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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


FEINSINGER, PETER. Research methodologies in applied and basic ecology: which am I following, and why?. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2013, vol.86, n.4, pp.385-402. ISSN 0716-078X.

Ecologists and other field researchers usually formulate their studies according to one or another variant of the hypothetic-deductive scientific method. Their overt choice tends to be the rigorous methodology (here abbreviated HDM) proposed in part by Karl Popper and promoted by experimental ecologists, among others. Few field studies, however, succeed in meeting the rigorous criteria of the HDM. Frequently field scientists, basic or applied, end up consciously or unknowingly employing a "ghost" of the hypothetico-deductive method instead of the HDM proper. The only significant feature in common between the HDM and the various ghost methodologies is the use of the words "hypothesis" and "prediction". Isolated from the strict logic of the HDM, however, these terms lack definitions that are clear, consistent, rigorous, or useful to the design, process, and interpretation of the study itself. The lack of an integrated and coherent research methodology associated with the "ghost" hypothetico-deductive methods increases the risk that the investigator will fall into methodological, analytical, and logical traps during the field study and its interpretation. Alternative research methodologies include the Inquiry Cycle and, for management-related studies, the Applied Inquiry Cycle. The Inquiry Cycle deliberately eschews the use of the words "hypothesis" and "prediction". Instead, it emphasizes a rigorous and complete sequence of theoretical and practical steps. A step-by-step comparison among the three research methodologies (the HMD, a "benign" variant of the ghost methodologies, and the Inquiry Cycle) suggests that the Inquiry Cycle can provide field researchers with a research framework that is considerably more rigorous and complete for most field studies than the frequently employed ghost methodologies and considerably more realistic than the HDM.

Keywords : ghost hypothetico deductive methods; hypothesis; Inquiry Cycle; prediction; hypothetico deductive method.

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