Theoretical And Philosophical Assumptions Underlying The Research Methodology
Research can be characterized by
The purpose of this chapter is to:
Articulate the research philosophy in relation to other philosophies.
Identify our research strategy, including the research methodologies adopted.
Introduce the research instruments that we have developed and utilized in the pursuit of our goals.
The research philosophy is described in section 3.2. Subsections discuss positivism and interpretive or phenomenological research. In conclusion of the section the research philosophy of this thesis is identified. Section 3.3 addresses research purpose (exploratory research, descriptive research, explanatory research) and then discuss the choice of particular research purpose of the thesis. The choice of the research approach is conducted in section 3.4 after examining induction and deduction. Further, this section outlines the basics about quantitative research approach and qualitative research and reasons about the choice of the most suitable research approach for this thesis. Section 3.5 contains the description of research strategies suitable for the thesis. Section 3.6 concentrates on sampling and section 3.7 is about data collection methods. Finally section 3.8 will summarize the chapter.
3.2 Research Philosophy
A research philosophy is a belief about the way in which data about a phenomenon should be gathered, analyzed and used. The term epistemology (that is, what is known to be true) as opposed to doxology (that is, what is believed to be true) encompasses the various philosophies of research approach. The purpose of science, then, is the process of transforming things believed into things known: doxa to episteme. Two major research philosophies have been identified in the western tradition of science, namely positivist (sometimes called scientific) and interpretivist (also known as antipositivist) (Galliers, 1991).
Auguste Comte (1853) suggests that all real knowledge should be derived from human observation of objective reality. The basic reasoning of positivism assumes that an objective reality exists which is independent of human behavior and is therefore not a creation of the human mind. Positivists believe that reality is stable and can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint (Levin, 1988), i.e. without interfering with the phenomena being studied. They contend that phenomena should be isolated and that observations should be repeatable. This often involves manipulation of reality with variations in only a single independent variable so as to identify regularities in, and to form relationships between, some of the constituent elements of the social world. Predictions can be made on the basis of the previously observed and explained realities and their interrelationships.
According to Hirschheim (1985:33), positivism has a long and rich historical tradition. It is so embedded in our society that knowledge claims not grounded in positivist thought are simply dismissed as non-scientific and therefore invalid. A positivist research paradigm derives from the philosophical ideas of positivism. Positivism holds that knowledge is based on objective data derived from sense experience. Value judgments have no role in science, only statements that can be subject to test or open to falsification can have the status of scientific knowledge. In summary, the positivist philosophy embraces a conception of truth in which verifiable statements concur with the ascertainable facts of reality.
3.2.2 Interpretive or Phenomenology Research
Interpretive studies assume that people create and associate their own subjective and inter-subjective meanings as they interact with the world around them. Interpretive researchers thus attempt to understand phenomena through accessing the meanings participants assign to them (Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991).
Interpretive methods of research start from the position that our knowledge of reality, including the domain of human action, is a social construction by human actors and that this applies equally to researchers. Thus, there is no objective reality which can be discovered by researchers and replicated by others, in contrast to the assumptions of positivist science (Walsham,1993).
The interpretive research approach towards the relationship between theory and practice is that the researcher can never assume a value-neutral stance and is always implicated in the phenomena being studied. There is no direct access to reality unmediated by language and pre-conception. Interpretivists contend that only through the subjective interpretation of and intervention in reality can that reality be fully understood. The study of phenomena in their natural environment is key to the interpretivist philosophy, together with the acknowledgement that scientists cannot avoid affecting those phenomena they study. They admit that there may be many interpretations of reality, but maintain that these interpretations are in themselves a part of the scientific knowledge they are pursuing.
3.2.3 Discussion and Rationale for Choice of Approach
According to Riley et al. (2000), positivism embraces a number of assumptions which may be summarized as follows:
There exists a real world of social and physical phenomena
This real world is objective and tangible (that is, most people would agree on what constitutes the real world of phenomena).
This world can be analyzed (researched) in an objective fashion, in order to increase understanding of the phenomena of which it is compressed.
(iv) The methods employed in such research are (should be) objective and impartial as well as immune from the influence of human values and believes (value free).
