Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

Spring 11-2-2020


This paper aims to study the significance/importance of “empiricism”, “rationalism” and “positivism” and their application in library and information science (LIS) research. The objectives of this paper covered in two parts. Part one describes the historical development of these epistemologies, explore its main characteristics and presents the criticism that has been nurtured against these views. In the second part, the importance and use of these epistemologies in the context of LIS research have been discussed. Since philosophy is the least touched subject in LIS, therefore, limited literature is available to review these epistemologies from the perspective of LIS.

Empiricism, rationalism and positivism have several differences in approaches, applies the scientific method of inquiry that should be used in natural as well as social science research. The philosophical foundations need to be applied in LIS research studies for better understanding the research phenomena. Empiricism, rationalism and positivism are applied to LIS research unconsciously or implicitly, while limited research work available about applications of these theories in LIS. This paper can motivate LIS professionals to dig deeply into these areas for better understanding, devising solutions and advancement of the profession.