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Research is the examination of a particular topic using a diversity of reliable, scholarly resources. The three main goals of research are establishing facts, analyzing information, and reaching new conclusions. The three main actions of doing research are searching for, reviewing, and assessing information. This KAM will examine the different research paradigms available for my study. The paradigms will be compared and contrasted against other research methods that are available in order to determine which the best methods to use are. There are many different paradigms available which include: the positivist/empiricist view, the constructivist/naturalist worldview and the pragmatic model.
There are many research paradigms and research methods available to be used by researchers depending on the nature of the study that is being undertaken. This thesis paper on the depth component explores the strengths and weaknesses of each paradigm and outlines the key research methods that can used to ensure successful use of the approach. The depth portion will include the traditional annotated bibliography addressing the research paradigms and their use in accounting research. This report employs secondary research on the internet and most of the information gleaned is from the content and literature. Additionally this paper lays the grounds for further research in research methods and their uses.
In the application section both the breadth and depth will be brought together with other research in regards to developing or discussing uses of the different research paradigms. The breadth section of this thesis paper will lay out in detail all of the available research paradigms and how the relate to accounting research. When looking at these paradigms this paper will try to focus on the one that will be chosen for my research, and how it compares and contrasts to the rest. This paper will particularly detail the chosen research paradigm and how it relates to the concept of auditing practices and their effects on the corporate governance of a company with a conceptual focus on international accounting principles. This report employs secondary research on the internet and most of the information gleaned is from the content and literature from non-profit organizational case studies, applications and on-going research on auditing practices on an international level.
Organizations use research, especially in market research activities. Market research is used to identify potential markets, the needs and wants of each, how those needs and wants can be met, how products and services could be packaged to be most accessible to customers and clients, the best pricing for those products and services, who the competitors are and how best to complete against each, potential collaborators and how to collaborate with each and many other applications of research. Organizations can conduct this research without having to have advanced skills (Free Management Library, n.d.).
Academic research is research and development (R&D) undertaken in the higher education sector, including universities, polytechnics, etc., and research centres that have close links with higher education institutions. Higher education research has grown during the past 20 years. “Between 1981 and 2003, the share of R&D carried out by the higher education sector increased from 14.5% to 17.4% of the total R&D effortâ€¦”(Vincent-Lancrin, 2006, p. 170). Drivers of this growth include ‘professionalization’ of the academic profession (including specialization and standardization of the trade), the importance of the quantitative research output in academic career paths and the emergence of strong external incentives to publish following the introduction of research assessment exercises in several countries. The well-known ‘publish or perish’ rule is rather recent (Vincent-Lancrin, 2006).
A paradigm offers a theoretical framework for seeing and making sense of the social world. The implication of paradigms is that they shape how one sees the world and are reinforced by those around us and the community of practitioners. Contained by the research process the attitudes a researcher holds will reflect in the manner they research is planned, how data is both gathered and analyzed and how research results are presented. For the researcher it is significant to distinguish their paradigm, it permits them to identify their role in the research process, decide on the course of any research project and differentiate other perspectives (Methodology, n.d.).
There are numerous research paradigms that are used across and within different disciplines. These include (a) the positivist/empiricist view, which supports the use of quantitative methods, (b) the constructivist/naturalist worldview, which supports the use of qualitative methods, and (c) the pragmatic model, which supports the use of quantitative, qualitative, or a combination or mix of both methods (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Other paradigms that will be looked at in this paper include post-positivism and interpretivist view.
Paradigms guide how we make decisions and carry out research. As a researcher, it is important to know where ones discipline belongs, that there are different ways of viewing the world and that ones approach to knowledge is one of many. Paradigms can be characterized through their: ontology (What is reality?), epistemology (How do you know something?) and methodology (How do go about finding out?). These characteristics create a holistic view of how people view knowledge: how they see themselves in relation to this knowledge and the methodological strategies they use to discover it (What is your paradigm, n.d.).
The positivist paradigm of exploring social reality is based on the philosophical ideas of the French Philosopher August Comte. According to him, observation and reason are the best means of understanding human behaviour; true knowledge is based on experiences of sense can be obtained by observation and experiment. At the ontological level positivists assume that the reality is objectively given and is measurable using properties what are independent of the research and his or her instruments; in other words, knowledge is objective and quantifiable. Positivistic thinkers adopt scientific methods and systemize the knowledge generation process with the help of quantification to enhance precision in the description of parameters and the relationship among them. Positivism is concerned with uncovering truth and presenting it by empirical means (Research Methodology and Design, n.d.).