The researcher in positivism assumes the role of an objective analyst, coolly making detached interpretations about those data that have been collected in an apparently value-free manner. There will be an emphasis on a highly structured methodology to facilitate replication (Gill and Johnson, 1997) and on quantifiable observations that lend themselves to statistical analysis. The assumption is that the researcher is independent of and neither affects nor is affected by the subject of the research (Remenyi et al., 1998:33)
Our over-riding concern is that the research we undertake should be both relevant to our research question, and rigorous in its operationalisation. The research question addresses what to study i.e. what are the important concerns. This thesis requires developing instruments that are believed to measure what the researcher views as being the target construct, choosing the specific tests and items for measurement, making score interpretations, selecting alpha levels, drawing conclusions and interpretations based on the collected data, deciding what elements of the data to emphasize or publish, and deciding what findings are practically significant. Obviously, the conduct of fully objective and value-free research relates to positivism. These various elements of our research approach are further elaborated in the following sections: Research Strategy and Data collection methods. The following diagram as shown in Figure: 3.1 illustrate the research philosophies that can be used for the thesis.
PHENOMONOLOGICAL (can also be referred to as `Qualitative', 'Subjectivist', `Humanistic' or 'Interpretative' (see next page)
(can also be referred to `Quantitative', 'Objectivist', `Scientific', 'Experimentalist' or `Traditionalise’ (see next page)
The research philosophy can impact on the methodology adopted for the research project.
Methodology refers to the overall approaches & perspectives to the research process as a whole and is concerned with the following main issues:
Why you collected certain data
What data you collected
Where you collected it
How you collected it
How you analyzed it
A research method refers only to the various specific tools or ways data can be collected and analyzed, e.g. a questionnaire; interview checklist; data analysis software etc.)
Figure 3.1: Research philosophy (adapted from Collis & Hussey (2003:55)
The relevant philosophy chosen for any thesis will lead to the research purpose, research approach, research strategy and data collection methods.
3.3 Research Purpose
According to Reynolds (1971) research can be distinctive as exploratory, descriptive or explanatory studies. Research may be differentiated in terms of its purpose as exploratory, descriptive or explanatory. According to Tull and Hawkins (1994), this categorization of research depends essentially on the type of information required to deal with the research problem.
3.3.1 Exploratory Research
Exploratory research is designed to allow an investigator to observe some phenomenon, with the aim being to develop suggestive idea. The Research should be as flexible as possible and conducted in such a way as to provide guidance for procedures to be employed during the next stage. (Reynolds, 1971).
Exploratory research is concerned with the general nature of the problem under investigation and the identification of the variables that relate to it. Exploratory investigations are appropriate when it is difficult to isolate the problem and when the researcher has indistinct perception of what model is appropriate, what characteristics and relations that are important. (Eriksson & Wiedersheim-Paul, 1997).
3.3.2 Descriptive Research
Descriptive research focuses on the accurate description of the variables in the problem model. This type of research is appropriate when problem is fairly well defined but the purpose is not to investigate relations. (Eriksson & Wiedersheim-Paul, 1997).
Descriptive research is largely concerned with what, when, where and who questions. Descriptive research is thus essentially informational in character. Descriptive research can involve the collection of original data for analysis but its main purpose is to establish a factual picture of the object of study. (Riley et al., 2001)
3.3.3 Explanatory Research
Explanatory research attempts to specify the functional relationships among the variables in the problem model. The problem needs a well-defined problem structure and hypothesis, assumptions that a specific factor causes another. (Eriksson & Wiedersheim-Paul, 1997).
Explanatory research is concerned with why and how questions. It is directed towards exploring the relationships between concepts and phenomena and explaining the causality and/or interdependency between these (Riley et al., 2001).
3.3.4 Discussion and Rationale for Choice of Purpose
With regard to the preceding discussion about the research purpose, I conclude that, since we want to acquire knowledge of the research area, the overall purpose of the study is to gain understanding by explaining the study in theory as well as in reality. This thesis follows positivistic approach which leads to explanatory research purpose.
3.4 Research Approach
This thesis will involve the use of theory. The theory may or may not be made explicit in the design of the research, although it will usually be made explicit in presentation of the findings and conclusions. The extent to which we are clear about the theory at the beginning of the research raises an important question concerning the design of the research project.
