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Epistemology is one of the basic hypothesis, along with ontology/methodology/others, to discuss philosophy and the starting point to construct any nature/science research. Epistemology explores topics like what is the nature of knowledge/fact, how are they acquired, the boundary between experiential/critical knowledge and what is the criteria to evaluate knowledge (Harmon & Mayer, 1986). Various concepts are drawn upon to address these topics. For example rationalism, empiricism and criticism are used to discuss the nature & source of knowledge, idealism & realism to discuss the very existence of object that knowledge interacts with (how do we know what we know) and dogmatism, skepticism & positivism to sense the boundary of acquiring knowledge (is it possible to have knowledge at all). By contrasting & discussing epistemological stance certain knowledge constructs its theory upon, more critical understanding of the limitation & possibility of the knowledge/authors can be acquired (Easterby-Smith, et al, 2008)

Management & business research focuses on the applicability of certain theory. Since such research is built upon established theory/knowledge (standing on the shoulder of giant), originality is mainly claimed through critical understanding of the limitation & possibility of the researched theory/knowledge, which marks the difference with doctoral thesis where contrition to theory of or even creation of new theory is required. Such requirement connects the formulation of a management research problem with the critical examination/evaluation of epistemological stance towards the authors of particular theory as well as the researcher itself. Having similar epistemological stance between theory author & researcher, for example both believes in knowledge empiricism & objects realism and use social constructionism model, might lead to similar composition of the researcher’s management & business research & produces similar observation/results, which may not satisfy the expectation of originality, applicability and creativity for master level student. In this sense, understanding the epistemological stance both parties take can potentially help the researcher to balance the objectivity of the research by carefully reviewing discussions (supports & criticism) upon the theory researched and acquire in-depth view of the history, contribution, limitation & future trend of certain theory. The author can then base on its own epistemological stance to decide what & how it wish to access the theory itself: Will it choose to support, argue, or neutralize (seeking common ground) different epistemological stances of certain theory that may ultimately lead to new discovery of its applicability.

My research interest is operation model simulation’s applicability in complicated situation (like demand planning & forecasting or factory operation) where human interventions happens a lot. And i see this topic offers an interesting perspective with its epistemological stance embedded between two concepts mentioned by Easterby-smith, et al (2008): social constructionism & positivism. Whilst operation model simulation is a computer science based theory that believes in the connection between data and consequences (a reflection of positivism), demand planning & forecasting/factory operation to a very large extent is an interaction involves multiple stake holders on the supply chain where collective intelligence is valued (a reflection of social constructivism). In fact this observation goes beyond the operation modeling itself but to the underpinned philosophy of supply chain management framework: How to balance various parties’ interest and seek to maximize the efficiency of the supply chain and minimize the cost. Positivism usually offers a starting point from a data mining & phenomenon understanding stand point but when investigation goes deeper social constructivism comes into play from a knowledge/expertise/interest interaction stand point between various parties. From my own experience in managing both, i believe in seeking a common ground between positivism & social constructivism will offer benefit to operation improvement. This might also reveal certain prospect of human-machine interactive relationship into the future.


Harmon, M. M., & R. T. Mayer. (1986), Organization Theory for Public Administration, Boston: Little, Brown

Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. & Jackson, P. (2012) Management research, 4th ed. London: SAGE Publications


Epistemology: Reply

In this post, the student is spot on by stating that epistemology is one of the fundamental hypotheses, along with ontology and methodology, for discussing philosophy and is in fact the basis for constructing science or nature research. Generally, methodology is concerned with the research techniques and tools, and ontology focuses on people’s suppositions with regard to the nature of things and how the world is made up (Burrell & Morgan, 2011). Conversely, epistemology is concerned with people’s beliefs with regard to how a person may discover knowledge regarding the world (Harmon & Mayer, 1986). In essence, epistemology is a core area of philosophy that is focused on the limits, sources as well as nature of knowledge; this is something which the student has rightly pointed out in the post. To add on what the student has stated in the post, epistemology focuses on issues to do with the creation as well as dissemination of knowledge (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson, 2012).

In addition, the student’s area of research interest, which is the applicability of operation model simulation in complicated situations where there is a great deal of human interventions, is actually an exciting area of research. This topic is really fascinating since it will allow the researcher to delve into the twin concepts of positivism and social constructivism which embed the epistemological standpoint. While positivism offers the basis from a phenomenon and data mining view, social constructivism offers understanding from a knowledge, expertise or interest interaction stance between different parties. Finding a common ground between social constructivism and positivism may present benefit to operation improvement, and may as well allow the researcher to determine particular prospect of human-machine interactive relationship (O’Gorman & MacIntosh, 2015). As such, the topic which the student identified will be a very interesting one to look into.


Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. & Jackson, P. (2012) Management research, 4th ed. London: SAGE Publications

Harmon, M. M., & R. T. Mayer. (1986), Organization Theory for Public Administration, Boston: Little, Brown

O’Gorman, K. D., & MacIntosh, R. (2015). Research Methods for Business and Management, 2nd Edition, Goodfellow Publishers Ltd: Oxford.

Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (2011). Sociological paradigms and organisational analysis: Elements of the sociology of corporate life. Heinemann: London


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