Using scientific method and language to investigate and write about human experience is supposed to keep the research free of the values, passions, politics and ideology of the researcher. This approach to research is called positivist, or positivist-empiricist and it is the dominant one in social research. Positivist researchers believe that they can reach a full understanding based on experiment and observation. Concepts and knowledge are held to be the product of straightforward experience, interpreted through rational deduction (Ryan, n.d.).
According to the positivist epistemology, science is seen as the way to get at truth, to understand the world well enough so that it might be predicted and controlled. The world and the universe are deterministic; they operate by laws of cause and effect that are discernable if we apply the unique approach of the scientific method. Thus, science is largely a mechanistic or mechanical affair in positivism. Deductive reasoning is used to postulate theories that can be tested. Based on the results of studies, we may learn that a theory does not fit the facts well and so the theory must be revised to better predict reality. The positivists believe in empiricism, the idea that observation and measurement are at the core of the scientific endeavor. The key approach of the scientific method is the experiment, the attempt to discern natural laws through direct manipulation and observation (Krauss, 2005).
The social scientist must study social phenomena in the same state of mind as the physicist, chemist or physiologist when he probes into a still unexplored region of the scientific domain. Objectivity is then defined by being the same as that of natural science and social life may be explained in the same way as natural phenomena. This tradition may therefore be characterized in terms of the prediction and explanation of the behaviour of phenomena and the pursuit of objectivity, which is defined as the researcher’s ‘detachment’ from the topic under investigation. The results of research using this method of investigation are then said to produce a set of ‘true’, precise and wide-ranging ‘laws’ (known as covering laws) of human behaviour. We would then be able to generalize from our observations on social phenomena to make statements about the behaviour of the population as a whole. Positivism thus explains human behaviour in terms of cause and effect and ‘data’ must then be collected on the social
environment and people’s reactions to it (May, 2001).
In its broadest sense, positivism is a rejection of metaphysics. It is a position that holds that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience. The purpose of science is simply to stick to what we can observe and measure. Knowledge of anything beyond that, a positivist would hold, is impossible. predict how people will behave — everything else in between (like what the person is thinking) is irrelevant because it can’t be measured. Positivists believe that reality is stable and can be observed and described from an objective viewpoint, 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 (Positivism & Post-Positivism, 2006).
In empiricism knowledge is only validated through sense experience, or in more recent versions through the surrogates of scientific instrumentation (which in the social sciences would include survey questionnaires and interview data). Its importance to scientific method in the natural and social sciences lies in the centrality of emphasis placed on empirical hypothesis testing. Thus if we formulate a hypothesis such as ‘industrialization leads to worker alienation’, this is only meaningful if it can be verified empirically; anything less is metaphysical speculation. Moreover empiricists (unlike realists) eschew claims of causal necessity, because (after Hume) it is maintained that although event A may precede event B in time, we cannot be sure A brought about B. In social science this principle is exemplified by the social survey where the strength and direction of association between variables is expressed, but no necessary function claimed (Williams, 2006).
Post-positivism is a wholesale rejection of the central tenets of positivism. A post-positivist might begin by recognizing that the way scientists think and work and the way we think in our everyday life are not distinctly different. Scientific reasoning and common sense reasoning are essentially the same process. There is no difference in kind between the two, only a difference in degree. Scientists, for example, follow specific procedures to assure that observations are verifiable, accurate and consistent. In everyday reasoning, we don’t always proceed so carefully (Positivism & Post-Positivism, 2006).
Constructionism is a perspective that considers facts, descriptions and other features of ‘objective reality’ to be inescapably contingent and rhetorical. This is a more recent formulation of constructionism (without the ‘social’) which follows the traditional view of social constructionism as a perspective wherein people are seen as produced (constructed) through social interaction rather than through genetic programming and biological maturation (Hepburn, 2006).
Naturalism is the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system in the sense that nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it. More simply, it is the denial of the existence of supernatural causes. In rejecting the reality of supernatural events, forces, or entities, naturalism is the antithesis of supernaturalism (Augustine, 2012). The naturalist or constructivist view says that knowledge is established through the meanings attached to the phenomena studied; researchers interact with the subjects of study to obtain data; inquiry changes both researcher and subject; and knowledge is context and time dependent (Krauss, 2005).