According to Gilbert (1993: 22-24), Deduction is the process which begins with theory and proceeds through hypothesis, data collection and testing of the hypothesis to deduce explanations of the behavior of the particular phenomena. Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a top-down approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data - a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.
According to Gilbert (1993: 22-24), Induction is the process whereby the exploration and analysis of related observations leads to the construction of a theory that systematically links such observations in a meaningful way. Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a bottom up. In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.
3.4.3. Discussion and Rationale for Choice of Approach
According to Gilbert (1993: 23), Induction is the technique for generating theories and Deduction is the technique for applying them. These two methods of reasoning have a very different feel to them when you're conducting research. The research question refers, to describe what is happening? Rather than to understand why something is happening? This means that this thesis follows a deductive approach. Furthermore, this thesis follows positivism as the research philosophy which leads to choose deductive approach.
This thesis aims to select samples of sufficient numerical size to generalize about regularities in human social behavior. The sample selected will be employees of seven departments of Police. Moreover, Deductive approach is quicker to complete and data collection is often based on one-take. This Thesis cannot follow the inductive approach as it is more protracted and often the ideas, based on a much longer period of data collection and analysis, have to emerge gradually.
3.4.4. Quantitative Approach
According to Wiedersheim-Paul et al., (1997), the quantitative method is structured and formalized, and recognized by selectivity and distance in relation to the source of information. The researcher will examine many objects in few considerations, with an objective perspective. By doing this he is striving to generalize the gained knowledge andthe reality. Consequently the method's result is broad and can be used in statistical manner.
Quantitative research is generally characterized by a methodology of formulating hypotheses that are tested through controlled experiment or statistical analysis (Kaplan and Duchon, 1988). Quantitative research is commonly associated with natural science mode of research where data is obtained from samples and observation looking for relationships and patterns that can be expressed in numbers rather than words. Statistical drawn conclusions govern an objective analysis and the researcher is clearly distanced from the object of research. (Baptista & Forsberg, 1997)
According to Kumar (1996), Quantitative research methods usually involve large randomized samples, more application of statistical inference, and few applications of cases demonstrating findings. Kumar (1996), describes the characteristics of quantitative research as if information is gathered using predominantly quantitative variables, and if the analysis is geared to ascertain the magnitude of the variation. In Quantitative approach, all variables are measured by statistical methods, since the information mostly is transformed into numerical data. The method is used when trying to create an overview and on the basis of this, come up with general conclusions. The goal is to describe and explain, not to understand the problem. (Holme and Solvang, 1997)
3.4.5. Qualitative Approach
On the other hand, qualitative research involves the use of qualitative data to understand and explain phenomena. (Myers 1997). Qualitative research is based on data in the form of words rather than numbers. Both narrow and holistic studies may be addressed. The analytic process is interpretative and emphasis is given to description and discovery. The researcher allowed floating more freely. (Holme and Solvang, 1997)
According to Garson (2002), Qualitative research designs strive for in-depth understanding of subjects through such techniques as participant observation or narrative analysis, or they may strive for in-depth understanding of texts through such methods as exegesis or deconstruction. In qualitative research, emphasis is given to description and discovery is based on data in the form of words, rather than numbers. In this way qualitative approaches are particularly useful in the generation of categories for understanding human phenomena and the investigation of the interpretation of meaning that people give to events they experience (Polkinghorne, 1991, p. 112).
3.4.6. Discussion and Rationale for Choice of Approach
The choice of research approach is mainly based on the problem definition, and on the type of data that is collected during research process. Holme and Solvang (1997) state's that whether to use quantitative or qualitative method is a question of what method is most suitable for the area of research. According to Muijs (2004), when we tneed to describe the state , we also need to explain a nature of phenomenon.
As the research question relates to finding barrier factors to e-Government integration, this thesis follows a quantitative approach. A qualitative approach requires in-depth understanding of the mater, however, it is out of the scope of this research Our objective is to explain what is happening rather than why a certain thing is happening.
