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It is not an easy task for many students to develop powerful and informative business research. Bryman and Bell (2011) admit that “business research does not exist in a vacuum” (p. 4). It has to be shaped by a variety of traditions and rules that cannot be neglected; that is why it is necessary to consider the philosophical ideas and define their level of impact on business research. The methodology is an important part of any research because it helps to develop a plan of activities that should be taken during research. Methodology usually gives the answers to such questions like what or why is chosen, where and when something happens, and how it is better to gather information (Scotland 2012).
In case the choice of methodology is neglected, the results of research can frustrate or lead to some unpredictable and harmful results. The current paper summarises the philosophical underpinnings of methodology and evaluates the main business research methods that can be chosen in regards to the interrelations that exist between ontology, epistemology, and approaches. A researcher should define the connection between each detail of the work and make the right choice to be sure in the results that are expected at the end of the whole project.
The peculiar feature of any business research is its ability to influence the chosen sphere of business and become a pragmatic detail that has to be considered by all developers of their agendas (Bryman & Bell 2011). The relations of the offered paradigm are close indeed, and such issue like epistemology has to be defined. Epistemology is the study based on the nature and the form of knowledge available. This stage requires the understanding of the way of how knowledge can be created and developed in research. Researchers should realise what they have to know and why they need the offered portion of knowledge.
Epistemology has two types of doctrines: positivism and interpretivism. If a researcher should be general and abstract in the work, the position of positivism in relation to epistemology should be chosen. If research has to be concrete and specific, it is the case of interpretivism. In general, positivism aims at proving or disproving a hypothesis by means of observing an objective reality and using some common attitude or explanation (Mack 2010), and interpretivism is a kind of its opposition, when any kind of knowledge is based on the experienced got personally and inductively.
In terms of business research, ontology is connected to the nature of social entities and the intention to study the essence of being. Researchers have to define what has to be investigated and how it is possible to perceive reality and all things that have to work in the chosen reality.
As well as epistemology, ontology has two positions that become a kind of opposition to each other: objectivism and constructionism. Objectivism is the position when a number of external facts are available to people objectively but remain to be beyond reach or impact at the same time (Bryman & Bell 2011). A powerful alternative to this position is constructionism. This study helps to confront the already known facts and social factors and interpret information in the way that is more convenient or crucial for the researchers. The events are usually described as distinctive and cannot be generalised. In fact, the differences between the offered ontological are evident and cannot be misunderstood in a project.
Taking into consideration the fact that ontological and epistemological perspectives are different and require various bases, various approaches should be used to conduct research. It is necessary to think about the approaches that are more appropriate for the chosen basis. In fact, there are two main groups for consideration: deductive and inductive. Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill (2009) identify the deductive approach as the way when a clear theoretical position can be developed before the information on a topic is gathered, and the inductive approach is the process when the data has to be gathered before a particular theoretical position is defined.
In other words, the deductive approach helps to test the already offered theory, and the inductive approach aims at developing a new theory in regard to the available material. Causality is the thing deductive researchers rely on, and novelty is the aim of inductive researchers. In general, the inductive and deductive approaches have the same steps to be taken; just the order of the tasks’ completion differs. The choice of approaches is a crucial step, and if the approach is poorly grounded and explained, it is possible to make a mistake while choosing a method.
The debates about the worth of qualitative and quantitative approaches have been developed for a long period of time. Some people find it more effective to rely on the results of quantitative research, and some people still decide to use the qualitative research method to analyse the hypothesis chosen. Gelo, Braakmann, & Benetka (2008) underline that in spite of the fact of the evident differences between the research methods; both of them have their strong and weak aspects. The main interesting aspect of their differences is that the weakness of one method can become the strength of another.
The qualitative research method is used in business and social sciences in order to understand better human behaviour, the reasons for why this or that solution is made, the explanations different people can present, and the outcomes that are planned to be achieved and that are unexpected. The quantitative research method is another way that is also used in social sciences. The main goal of this method is to create and develop a new model or theory to explain some phenomenon or idea. As a rule, quantitative researchers rely on statistics and numbers that can be offered and analysed. There are no some general ideas or predictions; the whole work is based on the facts that are used to create something new.
