Indicative approach of research methodology is whereby research data are used to formulate or generalize a theory based on the observed pattern. Indicative researchers use research questions to narrow the scope of their research without the use of hypotheses.
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Indicative research is particularly useful when a new phenomenon needs to be explored or when a previously researched phenomenon needs to be viewed from a different perspective (Saunders & Lewis 2009). Indicative approach of research is often guided by the principles of the grounded theory.
According to ground theory, researchers are supposed to start their research with an open mind without having any preformed ideas of what the outcome is likely to. In other words, indicative researchers are open to new ideas that might be discovered from the research.
Just like in qualitative statistics, indicative research does not convert seek to convert statistical data into numerical form for statistical analysis, like is the case with the quantitative approach. Instead, data are collected using methods like interviews, observations, and focus groups, without the need for actual measurements (Saunders & Lewis 2009).
The deductive approach of statistics is different from the inductive approach in that it aims at testing hypotheses instead of formulating theories, like is the case with the indicative strategy. The deductive approach starts with one or more hypotheses and then continues with a series of steps aimed at testing those hypotheses using various statistical methods (Saunders & Lewis 2009).
Data collected in the deductive approach must be converted into numerical form to facilitate statistical analysis. The deductive approach puts more emphasis on causality, i.e., relating a phenomenon with its probable causes (Saunders & Lewis 2009).
Bryman and Bell (2011, p. 46) state “qualitative approach in research methodology is that which emphasizes on recording, analysing and attempt to establish a deeper understanding of human behaviour”. Qualitative researchers “have a much stronger interests in understanding people’s unique experiences and, therefore, it does not emphasize on getting information that can be generalized for a larger group of people” (Bryman & Bell 2011, p. 46).
The approach uses the general-to-specific method of analysis or the bottom-up approach. Data collected in the qualitative approach are methodological and uses predetermined methods of data collection, such as interviews, observations and use of focus groups.
However, unlike quantitative method, the qualitative approach of research allows for more flexibility in its methods of data collection. Qualitative research starts with the specific aspects and moves outwards toward the general. The data “collection process in qualitative research is often personal, field-based or circular” (Saunders & Lewis 2009, p. 34).
The emergence of data patterns inspires a researcher into exploring other different research questions or concepts. Hence, the method can be used in snowballing research (Lee 2003). Throughout the entire “data collection process, researchers typically engage in recording of their thoughts and impressions about the emerging data patterns observed” (Lee 2003, p. 90).
Qualitative researchers have an expanded view of relevant data sampled from different sources using diverse methods. A researcher would only interpret his or her data when the data set is considered to be large enough to form a pattern that can be conclusively stated (Byrne 2001;Lee 2003).
In qualitative approach, the data collected are not converted to numerical forms and, therefore, there is no statistical analysis. The method is a better option for statistical research if the phenomenon to be observed is not numerically measurable like aspects of human behaviour. Patterns in such statistical phenomena can only be established through careful observation, interviews, and focus group methods, without the need for actual measurements (Byrne 2001).
Quantitative research seeks to observe a general trend of a given phenomenon and then using that observation to include specific phenomenon. It is a deductive approach in that it “considers a potential cause of something and then goes ahead to verify its effect” (Lee 2003, p. 89).
The approach emphasizes on the concept of cause and effect, by trying to relate any observed pattern to its possible causes. At a higher level, quantitative research goes beyond mere cause-effect relationship and instead tries to explore the strength of such relationship using complex mathematical manipulation. The cause-effect between variables is considered to be highly likely if the relationship between the variables is found to be strong (Lee 2003).
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In quantitative research, researchers are required to design one or more hypotheses which predict a possible relationship between variables. Data are collected by various means, converted into numerical forms and then taken through a series of statistical analysis methods to establish a relationship between two or more variables.
The standard method used by quantitative researchers in presenting their findings is by use of p-values (Lee 2003). In the interest of statistical nonprofessional, discussions are often provided at the end of the article in a peer-reviewed journals to enable people to make sense of the statistical jargons and formulae.
Quantitative approach in statistics is preferred when the researcher is interested in establishing a relationship between variables through a series of hypothesis testing (Lee 2003; Zikmund et al. 2012).
Structural theories (structuralism, positivism and objectivism)
Structuralism is based on theoretical concepts in linguistics and semiotics that many scholars aim at understanding in the context of overarching systems. Objectivism is a concept that is based on a philosophical platform, which focuses on the independence of consciousness.
Positivism is used by researchers to understand the aspects that are related to logical and mathematical principles. Structuralism, positivism and objectivism are social theories that are used in research to create and reproduce social systems through the analysis of both structures and agents without giving priority to either.
Even though the theories were originally intended to provide an abstract and theoretical information to researchers, they have allowed researchers to focus on any structure or concepts either individually or in combination (Byrne 2001; Ellis & Levy 2009). In the context of complex events of human behaviour, the theory on positivism would be the most preferred.
Interpretative theories (interpretivism and constructivism)
Constructivism is applied by scholars to argue for or against the assumption that people develop knowledge through experiences and their ideas. In the context of qualitative research, interpretivism is applied to gain deeper understanding of factors that impact human behaviour.
Interpretivism and constructivism are unique approaches that are used mainly in psychological research with an idiographic focus. They focus on how individuals make sense of phenomena and how such perceptions are influenced by the unique contexts in which such observations are made (Bryman & Bell 2011).
Just like in the qualitative approach, interpretative research does not start with initial hypotheses. Hence, the data collected are not converted in numerical forms. The aim of the statistical approaches is to establish how a given phenomenon occurs and how someone makes sense of the phenomena.
In many situations, the interpretative theory is among the guiding theories in qualitative research approach since it also focuses on the behaviour of human under different conditions. Thus, it would be the most preferred.
Bryman, A, & Bell, E, 2011, Business Research Methods, Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom.
Byrne, M, 2001, ‘Grounded theory as a qualitative research methodology’, AORN journal, vol. 73, no. 6, pp. 1155-1156.
Ellis, TJ, & Levy, Y, 2009, ‘Towards a guide for novice researchers on research methodology: Review and proposed methods’, Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 323-337.
Lee, S, 2003, ‘Quantitative versus qualitative research methods — two approaches to organization studies’, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, vol. 3, no. 12, pp. 87-94.
Saunders, M, & Lewis, P, 2009, Research methods for business students, Prentice Hall, New Delhi, India.
Zikmund, W, Babin, B., Carr, J, & Griffin, M, 2012, Business research methods, Cengage Learning, Hoboken, NJ.