1.2 Ways of Creating Knowledge

What constitutes knowledge?

To have a deep understanding of what research entails, we need to first consider the historical context of ways of creating knowledge and what constitutes knowledge. Remember that “Research is creating new knowledge”. Our knowledge, thoughts, perceptions and actions are influenced by our worldview, which is a collection of attitudes, values, tales, and expectations about the world.3 One’s view of the world is at the heart of one’s knowledge. There are different methods of acquiring knowledge, including intuition, authority, logical reasoning and the scientific method.4


Cambridge dictionary defines intuition as the knowledge from an ability to understand or know something immediately based on feelings rather than facts.1 It is also described as instinctive knowing without the use of cognitive processes or emotionally charged judgments that result from quick, unconscious, and holistic associations.5 The impression that something is right comes from intuition. Instincts and intuition are sometimes used interchangeably.4 Justifications like “that feels right to me” are often used to support intuition. However, as there is no means to evaluate the accuracy of the knowledge based on intuition, there is no way to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate knowledge using such an approach. As a result, it is challenging to assess the correctness of intuition in the absence of action.4 In research, intuition may lead to generating hypotheses, especially in areas with limited or no prior information. Nonetheless, the hypothesis has to be tested before the knowledge is accepted in modern healthcare settings.


Getting knowledge from an authority figure is another common way of acquiring knowledge.6 Authority refers to a person or organisation having political or administrative power, influence and control. The information generated from such authority is regarded to be true since it was expressed by a social media influencer or an expert in a certain field.4 This approach entails embracing novel concepts because an authority figure declares them true.4 It is one of the quickest and simplest ways to learn; therefore, it can often be a good place to start.6 Some of these authorities are parents, the media, physicians, priests and other religious leaders, the government, and professors.4 Although we should be able to trust authority figures in an ideal world, there is always a chance that the information they provide may be incorrect or out of context.4 War crimes such as the Holocaust and the Guatemala Syphilis research, where atrocities against humanity were committed, are only a few instances when people blindly listened to authoritative leaders without scrutinising the information they were given.4 Information on research topics obtained from authorities could generate new ideas about the concept being investigated. However, these ideas must be subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny rather than accepted at face value.

Logical reasoning

Logic reasoning or rationalism is any process of knowledge generation that requires the application of reasoning or logic.4 This approach is predicated on the idea that reason is the primary source of knowledge.6 It is based on the premise that people can discover the laws that govern the behaviour of natural objects through their efforts.6 Human behaviour is frequently explained using rationalism. In order to reach sound conclusions utilising this method, premises are provided, and logical principles are followed. However, if any assumptions are wrong, then the conclusion will be invalid.4 For example, if a student fails to attend a series of compulsory lectures or tutorials, the professor may reason that the student is taking a lackadaisical approach to the subject. However, the assumption that attendance is an indicator of engagement may be untrue and lead to an erroneous conclusion. Perhaps, the student may have been ill or genuinely absent for some other unavoidable reason. This highlights the disadvantage of rationalism, as relying solely on this approach could be misleading, leading to inaccurate conclusions.4 Thus, while rationalism may be helpful when developing or thinking of a research hypothesis, all research hypotheses need to be tested using the scientific method.

Scientific method

The scientific method is an empirical method for systematically gathering and analysing data to test hypotheses and answer questions.4 Let’s go back to our example of the professor who concluded that the student who skipped the required classes had a lax attitude. This could possibly be due to some prior interactions with students who had demonstrated a lack of interest in studying the subject. This illustration shows the fallacy of drawing conclusions solely from experience and observation. The amount of experience we have could be constraining, and our sensory perceptions may be misleading.4 Therefore, it is important to use the scientific method, which allows the researcher to observe, ask questions, test hypotheses, collect data, examine the results and draw conclusions. While researchers often draw on intuition, authority, and logical reason to come up with new questions and ideas, they don’t stop there.4 In order to test their theories, researchers utilise systematic approaches by making thorough observations under a variety of controlled situations to draw reliable conclusions.6 Systematic techniques are used in scientific methods, and every technique or design has a set of guidelines or presumptions that make it scientific.4 Thus, empirical evidence based on observations becomes an item of knowledge. In the following chapters, we will go into greater detail about what the scientific method comprises.

How does scientific method contribute to evidence?

While everyday activities such as cooking, as seen in the opening scenario, may involve research, this type of research may not involve a systematic or controlled approach. Scientific research requires a systematic approach, and it is defined as a systematic inquiry/data-gathering process used to investigate a phenomenon or answer a question.4 Research is also a way of knowing that involves critical examination of various aspects of a given phenomenon that is under investigation. It requires formulation and understanding of principles that guide practice and the development and testing of new ideas/theories.7 Research aims to be objective and unbiased and contributes to the advancement of knowledge. Research adds to existing knowledge by offering an understanding or new perspective on a topic, describing the characteristics of individuals or things, or establishing causal links between factors.8


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

An Introduction to Research Methods for Undergraduate Health Profession Students Copyright © 2023 by Faith Alele and Bunmi Malau-Aduli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.