Wednesday, 12 July 2017

How Research Components Fit Together

When we prepare our methodology, we have to work from the big picture down to the detail. 

There are four layers to this, which I am going to introduce you to with a quick overview. You can choose to watch the following clip, or read on below.

First, research philosophy. A research philosophy is a belief about the way in which data about a phenomenon should be gathered, analysed and used, or “how we come to know things”. A research philosophy also called epistemology (what is known to be true), not (what is believed to be true).

There are two key clusters of research philosophies: objective, the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject's individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings; and subjective; that our thoughts are the only unquestionable fact of our experience, that there is no external or objective truth for everyone. That experience is individual, not shared or communal.

Some examples of objectivist research philosophies are positivism, postpositivism, and pragmatism. Some examples of subjectivist research philosophies are social constructivism, advocacy, social justice, interpretivism and critical realism.

Second, inquiry strategy. This is how we are going to approach our research question. Will we start with a theory, write our hypothesis, observe our data, then see how close our hypothesis was to our observation? That’s a deductive inquiry strategy, or hypothesis testing (empiricist). A deductive approach fits with an objective research philosophy. An example of a deductive research question is “Hourly micro-breaks improve employee productivity by 5%: true or false?”.

On the other hand, we might first observe our data, then find a pattern, then come up with a tentative hypothesis, then form a theory. That’s an inductive inquiry strategy, where we wait to see what arises from the data. An inductive approach fits with a subjectivist research philosophy, and an example could be “Employee productivity: do hourly micro-breaks have a positive effect?”

Third comes research design. Research designs are the spirit in which we will make our decisions about the data we are going to collect. Will we go for quantitative, numerical data, which we tend to observe or record largely at arms-length, or will we go for qualitative, textual data, which we tend to obtain from our subjects, face to face?

Qualitative strategies seek to understand behaviours. Data gets analysed by coding, and thematic analysis. A qualitative approach fits with a subjectivist research philosophy and an inductive research design.

Quantitative strategies look for statistical patterns. Data gets analysed using tools like Chi squared, regression analysis or mathematical modelling software such as SPSS. A quantitative approach fits with an objective research philosophy and a deductive research design.

Then lastly we choose our actual data collection method. This is likely to be interviews, focus groups, or open-ended surveys which fit with subjective, inductive and qualitative research; or observations, experimentation or closed-ended surveys, which fit with objective, deductive and quantitative research.

Hope that helps you understand how it all fits together!



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