Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 205–216 | Cite as

The Community of Inquiry: Blending Philosophical and Empirical Research

  • Clinton GoldingEmail author


Philosophical research tends to be done separately from empirical research, but this makes it difficult to tackle questions which require both. To make it easier to address these hybrid research questions, I argue that we should sometimes combine philosophical and empirical investigations. I start by describing a continuum of research methods from data collecting and analysing to philosophical arguing and conceptualising. Then, I outline one possible middle-ground position where research is equally philosophical and empirical: the Community of Inquiry reconceived as a research method. In this method, a group of participants (the community) engage in philosophical discussion and dialogue to answer the research question (the inquiry). I argue that this collaborative philosophical inquiry, moderated by a philosopher, provides a new method for collecting and testing data. The results are philosophical positions and arguments blended with empirical findings. Next, I illustrate how I used this philosophical–empirical method in a recent study to evaluate the strength of educational metaphors. I conclude that the Community of Inquiry is a viable means of combining philosophical and empirical research, and a new and worthwhile method for research in education.


Community of Inquiry Methodology Educational research Philosophical research Focus group 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Higher Education Development CentreUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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