Alternative approaches to research in physical therapy: Positivism and phenomenology

K. F. Shepard, Gail Jensen, B. J. Schmoll, L. M. Hack, J. Gwyer, C. Mattingly

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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This article presents philosophical approaches to research in physical therapy. A comparison is made to demonstrate how the research purpose, research design, research methods, and research data differ when one approaches research from the philosophical perspective of positivism (predominantly quantitative) as compared with the philosophical perspective of phenomenology (predominantly qualitative). Differences between the two approaches are highlighted by examples from research articles published in Physical Therapy. The authors urge physical therapy researchers to become familiar with the tenets, rigor, and knowledge gained from the use of both approaches in order to increase their options in conducting research relevant to the practice of physical therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-101
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this

Shepard, K. F., Jensen, G., Schmoll, B. J., Hack, L. M., Gwyer, J., & Mattingly, C. (1993). Alternative approaches to research in physical therapy: Positivism and phenomenology. Physical Therapy, 73(2), 88-101.