Furthermore, this thesis is an objective oriented and value free, therefore, it does not follow the qualitative approach. Two strong points of the quantitative approach precision and control (Burns, 1997). Precision is reached through quantitative and reliable measurement and control is achieved by the sampling and design. Furthermore, this thesis follows positivism as research philosophy and deductive method.
3.5. Research Strategy
According to Saunders et.al, (1997, 2000, 2003), the research strategy will be a general plan of how we will answer the research question (s) we have set. It will contain clear objectives, derived from the research question (s), specify the sources from which we intend to collect data and consider the constraints we may have. According to Yin (1994), there are several research strategies available when conducting quantitative research, namely by using experiments, surveys and observational research. Each research strategy has its advantages and drawbacks depending on:
The type of research question being posed
The extent of control an investigator has over actual behavioral events
The degree of focus on contemporary versus historical phenomena
The boundaries between the strategies are not always clear and sharp, and they often overlap each other.
According to Saunders et.al, (1997, 2000, 2003), Experiment is a classical form of research that owes much to the natural sciences, although it features strongly in much social science research, particularly psychology. According to Muijs (2004), the basis of the experimental method is experiment, which can be defined as test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth or examine the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments are characterized by clearly defined variables, including identification of dependent and independent variables and an understanding of possible causal relationships between variables. A high degree of control over variables is a requirement for successful experiments and this strategy is usually employed in a convenient setting.
Laboratory experiments permit the researcher to identify precise relationships between a small numbers of variables that are studied intensively via a designed laboratory situation using quantitative analytical techniques with a view to making generalisable statements applicable to real-life situations. The key weakness of laboratory experiments is the limited extent to which identified relationships exist in the real world due to oversimplification of the experimental situation and the isolation of such situations from most of the variables that are found in the real world (Galliers, 1991, p.150).
Furthermore, the experimental strategy suffers a number of potential weaknesses. Control of all relevant variables in the experimental design can prove difficult, particularly when investigating social phenomena. Two reasons for problems with control are that the variables associated with social phenomena are often difficult to define precisely and people often behave in unexpected ways under different conditions. The consequence of poor control is poor validity and reliability (Muijs, 2004).
According to Saunders et.al, (1997, 2000, 2003), The survey strategy is usually associated with the deductive approach. It is a popular and common strategy in business and management research. According to Muijs (2004), the most popular quantitative research design is survey research. The word survey is used most often to describe a method of gathering information from a sample of individuals. This sample is usually just a fraction of the population being studied. Survey research designs are quite flexible and can therefore appear in a variety of forms, but all are characterized by the collection of data using standard questionnaire forms. The survey strategy is used when we want to obtain information from a large number of people, that is, to achieve wide coverage and findings that is representative of the research population.
Survey research is highly flexible and it is possible to study a wide range of research questions using survey methods. One can describe the situation, study relationship between variables and so on. Survey guarantees respondents anonymity while answering questionnaires, which may lead to more candid answers than less anonymous methods like interviews. (Muijs, 2004). According to Saunders et.al, (1997, 2000, 2003), the survey strategy allow the collection of a large amount of data from a sizeable population in a highly economical way. The survey strategy will give more control over the research process.
3.5.3. Observational research
According to Muijs (2004), the method that is quite often used in education is observational research. It gives direct access to social interactions. This is used when we want to know what actually happens in a setting rather than what is reported to us by participants. Observation within a context allows for an inductive approach gives the researcher direct first-hand experience. Observation serves as a check against bias, prejudice and selective perceptions, builds on the researcher's knowledge and/or enhances understanding, and allows the inquirer to see the whole in a way that members cannot.
In terms of disadvantages, observation may alter the setting and the behaviors through the presence of the researcher, not clearly differentiate between objective and subjective information. It is time consuming and produce volumes of data result in too much involvement by the researcher not adequately address the researcher's perceptions and biases, and not sufficiently capture the setting because it is impossible to observe everything or have access to everything (Bogdan & Biklen, 1982).
