Ontology in Research

Ontology in research: Meaning, Example, Methodology, Paradigm, Types. Ontology in research is defined as the study or science being and it relates to the nature of reality. It can also be defined as that which reflects an explanation about what consists of a fact. Simply, we refer to ontology as the things that we think exist in reality.

Ontology in research: Meaning, Example, Methodology, Paradigm, Types
Ontology in research: Meaning, Example, Methodology, Paradigm, Types

In ontology in research, answers revolve around one main question that is what is the nature of reality? which defines what we consider reality is true. It relates to our concerning beliefs about the kind and nature of reality and the social world. It covers all aspects of what is possible to know about the world. 

Richards (2003) defines ontology as the assumption of what we make about the kind and nature of reality and what exists whereas Snape and Spencer (2003) also refer to ontology as the nature of the world and what we can know about it. Another important question around which ontology revolves is whether social entities should be perceived as subjective or objective. Objectivism and Subjectivism are defined as essential assumptions of ontology.


Ontology is one of the main branches of philosophy. When we hear the word philosophy different questions pop up in our minds such as how can understanding philosophy improve our research? And on what frames do our research influence our choices?

The questions don’t end here as there is no end to the philosophical existence of anything. All these questions hold great importance for social science research.

Understanding philosophy is important as all social science research can only give a meaningful interpretation when it is clear what was the action taken that affected the research outcome. Some of these decisions will be based on some key philosophical principles rather than on knowledge.

We get to know about the general principles of theoretical thinking with the help of philosophy. It can have been seen as a method of cognition, self-awareness, and perspective which are in use to get the knowledge of reality and to conduct, analyze, design, interpret research and its outcomes.

When it comes to ontology in research it means that researchers will try to recognize how certain their assumptions can be about nature as well as the objects they are researching. For what a researcher can claim about reality? The legitimacy of what is real is decided by whom? How do researchers deal with the various conflicting ideas of reality?

For illustration, ontology refers to the existence of a single reality that can be studied, experienced, and understood as reality, that a real-world is existing independently of the human experience.

Whereas, the realist ontology contradicts the above-mentioned thought as it says that reality is constructed within a man’s mind such that no true reality of anyone exists. Instead of it, you can simply understand that reality is related to every individual and it differs with every individual as they experience it at any given time and place.


If knowing about ontology in different languages, then in Greek ontology means the theory or study of being of that which exists. It is possible to see from the definition that ontology is one of the oldest parts of philosophy so its examples seem to be deep too. In practical terms, ontology means studying the existence and non-existence of things that are related to each other.

The examples of ontology cover all of the questions that have the oldest existence as mankind continuously demands it for decades. Do these include Do ideas, emotion, memories exist? Do numbers exist? And, if ideas, emotions, numbers, and memories exist then how do they relate to each other and trees and stones. The answers to these questions are not easy but ontology helps us to find these concepts by dividing all the things into two big groups:

  • Abstract Entities: such as God or ideas.
  • Concrete Entities: like trees or stones.

Logically, you cannot study these two entities in the same way as they possess different characteristics.

Other deep questions that keep on wandering into the minds of individuals are ‘What happens to us when we die?’ ‘What principles govern the properties of matter?’ or ‘What is the nature of the universe?’ research is going on to find out the solutions as it has not unfolded till now. These are all the inherently ontological questions that need to be studied before making any statement.


Ontology is a very old branch of philosophy which is why all the Ancient Greek philosophers tried to deal with ontology. The credit must be given to Pre-Socratic philosophers as they were the otologists who took steps and tried to determine what exists and what does not.

For instance, you may get to know about Empedocles who stated that there are four universal elements water, earth, air, and fire and all these four elements are moved by force, hate, and love, and all the things in the world are supposed to be born with the relation of these six entities.

Moving to the next Ontologists Aristotle and Plato whose names are still known by the world for their works. These two ontologists categorized entities into groups and tried to reimburse the common characteristics. Three more recent philosophers who studied and developed ontology were Hartmann (1842-1906), Husserl (1859-1938), Heidegger (1889-1976).

Ontology can link itself with different fields of knowledge. For instance, the ontology of medicine will relate deeply to what is into a disease, what are the characteristics of this disease and human beings will perceive this disease.

The basic purpose of methodology revolves around the main question of gathering knowledge regarding given questions and if the answers to these questions are found the meaning of the methodology is fulfilled.

If talking about the methodology of ontology in research refers to the methods to discussion covering the particular method chosen and used in a research paper. This discussion also covers the theoretical disputes that help provide further information covering up the methods, applications, and selections.

So that your methodology bore the desired results you should highlight how your theoretical concepts are connected to a large framework of knowledge and explain the relevance in searching for purpose, problems, and questions of studies. Thus your discussion forming the academic article’s research methodology incorporating extensive literature reviews including similar methods should be made available.

Collecting information randomly for the methodology will result in all your efforts ending in vain therefore attention must be paid to preparing a good methodology section that will increase the credibility of the articles. Data must be collected properly and readers and researchers must know how to utilize the information for academic articles.


The word paradigm has derived from Greek origin and it originated from the word “paradeigma” which means pattern. The first person who used it was Kuhn in 1962 and he used it to describe a conceptual framework that is accepted by researchers or scientists and that provides them a deep guideline to conduct the research.

A research paradigm is a research or an approach to conducting research that has been verified by the research community a long time ago and that has been in practice for a hundred years. Mostly these paradigms emerge from one of the many approaches to research whether they are the interpretivism approach or positivist approach.

Every ontology in research uses the research paradigm as a guideline for the development of research methodology and to carry on a research venture appropriately and validly.

There are two paradigms but other different paradigms have emerged from these two, especially in social science research. And one of the recent emerging paradigms is mixed-method research and moving to sciences then quantitative research methodology is the most favored approach for conducting research.

A debate was going on for over a half-decade about deciding what is the best methodology to be used and the answer was mixed-methodology or mixed-method paradigm.


Types of research are different methods used for conducting research. Different types of research are better suited for certain studies as they differ based on timeliness, purpose, and research goals.

The first part of designing research is to determine what you want to study and what are goals related to the search. For example, your purpose is just to learn more about a topic or you may want to determine how different policies have an effect on lower-level employees at your company.

The research methodology includes different types of studies that are useful across industries and fields and they include:

  • Education
  • Business
  • Biology, chemistry, and other science-related field
  • Government offices and agencies

Moreover, there are 19 different types of research that you may consider as your design research methodology. These are:

  • Applied research
  • Fundamental research
  • Quantitative research
  • Qualitative research
  • Mixed research
  • Exploratory research
  • Cross-sectional research
  • Longitudinal research
  • Laboratory research
  • Fixed research
  • Field research
  • Action research
  • Flexible research
  • Casual research
  • Classification research
  • Comparative research
  • Deductive research
  • Inductive research

All these researches involve different procedures and one who is a master in any of the types of research mentioned above can carry out the work with great efficiency.

Read also: Ontology in AI; Ontology in Information Science; Ontology of education

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