Difference Between Epistemological Paradigm and Theory

Whether working with clients, families, communities, organizations, or advocacy on government levels, the knowledge underlying the work social workers do—every assessment, intervention, or policy—is grounded on epistemological underpinnings. Furthermore, the work social workers do is also supported by a theoretical framework. Think of the epistemological paradigm as answering the question “How will the social work topic or problem be studied?” Meanwhile, think of theory as a structure to hold up a research study or social work practice intervention. When a study or social work intervention is supported by theory, it offers the chance for the researcher or social worker to connect the study or intervention to a larger knowledge base.

You might be wondering how practitioners and researchers know which theory to use. Lor, Backonja, and Lauver (2017) described three criteria for selecting a theory. First, think about the topic or problem and which theories contain the concepts and propositions that capture the nature of that topic or problem. Second, identify all potential theories that may be viable to provide the structure of the study, and explain the nature of the problem. Finally, ask which theory is the clearest and has the most empirical support for the topic or problem. Lor et al. stressed that the manner of determining the most appropriate theory is an iterative process. When you start work on your doctoral capstone, compare the different theories. Then, visit the library to find articles that describe interventions, policies, and research studies that have used similar theories.

In this Discussion, you explore the roles of paradigm and theory in social work research and practice. Focus on the researcher interviews and how theory and epistemological paradigm influenced their studies.

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Reference Lor, M., Backonja, U., & Lauver, D. R. (2017). How could nurse researchers apply theory to generate knowledge more efficiently? Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 49(5), 580–589. https://doi.org/10.1111/jnu.12316

To prepare:

Review the required resources from your Learning Resources this week and cite at least one additional resource in your posts.

Post a response to the following.

  • Briefly, compare the differences between an epistemological paradigm and a theory and their role in social work practice and research. 
    • Explain the relationship between an epistemological paradigm and theory by using one Faculty Member’s study from the video interview or audio.
  • Explain the role of an epistemological paradigm in research studies.
    • Provide an example of how an epistemological paradigm influenced one Faculty Member’s doctoral study.
    • Provide an example of how epistemology may inform your future doctoral capstone study.
  • Explain the role of a theory in a research study or social work practice intervention at either the micro, meso, or macro level.
 
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