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Postpositivism is a broad epistemological position with strong implications for educational and social science research; it evolved during the 20th century, during the slow decline of positivism—hence the “post.” It needs to be emphasized at the outset that it is not a type of “super” or improved positivism but is, rather, a successor and a replacement. Given this, the discussion needs to start with positivism itself and the problems that led to its decline—for this is the historical context in which postpositivism evolved.

Positivism, and Why It Was Attractive

Historically, Western epistemology has been foundationalist; the assumption was that to be valid, our knowledge claims must have a solid basis, foundation, or reliable source. Only two types of foundation have seemed to be possible, reason and sense ...

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