Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology

Main Difference – Ontology vs Epistemology

Ontology and epistemology are two terms we often encounter in the field of research. It is these two components that help us to decide our research methods and methodology. However, it is always good to know the exact difference between ontology and epistemology before undertaking any research projects. Ontology is concerned with the nature of reality whereas epistemology is concerned with the general basis of that reality, including different methods of gaining knowledge. This is the main difference between ontology and epistemology,

Both ontology and epistemology act as the foundation for our approach to a research question. Both can also range from positivist stances to interpretivist stances.

Here we will be discussing,

1. What is Ontology?

2. What is Epistemology?

3. Ontology and Epistemology in Research

4. Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology

Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology - Comparison Summary

What is Ontology?

Ontology is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with existence and reality. In other words, it deals with the nature of reality or truth. Questions like ‘What is existence?’, ‘What is there?’ and ‘What is the nature of existence?’ are asked in ontology.

What is Epistemology?

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope, and general basis. It is concerned with how we gain knowledge or how we get to know something and different methods of gaining knowledge. In epistemology, we ask questions like ‘What do you know?’ and ‘How do you know it?’ Questions like How do we separate true ideas from false ideas? , How do we know what is true? can also be asked in this field.  Epistemology also deals with the relationship between the reality and the researcher, i.e., how does the researcher gains knowledge.

Read more about Epistemology here.

Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology

Ontology and Epistemology in Research

Given below are some common approaches to research (research paradigms) and the ontology and epistemology related to them.


Ontology – What is Reality?

Epistemology – How do we know Reality?


There is only one reality/ truth.

Reality can be measured.

Observable phenomena can provide credible facts.

Interpretivism/ Constructivism

There is no single truth or reality.

Reality or truth depends on subjective interpretations.


Reality is constantly negotiated and interpreted in different situations.

Subjective interpretations and/or objective phenomena can provide knowledge

Difference Between Ontology and Epistemology


Ontology is concerned with what is true or real, and the nature of reality.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge and different methods of gaining knowledge.


Ontology asks questions like “What is existence?” and “What is the nature of existence?”

Epistemology asks questions like “what do you know?” and “How do you know it?”

Image Courtesy:

“Research :Mediterranean Center of Medical Sciences” by   via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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