Understanding the nature and value of different research methods in the light of ‘The New Organon’ of Francis Bacon

Dr Solomon Arulraj David

Associate Professor – Head of Master of Education Programmes


Research methods used by researchers vary across various disciplines and research interest, which are largely classified as quantitative and qualitative research methods. Mahoney & Goertz (2006) consider the two research traditions as distinct cultures marked by different values, beliefs and norms. They argued that scholars associated with either tradition often tend to react defensively as they celebrate their choice of methods while disregarding the value of other methods. Some scholars recommend the mixing of the two meaningfully when needed, as both methods have strengths and limitations. While some researchers argue that the two cannot be combined because the assumptions underlying the two traditions are different.


For Miles & Huberman (2018), the back and forth banter among qualitative and quantitative researchers is unproductive. Philosophers have had epistemological debates for ages on the best ways and means to gain knowledge, assuming the premise for research is to generate new knowledge, or to expand and contribute to the existing scholarship. Empiricists such as Locke and others argued that sensory experiences are the genuine route for gaining knowledge and considered other routes as absurd. However, rationalist including Descartes strongly believed in reasoning as additional route to gain in-depth knowledge, understanding and the verstehen.


Thinkers from the two schools of thought with their differences have also recognised the significance of logic and reasons for knowledge pursuit. The complexity in understanding the nature and values of these traditions seemingly have been simplified long ago in ‘The New Organon’ of Francis Bacon. Organon is an instrument of thought serving as a means of reasoning or as a system of logic. Bacon calls those who have handled sciences as either men of experiments or men of dogmas. He contends that the men of experiment are like the ant, who only collect and use. The reasoners for him resemble spider, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. And he considers those who indulge in experimenting and reasoning are like the bee that takes a middle course, which gathers its materials from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Thus, he believed that much may be hoped (that have never yet been made) than these two traditions. Therefore, it is proposed to hold epistemic openness and solidarity which might pave ways forward.

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