Methods Used To Address The Research Problem Management
This chapter presents the research philosophy, approach, strategies and methods used to address the research problem as outlined in Chapter 1. This research project sought to analyse and explain through mixed methods, as within the terms defined by Hussey and Hussey (2002).
There are numerous reasons why an understanding of philosophical issues is important. Easterby-Smith et al. (2008) identified three reasons why the exploration of philosophy may be significant with particular reference to research methodology.
Firstly, it can help the researcher to refine and specify the research methods to be used in a study, that is, to clarify the overall research strategy to be used. This would include the type of evidence gathered and its origin, the way in which such evidence is interpreted, and how it helps to answer the research questions posed. Secondly, knowledge of research philosophy will enable and assist the researcher to evaluate different methodologies and methods and avoid inappropriate use and unnecessary work by identifying the limitations of particular approaches at an early stage. Thirdly, it may help the researcher to be creative and innovative in either selection or adaptation of methods that were previously outside his or her experience (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008, p.56).
According to Saunders et al. (2009), epistemology is concerned with the acceptable knowledge in a field of study. Saunders et al. (2009) went on to divide epistemological stances into positivist, realist and interpretivist (phenomenologist). This highlights the differences between conducting research among people rather than objects.
The positivist position is derived from that of natural science and is characterised by the testing of hypothesis developed from existing theory (hence deductive or theory testing) through measurement of observable social realities (Robson, 2002). Positivism is probably the most important attempt to generate knowledge about the social world (Cresswell, 2003).
Although the positivist school is a major contributor to knowledge in the social sciences, it does in fact have many limitations and constraints (Brown & Baker, 2007). Firstly, positivist approaches generally rely on the need to abstract data that can misconstrue the nature of social actions. Secondly, there is a lack of acknowledgement of the subjective status of meanings. Finally, positivism assumes that social reality can be discovered in each society independently (Cresswell, 2003).
By adopting a more phenomenological stance, a researcher can potentially dig deeper to explore the taken for granted assumptions of the social world (Cresswell, 2003). As Easterby-Smith et al. (2008) argue, the world and reality are not objective and exterior but are socially constructed and given meaning by people. Unlike positivism, phenomenology argues that the world is not objective and external but is in fact subjective and socially constructed; the observer is not independent; and that science is not value free (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008).
Realism, as a philosophical paradigm, has elements of both positivism and interpretivism. While positivism concerns a single, concrete reality and interpretivism multiple realities, realism concerns multiple perceptions about a single, mind-independent reality (Healy & Perry, 2000). Realism recognizes that perceptions have certain plasticity and that there are differences between reality and people's perceptions of reality (Bisman, 2002). Within a critical realism framework, both qualitative and quantitative methodologies are seen as appropriate (Healy & Perry, 2000) for researching the underlying mechanisms that drive actions and events. Methods such as case studies and unstructured or semi-structured in-depth interviews are acceptable and appropriate within the paradigm, as are statistical analyzes, such as those derived from structural equation modelling and other techniques (Bisman, 2002).
The research described in this study is using a realism approach, which is a combination of positivism and interpretivism. With realism, the seeming dichotomy between quantitative and qualitative is therefore replaced by an approach that is considered appropriate given the research topic of interest and level of existing knowledge pertaining to it.4.3
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