Constructivists maintain that scientific knowledge is constructed by scientists and not discovered from the world. Constructivists argue that the concepts of science are mental constructs proposed in order to explain sensory experience. Another important tenet of Constructivist theory is that there is no single valid methodology in science, but rather a diversity of useful methods. Constructivism is opposed to positivism, which is a philosophy that holds that the only authentic knowledge is based on actual sense experience and what other individuals tell us is right and wrong (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).
The pragmatic approach to science involves using the method which appears best suited to the research problem and not getting caught up in philosophical debates about which is the best approach. Pragmatic researchers therefore grant themselves the freedom to use any of the methods, techniques and procedures typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research. They recognize that every method has its limitations and that the different approaches can be complementary. The pragmatic approach to science involves using the method which appears best suited to the research problem and not getting caught up in philosophical debates about which is the best approach. Pragmatic researchers therefore grant themselves the freedom to use any of the methods, techniques and procedures typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research. They recognize that every method has its limitations and that the different approaches can be complementary. Being able to mix different approaches has the advantages of enabling triangulation. Triangulation is a common feature of mixed methods studies. It involves, for example:
the use of a variety of data sources (data triangulation)
the use of several different researchers (investigator triangulation)
the use of multiple perspectives to interpret the results (theory triangulation)
the use of multiple methods to study a research problem (methodological triangulation) (The four main approaches, 2012).
Research is a necessary ingredient for a knowledge-based society, which includes a knowledge-based economy and its growth. A professional publication process is indispensable
for the dissemination of knowledge and the advancement of knowledge through further, innovative research. These goals of publishing are best reached by means of an open access publishing business model. It is essential that open access becomes the standard and does not remain the exception. Open access publishing should become a requirement for publicly funded research. In order to make open access publishing a success, the enthusiastic cooperation of the professional publishing companies active on the market is highly desirable (Engelend, 2011).
Interpretive researchers believe that reality consists of people’s subjective experience of the external world; thus, they may adopt an inter-subjective epistemology of the ontological belief that reality is socially constructed. Some believe that interpretivists are anti-foundationalists who believe that there is no single correct route or particular method to knowledge. It has also been argued that in the interpretive tradition there are no correct or incorrect theories. Instead, they should be judged according to how interesting they are to the researcher as well as those involved in the same areas. They attempt to derive their constructs from the field by an in-depth examination of the phenomenon of interest. Interpretivists assume that knowledge and meaning are acts of interpretation, hence there is no objective knowledge which is independent of thinking, reasoning humans (Research Methodology and Design, n.d.).
The interpretivist research paradigm emphasizes qualitative research methods, which are flexible, context sensitive and largely concerned with understanding complex issues. Researchers widely debate how the trustworthiness of interpretivist research efforts is evaluated. Positivist researchers, who emphasize the issues of validity, reliability and generalizability, often regard qualitative research methods as unscientific. Several researchers suggest new criteria for evaluating qualitative enquiry and many different approaches to evaluating qualitative
research have been discussed in the literature (Carcary, 2009).
In the interpretivist paradigm, the researcher is not perceived as being entirely objective; rather he/she is a part of the research process. Interpretivism recognizes the difficulty in making research value-free and objective. In terms of this view, a single objective reality does not exist. The social world does not lend itself to being understood by physical-law-like rules. Multiple realities need to be considered. These include an external reality, which is what actually occurred in the physical world, and internal realities, which are subjective and unique to each individual. Because each situation is different, the researcher needs to delve below the surface of its details to understand the reality. The meaning derived by the researcher is a function of the circumstances, the people involved and the broad interrelationships in the situations being researched (Carcary, 2009).