Taking into consideration the above evaluation of the methods, it is possible to say that quantitative research methods are more scientific and based on clear facts and turn out to be better for business research due to its credibility and point-to-point discussion, and qualitative research methods are a personal interpretation of information got from interviews and observations (Ghauri & Grønhaug 2005). For example, the researcher may choose a number of students to ask them about their personal satisfaction of the idea to use iPads or other mobile devices in education. The first option is to use qualitative methods, choose an inductive approach and conduct interviews relying on the philosophy of interpretivism. Another option is to find a deductive approach, consider the importance of the philosophy positivism, and use a quantitative method conducting a survey and an interview with closed questions and rely on the numbers got at the end of the project to create a new theory about the worth of mobile devices in education. From these examples, student satisfaction may be analysed on the basis of students’ personal attitudes and general opinions (qualitative research) or investigated thoroughly and evaluated on the basis of the numbers got (quantitative research).
Summary of the Philosophical Foundations of Methodology
One of the main stages in business research is to succeed in its method’s choice and organise methodology properly. It is wrong to believe that methods and methodology have the same meanings because these are two different parts of the same work. For example, a researcher needs to start a new work. The first thing that should be done is to create a plan. It means to work out research methodology. It helps to explain the methods necessary for work, understand the main learning techniques, and choose the main procedures that can lead to the most effective solutions. In their turn, research methods are chosen by researchers in regards to the available possibilities. In other words, the methodology is the way and explanations of how a research method should be chosen and implemented.
There are many research methods introduced by the experts and used by researchers around the whole world. Still, the methodology is usually the same for everyone (in regards to the structure) and unique in every research (in regards to the content offered). The researcher should understand this difference and be careful while making the decisions and choices in regards to the methods. The existing variety of philosophies, the necessity to choose between two types of approaches, and the possibility to choose various strategies may confuse some researchers. That is why time, knowledge, and evaluative skills have to be the main priorities of any researcher at this particular stage of work.
Discussion of the Main Methods
Qualitative and quantitative research methods like the twins that cannot be separated, but when the time to “get married” comes, it is necessary to make a final decision and pick out the only one. Almost the same happens to a researcher, who has to understand what kind of method is better and how to develop a powerful methodology for a project. To complete this stage, a person should investigate the peculiarities of both methods and come to the conclusion if it is necessary to be deep, general, and unique (the characteristics of the qualitative method) or to consider the already known facts, sound confident, and follow the required order (the characteristics of the quantitative method). Some people are confused when they start conducting research if they make the right solution, and if the results of the chosen methods are credible enough to introduce them into work. The experts offer the possibility of mixed research and multi-methods choices (Bryman & Bell 2011).
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In general, research paradigm is complicated indeed. It is based on a powerful chain of decisions that a researcher should be ready to make. Epistemology, ontology, approaches, and methods are the parts of the paradigm that have to be clearly identified because this kind of choice predetermines a further evaluation of an issue and the results that can be achieved. The choice between qualitative and quantitative methods may confuse even the most sufficient researchers because the results are not easy to foresee, and the information can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
Bryman, A & Bell, E 2011, Business research methods, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Gelo, OCG, Braakmann, D, & Benetka, G 2008, ‘Quantitative and qualitative research: beyond the debate’, Integrative Physiological and Behavioural Science, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 266-290.
Ghauri, PN & Grønhaug, K 2005, Research methods in business studies: A practical guide, Pearson Education, New York.
Mack, L 2010, ‘The philosophical underpinnings of educational research’, Polyglossia, vol. 19, pp.11.
Saunders, M, Lewis, P, & Thornhill, A 2009, Research methods for business students, Pearson Education, Essex, England.
Scotland, J 2012, ‘Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms’, English Language Teaching, vol. 5, no. 9, pp. 9-16.