The Community of Inquiry: Blending Philosophical and Empirical Research


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.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Wortel and Verweij (2008) offer a similar dialogical research method based on Nelson’s Socratic Dialogue (Nelson 2004) rather than Lipman’s Philosophy for Children. However, they describe their method as empirical research rather than a philosophical-empirical hybrid.

  2. 2.

    For more on guiding collaborative philosophical inquiry see Lipman (2003) and Golding (2012, 2013b, c).

  3. 3.

    This study is described in full in a manuscript in preparation.


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Golding, C. The Community of Inquiry: Blending Philosophical and Empirical Research. Stud Philos Educ 34, 205–216 (2015).

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  • Community of Inquiry
  • Methodology
  • Educational research
  • Philosophical research
  • Focus group