3.5.4. Discussion and Rationale for Choice of Strategy
According to Yin (1994), survey research strategy will address the research questions of who, what, where, how many and how much. The research question is ‘what factors’ so this thesis fits to survey research strategy. Furthermore, surveys enable the researcher to obtain data about practices, situations or views at one point of time through questionnaires or interviews. Quantitative analytical techniques are then used to draw inferences from this data regarding existing relationships. The use of surveys permits the researcher to study more variables at one time than is typically possible in laboratory or field experiments, whilst data can be collected about real world environments.
This project aims to state and explain the problem rather than to understand in depth reasons that led to the current situation. The purpose of survey is to find out what situations, events, attitudes or opinions are occurring at the moment. Survey research aimed at description elicitates information regarding the distribution of some phenomena. The researcher's concern is simply to describe a a phenomenon and/or to make comparisons. Analysis stimulated by descriptive questions is meant to ascertain facts, but not to test theory. The hypothesis is not causal, but it is simply a common perceptions of the facts that are or are not at odds with reality.
Sampling techniques provide a range of methods that enable you to reduce the amount of data you need to collect by considering only data from a sub-group rather than all possible cases or elements. Most research projects involve the study of something that is real and tangible, whether animate or inanimate. In the majority of research cases it is not possible study all the elements in a particular set for reasons of practicality. (Riley et al., 2000).
The purpose of this project is to study factors, primarily stakeholders’ concerns that prevent effective integration of e-Government IT application. A sample must be a subset of a larger grouping, a population. (Riley et al., 2000) therefore responsible employees of 7 departments of Cyprus Police were hosen to participate in the research
3.7. Data Collection Methods
When collecting data for a study there exists two main sources of information; secondary and primary data. Secondary data can be defined as previously collected and processed information that researcher uses for his or her particular purpose. Primary data on the other hand is a data collected directly from persons possessing the information needed for the research. (Lekwall & Wahlin, 1993)
There are different ways to collect the necessary data for a survey, which provides the essential basis for a study and the data collection is highly influenced by the methodology chosen (Holme and Solvang, 1997). Data for survey research can come from four different sources: documentary sources, observation, mail questionnaire and interviewing. All sources have their strengths and weaknesses and many sources compliment the others (Moser and Kalton, 1981). According to Muijs (2004), the way data is collected is crucial to the quality of the research undertaken. According to Saunders et. al, (1997, 2000, 2003), the greatest use of questionnaires is made by the survey strategy, hence, questionnaires are used as the method of data collection in this project. According to de Vaus (2002), questionnaire include all techniques of data collection in which each person is asked to respond to the same set of questions in a predetermined order, it provides an efficient way of collecting responses from a large sample prior to quantitative analysis. Therefore designing a questionnaire is a key part of the survey research. For this thesis, primary sources of data are used as basis for the study. Secondary sources of data is not widely available on this topic, hence, it is avoided.
Questionnaire is the technique, researchers conducting survey tend to rely most upon due to its popularity (Muijs 2004, Moser and Kalton, 1981). This study is no exception and therefore questionnaire is the investigation's main source of primary data. The way questionnaires are designed and questions are worded will affect the answers respondents give. According to Muijs (2004), there are two main types of questions used in questionnaire: open-ended and closed questions. Open-ended questions allow the respondent to formulate their own answer, whereas closed questions make the respondent choose between answers provided by the researcher. In this thesis, closed ended questions are chosen for the questionnaire, which offers flexibility to the researcher, in order to frame certain questions based on the most common concerns.
In this chapter the theoretical and philosophical assumptions underlying the research methodology suitable to the thesis were reviewed. This thesis requires objective and value free approach leading to choose the research philosophy as positivism. As the research philosophy is positivism, the researcher intends to explain the situations rather than seeking in-depth understanding, therefore explanatory research is chosen for this thesis. This project is a top-down approach which begins with theory and progress further to deduce explanations of the phenomena. Hence, deductive approach is chosen. As this thesis is positivism, explanatory, deductive and aims to explain the phenomena as a state to find something, it follows quantitative approach. Quantitative approach of this thesis leads to chose survey as the strategy due to its wide popularity and easier data collection. A summary of this chapter is presented in Table 3.1 through highlighting the major decisions made in order to conduct this research work.
Table 3.1: Summary of the research design
Employees of 7 departments of Cyprus police
Primary data, questionnaires, closed-end questions.
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