Crotty’s main specialization was in the field of social research. Social scientists underatake or perform this research quantitatively or qualitatively. However, we shall mainly focus on qualitative research. This form of research involves the study of a particular phenomenon within its natural setting with the intent of interpreting the phenomenon in terms of how meaningful it is to the people affected or influenced by it. It, therefore, generates data that is not subject to formulaic analysis.
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Michael J. Crotty is credited with providing an effective way of linking methodology and academic theory to provide a clear and practical manner in which to undertake a research. His analysis begins with a simple dissection of the research process into a pre-research phase and the actual research process.
In the pre-research phase, he states that before we embark on a research we must decide upon certain critical elements. These elements revolve around two questions, namely; what methodologies will be employed in the research and how do we justify our choice of the methodologies and methods therein adopted? Crotty further posited that in order to develop and determine an appropriate methodology, the methods used in the research must be consistent with theoretical perspectives the researcher wishes to pursue.
He further synthesized the two questions into four elements shown below: The first element was the method we propose to use: The method he refers to here is the technique or procedure employed to collect and analysis the data related to the specific set of research questions. An example of such a method is sampling, measurement and scaling focus group discussions. The second element was the methodology that governs our choice and use of methods.
According to Crotty, methodology is the design that informs the choice, use of specific methods, and can be taken to mean the linkage between the choice of particular methods and the outcome. Therefore, in our case methodology may be experimental research, survey research or ethnography.
The third element according to Crotty was the theoretical perspective that lies behind the methodology in question. Crotty explains that the theoretical perspective refers to the philosophical aspects of the study behind the methodology. We can therefore conclude that since methodology touches on the assumptions we make about reality and that these assumptions are built on a theoretical framework then this constitutes the theoretical perspective as postulated by Crotty.
This perspective plays the important role of providing a basis for the process, its logic and criteria. An example of this element that is common in research is positivism, interpretive or critical inquiry.
The fourth and last element articulated by Crotty was centered on the epistemology that informs the theoretical perspective. Epistemology, in our case, is the theory of knowledge found within the historical perspective and therefore by extension found in the methodology of the research.
More broadly, however, it is a way of explaining how we know what we know. This is very important since it is determines how the end users of the research will be guided by or react to the research. Epistemology may be constructivism, objectivism, subjectivism and their variants (Crotty, 1998).
In conclusion, it is important to note that though these elements or parts of the research process postulated by Michael Crotty are inter-related they are not inter-changeable. They are distinct parts that must be present in any research process especially qualitative research to ensure the integrity, validity and reliability of the research (Crotty, 1998).
Crotty, J.M. (1998). The Foundation of Market Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London: Sage Publications.