Paradigmatic Assumptions: What the OEAM

Many people in their personal lives might not identify their values or be able to articulate their worldview. In the therapeutic intervention of Motivational Interviewing, when a clinician is developing discrepancy, they are working to understand both the client’s values and how their actions might not be leading them to accomplish those values or goals in their life (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). In performing academic research, the researcher must understand what values they have concerning the research being conducted. These values dictate what methodology is used to evaluate or study a given topic. These philosophical assumptions have sometimes been referred to as OEAM, or ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology.

While not every scholarly paper discusses the researcher’s ontology, epistemology, and axiology, it can be somewhat evidence by the methodology that they select. Killam (2013) describes ontology as relating to the researcher’s beliefs about the nature of reality. In general, we think about if there is one real truth (such as in positivism or postpositivism) or is there multiple truths such as in constructivism. Epistemology is related to how the research discovers the information that they know. This concept of epistemology is driven by ontology and could be describing if the evidence being evaluated is objective (i.e., the real truth) or subjective (i.e., multiple truths).

Axiology is also highly connected to the other philosophical assumptions made by the researcher. Killam (2013) goes on to describe it as relating to the beliefs that a researcher has. Those beliefs show what the researcher finds to be valuable and ethical, and guide the decision making. For example, a researcher using a positivist perspective might value honesty, trust, and integrity; it is is not that other research paradigms have a focus on being dishonest. But somebody coming from a constructivist approach will be more focused on balanced viewpoints, raising awareness, and developing community rapport.

The methodology a researcher is the systematic way they go about gaining new knowledge (Killam, 2013). Each methodological approach is driving by the rest of the OEAM. While a researcher practicing positivism might use a survey with nominal results (e.g., effects that can be mathematically calculated, such as yes-no questions or questions on a Likert scale), this type of tool can help find “one truth” through statistical analysis. This type of tool is not as beneficial for somebody who is following a constructivist approach. They want to be able to gain a balanced viewpoint, and that balanced viewpoint isn’t deeply understood in nominal data. They are interested in understanding each of the participant’s views. Most often, the researcher will be practicing from a qualitative or theoretical methodology when using constructivism.

It would seem incongruent to me to mix and match parts of the fundamental elements of OEAM together, picking a choosing what a researcher likes from each framework. A researcher would not be able to say that their epistemology is focused on subjective truths and try to gather that data using positivist methodologies. There is a case to be made for mixed-method designed students that incorporates aspects methodologies from multiple perspectives. I would propose that as somebody is looking at the data from a constructivist paradigm and potentially gathering data through qualitative methods, they are viewing that part of their research through the OEAM of constructivism. If the researcher pairs that data with quantitative data collected through a positivist approach, such as nominal survey data for that part of their research, they are viewing it through the OEAM of positivism when using this type of mixed methods. The researcher would need to be flexible in their consideration and analysis of that evidence.


Killam, L. (2013). Research terminology simplified: Paradigms, axiology, ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Sudbury, ON: Author.

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: helping people change (3rd ed). New York, NY: Guilford Press.


This essay was written as a part of the coursework for TSD 8215 - Varieties of Scholarly Experience submitted as a discussion in the course work.