The interpretivist paradigm emphasizes qualitative research methods where words and pictures as opposed to numbers are used to describe situations. In qualitative research, the researcher is actively involved and attempts to understand and explain social phenomena in order to solve what Mason (2002:18) calls “the intellectual puzzle”. It relies on logical inference (Hinton et al, 2003) and is sensitive to the human situation as it involves dialogue with informants. In general, the researcher collects large quantities of detailed evidence. Thus, qualitative research may achieve depth and breadth. Further, qualitative methods are useful when the researcher focuses on the dynamics of the process and requires a deeper understanding of behaviour and the meaning and context of complex phenomena. It is the most appropriate approach for studying a wide range of social dimensions, while maintaining contextual focus (Mason, 2002). Conducting qualitative research requires considerable reflection on the researcher’s part, and the ability to make a critical assessment of informants’ comments. It involves debating the reasons for adopting a course of action, challenging ones own assumptions and recognizing how decisions shape the research study (Carcary, 2009).
Once a paradigm for research is chosen one must then decide on which research methods to employee in order to conduct their research. There are three different types of research methods that are available to those who are undergoing research. These include: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. These methods will now be explored in great detail throughout the rest of this paper.
There have always been important differences between the research findings derived from quantitative research and those of qualitative research. The two methodologies have different approaches and their intended goals are not the same. In many ways, they also have competing visions of what constitutes truth. Despite these differences, however, the two methodologies often work in effective symbiosis with each other and each brings to the other
a level of understanding that it would not otherwise achieve (Barnham, 2012).
Research involving the collection of data in numerical form for quantitative analysis. The numerical data can be durations, scores, counts of incidents, ratings, or scales. Quantitative data can be collected in either controlled or naturalistic environments, in laboratories or field studies, from special populations or from samples of the general population. The defining factor is that numbers result from the process, whether the initial data collection produced numerical values, or whether non-numerical values were subsequently converted to numbers as part of the analysis process, as in content analysis (Garwood, 2006).
Quantitative research tends to be associated with the realist epistemology, the approach to knowledge that maintains that the real world exists, is directly knowable (although not necessarily at this moment) and that the real world causes our experiences. That is, real things exist, and these can be measured, and have numerical values assigned as an outcome measure, and these values are meaningful. These values can only be meaningful if researchers accept some of the criteria associated with the positivist standpoint (Garwood, 2006).
Gaining numerical materials facilitates the measurement of variables and also allows statistical tests to be undertaken. For example, descriptive statistics can be used to illustrate and summarize findings, detect relationships between variables, as in correlation coefficient values, or inferential statistical analysis can be undertaken to establish the effects of different interventions, as in analysis of variance, analysis of covariance and multivariate analysis of variance. Interactions between variables can also be investigated within experimental designs and also as part of the analysis of data from surveys or secondary sources. Changes over time can be more easily tracked using quantitative methods, as measures of the same properties can be taken at several points during an intervention (Garwood, 2006).
Quantitative studies provide data that can be expressed in numbers-thus, their name. Because the data is in a numeric form, we can apply statistical tests in making statements about the data. These include descriptive statistics like the mean, median, and standard deviation, but can also include inferential statistics like t-tests, ANOVAs, or multiple regression correlations (MRC). Statistical analysis lets us derive important facts from research data, including preference trends, differences between groups, and demographics (McClain, 2012).
Quantitative research design is the standard experimental method of most scientific disciplines. These experiments are sometimes referred to as true science, and use traditional mathematical and statistical means to measure results conclusively. They are most commonly used by physical scientists, although social sciences, education and economics have been known to use this type of research. It is the opposite of qualitative research. Quantitative experiments all use a standard format, with a few minor inter-disciplinary differences, of generating a hypothesis to be proved or disproved. This hypothesis must be provable by mathematical and statistical means, and is the basis around which the whole experiment is designed. Randomization of any study groups is essential, and a control group should be included, wherever possible. A sound quantitative design should only manipulate one variable at a time, or statistical analysis becomes cumbersome and open to question. Ideally, the research should be constructed in a manner that allows others to repeat the experiment and obtain similar results (Shuttleworth, 2008).
“Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. Qualitative research consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p.3)
Qualitative research is not a single set of theoretical principles, a single research strategy or a single method. It developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, across a range of disciplines, on varied and sometimes conflicting philosophical and theoretical bases, including cultural anthropology, interpretive sociologies (such as symbolic interactionism), phenomenology and, more recently, hermeneutics, critical theory, feminism, post-colonial theory, cultural studies, post-structuralism and postmodernism. These diverse approaches inevitably give rise to substantial differences and disagreements about the nature of qualitative research, the role of the researcher, the use of various methods and the analysis of data (Sumner, 2006).
