While positivism deals with the ideation of a plan and research concept, interpretivism is a function of perception in the philosophical context. They have been further defined and described in terms of epistemology and ontology as follows.
Epistemology: Being related to philosophy, epistemology, through the definition of theories and concepts, depends on the presentation and perception of knowledge. Thus, as far as understanding knowledge is concerned, this field follows a subjective point of view and shares similarities with ontology. With the use of tools for interpretation, the use of epistemology depends on a body of ready to use knowledge rather than new knowledge creation, which gives it an interpretive outlook, making it different from ontology. (Duberley et al, 2000) In order to use various generalisations that have to do with facts, and beliefs, this field makes use of a philosophical perspective with a leaning towards reasoning and logic where findings of analysis need to be justified through statistical means. (Johnson et al, 2000) For example, the use of a LAWSEQ Questionnaire to study the self esteem level of students is the use of epistemology.
Ontology: Being more objective in nature than epistemology is the first difference between the two. As ontology depends more on gathering first hand data, it adheres to the positivism approach as far as the use of philosophy and structuring of knowledge is concerned. It comes up with greater depth of research than epistemology due to the fact that it studies the hypothesis from the perspective of new data thus giving it a positivist approach and greater scope. The parameters that arise in this course are also different which give the generalisations a more accurate and deeper ring. (Duberley et al, 2000) (Johnson et al, 2000) For example, the use of literature in order to prove a hypothesis and garner data is based in ontology.
Positivism Vs Interpretivism
Epistemology and ontology are basically research designs that help in the collection, interpretation and analysis of facts for further presentation. It gives a structure to the vast knowledge base that one deals with during research and is thus philosophical in nature. Positivism and Interpretivism are the philosophical tools that are used in this regard. (Duberley et al, 2000)
While ontology uses the objective way out, epistemology tends to incline towards the subjective thus making it more philosophical in nature. Ontology on the other hand that deals with and presents knowledge on the basis of hardcore facts and analysis from scratch. With a more objective outlook, ontology depends on the positivist approach in depicting facts while epistemology depends on using an already existing field of knowledge for analysis. (Lango, 1972)
Research areas are better defined with the use of epistemology or the interpretivist point of view due to the fact that it depends on well researched work from the past where the data is simply customised for varied uses by various researchers. The writing and research method are an outcome of the various philosophical perspectives that individual researchers tend to follow. This gives it an interpretivist outlook as it is more subjective in nature. Epistemology manages to make best use of various philosophical perspectives within its research definition and design owing to its interpretivist approach as far as knowledge structuring and philosophy are concerned.