanding the research process as a whole. In addition to discussing terminological clarity in the social sciences, the following article intends to show the importance of the interrelationship between the core components of the research process: ontology, epistemology, methodol ogy, methods and sources.'

It is therefore against this background - and the fact that research councils, most notably the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), have pushed for an increase in formal research training at postgraduate level – that this article sets out a way of introducing students to the fundamental tools of research in a clear and understandable manner. I start by outlining why it is necessary to learn the tools and terminology of research. The important terms ontology and epistemology, for example, are often shrouded in mystery, partly created by the language with which they are explained, leaving the reader more confused than they were before they

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Solution: Social Research


The purpose of the article is to discuss the basic concept and terminology of research, along with the importance of identifying the difference and proper use of these terminologies. It also presents an in-depth discussion on the interrelationship between these concepts and how it helps in constructing a productive research study.


In this article, Jonathan Grix begins by addressing how the meaning and interpretation of the terminology of research differs with different academics in different discipline. According to him, it is important that the students should be introduced to concept of generic social research and its building blocks before the start of any research. The knowledge of fundamental difference between the terms Ontology and Epistemology is crucial for any kind of research. Along with the focus on terminology clarity i.e. how the further stages of research have an impacts and affects because of the ontological position, this article also aims to present the interrelationship between the core mechanisms of the research process, methodology, methods and sources the consequence of the same.

Grix starts by outlining the necessity and importance of knowledge of the tools and terminology of research. According to him, the terminologies leave the reader more confused because of the language with which they are presented. The author has explained the importance of knowing and understanding the terms and concepts by giving examples, as to how each tool has a specific purpose and use. The lack of clarity and misuse of the tools will give ineffective results. It is argued, that if a researcher is not clear about the basics of Ontological and Epistemological he/she will end up arguing past one another for not including factors that is not even the part of the ontological position. Thus, learning the tools of the trade, understanding the normal requisites and concepts will benefit the social research students to comprehend the relation between the key mechanism of research, to evade misunderstanding and to be competent enough to distinguish and support others and own positions.

According to Grix, the Ontology is the start of any kind of research; it is then logically followed by Epistemology and Methodology. He further explains as to how Ontological and Epistemological positions for a researcher expresses two unlike views of alike social situation.

Ontology is the reflection of social reality “the science or study of being”. The two important aspects of ontology are ‘objectivism’ and ‘constructivism’. Objectivism is a position that describes that social entities exists free of the collective actors and Constructivism on the contrary is a position that describes  that social entities are endlessly being skilled by such actors, and is in a invariable circumstances of correction. Ontology describes what we familiarize with and epistemology describes about how and what we familiarize with. It investigates the methods, nature, and support and different conduct of acquiring knowledge. Being one of the core branches it focuses on knowledge gathering process, developing new models, theories and concepts in general. The author has further explained, as how a student requires replicating on the based assumptions and their origin in the first place.  The two important aspects of epistemology are ‘positivism and interpretivism’. Positivism prefers controlled and structured approach to research and believes in single objective reality to any research. Interpretivism avoids strict and structured framework and adopts personal and flexible research approach.

Grix further argues on how the different educational and community norms and parameters shape the certain way of thinking, and that different view and their methods of acquiring knowledge exist. According to him, ‘ontology plausibly introduces epistemology which further introduces methodology’, but many books avoids explaining it together and moreover describes them in a different way which sounds illogical to the author. It is important that the student understands as to how the whole research process gets affected by a particular view. Thus, by creating a proper correlation between their ontological positions, i.e. what the researcher is thinking and things that can be researched and connecting it to their epistemological situation i.e. how to start gathering the impact and decide on what and how to study by the student.

A methodology approach is based on an individual’s observation of the world, created by the understanding which is included to the study process. Thus it is important to understand that ontology and epistemology are correlated and they should to be kept detached. Methodology is reasonably related to research methods and is very time and again puzzled with the research techniques employ in a mission. Grix claims, that the method-led study should be protect against the question led research, as the study question points to the most suitable research process. Also to choose a study process before having the study question goes against the sense of interconnectedness. Method should be free from assumptions. It is the position that helps in deciding the question that we need to ask, ways to pose and the process of answering the stated question.  The author has also introduced the ‘social capital debate’, which illustrates the meaning and force of ontological and epistemological position on study. It is an artifact of trust and dealings amid people. The author further explains how the citizen’s dynamic association and interest in community dealings generates collective good which facilitates mutual actions for all. This network also helps in proper information flow and accessibility. He has also discussed the ‘Putnam School’, which according to him is the foremost, and the most prevailing, model in social capital research. They are based on foundationalist ontology and a positive epistemology. Quantitative measure of the responses to assessment questions is used as an guide to decide if there is a downturn in social capital or not.

Grix also discusses a dissimilar research approach that initiates from a unlike ontological and epistemological situation. According to him, diverse research approach was able to identify the need of proper prospect structures using which information can be shared and interactions can happen. Through a table illustration the author further clearly explains the difference between the Putnam school and Alternative approach to studying social capital, taking into consideration the building blocks, which are ontological, epistemological, methodological, methods and sources. Putnam school being the Foundationalist and Positivist and Alternative approach being the Anti-foundationalist and Interpretivist. The point the author wants to put forward is how diverse ways of initiation of research leads to a diverse study strategies.

Thus the aim of the article is to highlight the key generic terminologies of research, clarifying and outlining the tools and terminology and correlation between the basic concepts of social science and understand of directional and logical relationship which will construct quality and evident research projects.


The article highlights the importance of understanding and learning the basics of research terminologies, particularly for a student. The practicality of the language and terms to be used to construct a quality project. In addition, this article has clearly presented the logic of understanding others approach, as well as how to base one’s own approach and research position.

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