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Research Methods for Islamic Cultural Studies Essay


Modernity has left an indelible mark on numerous aspects of Islamic culture. Nowhere is this impact so evident as in Islamic geometry and architecture. Stylistic pluralism, which has become a mainstay of postmodern thought, muddles the issue of the stylistic mixture by positing that aesthetic discontinuity should not be shunned (Lochhead & Auner, 2013). This part of the thesis proposal considers how the research will be conducted and evaluated. A research paradigm, a methodology, and methods will be discussed in detail.

Research Paradigm

The study will revolve around a critical examination of fundamental aspects of Islamic culture; therefore, it is essential to maintain a high level of transparency for the researcher’s positionality, thereby ensuring that no assumptions are left unchecked. It follows that both ontological and epistemological positions of the inquirer have to be critically examined to ensure that adherence to the absolute orthodoxy of the positivist paradigm does not skew the results of the study. It is especially important since the nature of the topic precludes a realist ontology.

There are several divergent views on how to approach the impact of modernity on Islamic geometry and architecture. Some argue that these facets of Islamic culture have to remain traditional because they epitomize perennial social views, forms, and beliefs (Omer, 2015). Others maintain that form should follow function and do not oppose the modernization of Islamic geometry and architecture (Alami, 2011). Yet others claim that the architectural and geometric tradition of Islamic societies “need to be both traditional and modern” (Omer, 2015, para. 2). In light of this information, it is clear that the emancipatory paradigm will help to conduct the inquiry without assuming that reality can be apprehended perfectly. Furthermore, the paradigm will be instrumental in managing power relationships in the process of inquiry, thereby ensuring that marginalized opinions do not remain repressed.

In terms of ontology, the choice of a paradigm is closely aligned with the topic of the study because it adopts the philosophical stance that holds that reality is socially constructed and historically bounded (Wang, 2014). It means that by embracing the emancipatory function of knowledge when assessing the influence of modernity on Islamic geometry and architecture, it is possible to address the issue of marginalism. Therefore, the researcher will try to be critical of their underlying assumptions to expose social injustices. It will necessitate continuous conscientization and a critical approach to data analysis (Scotland, 2012).


Given the breadth and depth of the topic, as well as the need to explore and explain complex phenomena, a qualitative methodology will be best suited for the inquiry. Moreover, the choice of the methodology is justified by the fact that the emancipatory approach to research requires an inquirer to make value judgments (Wang, 2014). A commitment to value positions will be needed to dispel incorrect assumptions surrounding the topic under discussion.

Sets of beliefs that underpin the qualitative methodology are radically different from those that are adopted by positivist researchers. Emancipatory researchers who use the methodology do not assert that there is a single interpretation of reality that can be produced with experimental methods (Wang, 2014). On the contrary, they postulate that both environmental and individual stimuli inevitably distort a researcher’s perception of reality, which is in a state of continuous flux (Wang, 2014). Given that the issue of modernization and identity cannot be reattached from religious, social, aesthetic, and cultural dimensions, it stands to reason to frame the inquiry within a wide set of theoretical considerations and value judgments that preclude the use of the quantitative methodology.

Study Design and Data Gathering Methods

Having explained the choice of paradigmatic orientation, its philosophical underpinnings, and methodology, it is necessary to discuss the study’s design and data gathering methods. The topic under discussion can be divided into several sub-topics, thereby reducing the scale of the issue to make it more manageable. A systematic literature review will be used to identify key themes and explore the sub-topics to establish explicit links between modernity, Islamic geometry, and architecture. The methodology refers to “a review of a formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review” (Siddaway, n.d., p. 1).

The methodology will be used to better assess a wide range of data, which cannot be generalized due to its specificity to certain contexts. To make a strong case for the choice of the methodology, it is necessary to consider that the attitudes to modernity in the extant literature on Islamic architecture are extremely diverse. Interpretations of modernity’s influence range from integrative and reconciliatory to openly hostile (Alami, 2011; Omer, 2015). Taking into consideration the dichotomous nature of the issue, and the need to scrutinize it while maintaining the emancipatory orientation, the researcher will take a theory-driven approach to the evaluation of emerging themes through the interpretation of the literature.

The researcher will thoroughly search the academic literature on the topic to familiarize themselves with individual concepts, themes, and key terms. By doing so, it will be easier to operationalize research sub-topics and identify as many relevant books and articles as possible. Upon breaking the research question in several sub-topics, diverse search terms will be created. The inquirer will use their synonyms as well as singular and plural forms, to increase the sensitivity of the search. The initial literature review will help to select inclusion and exclusion criteria and will inform the sifting process (Booth, Sutton, & Papaioannou, 2016). The preliminary inclusion criteria for studies, books, and articles will include the topic, scope, conceptualization, and time frame. The approach to the exclusion criteria will be informed by the following pragmatic utility standards: clarity, pertinence, and validity.

A comprehensive record-keeping system will help to assess a massive amount of the literature and create a flow diagram of initial screening and sifting stages (Siddaway, n.d.). Several electronic databases will be searched to locate relevant published and unpublished materials (Siddaway, n.d.). By including potentially relevant unpublished articles in the study, the inquirer will avoid publication bias. Given the emancipatory orientation of the research, it is extremely important to analyze both published and unpublished literature, thereby ensuring that knowledge derived from scholars who have diverging points of view is scrupulously analyzed. Meta-analysis is a method that will help to assess meaningfully comparable results of the literature review.


The paper has discussed how the study will be approached. The choice of the paradigmatic orientation, methodology, and methods has been justified and discussed in detail. It has been argued that by taking the emancipatory orientation and using the qualitative methodology, it will be possible to properly evaluate several historically bounded dimensions of Islamic geometry and architecture.


Alami, M. (2011). Art and architecture in the Islamic tradition: Aesthetics, politics and desire in early Islam. London, England: I. B. Tauris.

Booth, A., Sutton, A., & Papaioannou, D. (2016). Systematic approach to a successful literature review. London, England: SAGE.

Lochhead, J., & Auner, J. (2013). Postmodern music/postmodern thought. London, England: Routledge.

Omer, S. (2015). Web.

Scotland, J. (2012). Exploring the philosophical underpinnings of research: Relating ontology and epistemology to the methodology and methods of the scientific, interpretive, and critical research paradigms. English Language Teaching, 5(9), 9-16.

Siddaway, A. (n.d.). What is a systematic literature review and how do I do one? Web.

Wang, V. (2014). Handbook of research on scholarly publishing and research methods. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

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