Constructivism Research Philosophy

Constructivism is the recognition that reality is a product of human intelligence interacting with experience in the real world. As soon as you include human mental activity in the process of knowing reality, you have accepted constructivism” Davis Elkind

Constructivism accepts reality as a construct of human mind, therefore reality is perceived to be subjective. Moreover, this philosophical approach is closely associated with pragmatism and relativism. In simple terms, according to constructivism, all knowledge is constructed from human experience. This viewpoint is based on inseparability between knowledge and knower.

Constructivism philosophy is based on cognitive psychology and its background relates to Socratic method, ancient Greece. Nevertheless, popularity of constructivism as a perspective in epistemology increased in recent years.

The main distinction between constructivism philosophy and positivism relates to the fact that while positivism argues that knowledge is generated in a scientific method, constructivism maintains that knowledge is constructed by scientists and it opposes the idea that there is a single methodology to generate knowledge.

There are various types of constructivism such as phenomenological constructivism, biological constructivism, cognitive constructivism and radical constructivism. However, in business dissertations you are not expected to discuss each of these types in great lengths.  The Table 1 below illustrates the major differences between constructivism, positivism and pragmatism philosophies:

Philosophy Constructivism Positivism Pragmatism
Type of research Qualitative Quantitative Mixed
Methods Open-ended questions, emerging approaches, text and/or image data Closed-ended questions, pre-determined approaches, numeric data Both, open and closed-ended questions, both, emerging and predetermined approaches, and both, qualitative and quantitative data analysis
Research practices Positions researcher within the context

Collects participant-generate meanings

Focuses on a single concept or phenomenon

Brings personal values into the study

Studies the context or setting of participants

Validates the accuracy of findings

Interprets the data

Creates an agenda for change or reform

Involves researcher in collaborating with participants

Tests or verifies theories or explanations

Identifies variables of interest

Relates variables in questions or hypotheses

Uses standards of reliability and validity

Observes and then measures information numerically

Uses unbiased approaches

Employs statistical procedures


Collects both, qualitative and quantitative data

Develops a rationale for mixing methods

Integrates the data at various stages of inquiry

Presents visual pictures of the procedures in the study

Employs practices of both qualitative and quantitative research



Table 1 Constructivism and other philosophical approaches[1]


The most popular types of constructivism paradigm are illustrated in the Table 2 below:

Type of constructivism Explanation
Epistemological Constructivism Knowledge is created by human perception and social experience
Social Constructivism (Social Constructionism) Knowledge and reality are created by social relationships and interactions
Psychological Constructivism People create systems to understand to understand their world and experiences

Table 2 Types of constructivism paradigm


If you choose to use constructivism philosophy in your dissertation, you will have to explain the relevance of your research to constructivism by referring to its definition. Also, you can specify the type of constructivism your research relates to and explain its implications to the research process.

My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance contains discussions of theory and application of research philosophy. The e-book also explains all stages of the research process starting from the selection of the research area to writing personal reflection. Important elements of dissertations such as research philosophyresearch approachresearch designmethods of data collection and data analysis are explained in this e-book in simple words.

John Dudovskiy

Constructivism Research Philosophy


[1] Andrew, P.S., Pedersen, P.M. & McEvoy, C.D. (2011) “Research Methods and Designs in Sport Management” Human Kinetics