However, qualitative research is often based upon interpretivism, constructivism and inductivism. It is concerned to explore the subjective meanings through which people interpret the world, the different ways in which reality is constructed (through language, images and cultural artifacts) in particular contexts. Social events and phenomena are understood from the perspective of the actors themselves, avoiding the imposition of the researcher’s own preconceptions and definitions. There is also often a concern with the exploration of change and flux in social relationships in context and over time (Sumner, 2006).
The methods used in qualitative research, often in combination, are those which are open-ended (to explore participants’ interpretations) and which allow the collection of detailed information in a relatively close setting. These methods include depth interviewing, ethnography and participant observation, case studies, life histories, discourse analysis and conversational analysis. It is in the nature of qualitative research, with its emphasis on depth and detail of understanding and interpretation, that it is often small-scale or micro-level (Sumner, 2006).
According to Glesne (2006), qualitative methods strive to understand some type of
social phenomena through the perspectives of the individuals involved. Two major assumptions
include a predisposition that reality is socially constructed and that the variables in a situation
are highly complex, interwoven and difficult to measure. The purpose of such research is to
contextualize, understand and interpret a situation. Typically, qualitative research begins with
some type of inductive inquiry, resulting in a hypothesis or participant generated theory. The
researcher is considered the main instrument in a setting that is as naturalistic as possible. The
methods involved require a high level of descriptive writing and attention to detail. Moreover, a
significant amount of time to collect and process the data is required. The researcher is directly
involved with the research in a personal way.
The various methodologies of qualitative inquiry allow a researcher to choose a strategy
that is best suited for his or her purpose. Examples of qualitative research include ethnographies,
grounded theory, case studies, phenomenologies and narratives (Designing a Qualitative Study, n.d.). Each methodology relies on specific protocols such as interviews, observations, content analysis, fieldwork, video and audio-taped transmissions, surveys or open-ended questionnaires. Data resulting from qualitative research should be “thick” in description, meaning that it go beyond surface explanation, expressing in-depth understanding not possible with quantitative methods. The methods of qualitative research are concerned with process, or how something occurs within the confines of the inquiry. The researcher constructs, analyzes and interprets data in a non-linear, non-chronological fashion (Szyjka, 2012).
One of the most frequently used methods for qualitative data collection is participant observation, which is also one of the most challenging. It necessitates that the researcher become a member of the culture or context that is being observed. The literature on participant observation discusses how to penetrate the context, the function of the researcher as a participant, the compilation and storage of field notes, and the examination of field data. Participant observation frequently requires months or years of concentrated work because the researcher needs to become accepted as a normal part of the culture in order to guarantee that the observations are of the natural occurrences (Qualitative Methods, 2006).
These include that it affords access to the backstage culture; it allows for richly detailed description, which they interpret to mean that one’s goal of describing behaviors, intentions, situations, and events as understood by one’s informants is highlighted; and it provides opportunities for viewing or participating in unscheduled events. It also improves the quality of data collection and interpretation and facilitates the development of new research questions or hypotheses (Kawulich, 2005).
Disadvantages include that sometimes the researcher may not be interested in what happens out of the public eye and that one must rely on the use of key informants. Different researchers gain different understanding of what they observe, based on the key informant(s) used in the study. Problems related to representation of events and the subsequent interpretations may occur when researchers select key informants who are similar to them or when the informants are community leaders or marginal participants. To alleviate this potential bias problem, it has been suggested that pretesting informants or selecting participants who are culturally competent in the topic being studied (Kawulich, 2005).
Direct observation is notable from participant observation in a number of ways. First, a direct observer doesn’t characteristically try to become a participant in the environment. However, the direct observer does attempt to be as inconspicuous as possible so as not to prejudice the observations. Second, direct observation proposes a more disconnected perspective. The researcher is observing rather than taking part. As a result, technology can be a helpful part of direct observation. For example, one can videotape the occurrence or observe from behind one-way mirrors. Third, direct observation tends to be more centered on participant observation. The researcher is viewing certain sampled circumstances or people rather than trying to become engrossed in the complete context. Finally, direct observation tends not to take as long as participant observation. For example, one might observe interactions among people under specific conditions in a laboratory setting from behind a one-way mirror, looking particularly for any nonverbal cues that are being used (Qualitative Methods, 2006).
Simply observing people bypasses all the prob
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