Saturday, December 27, 2014

Proposition: A Building Block of Theory

The purpose and  categories of propositions are explained well in the article The Proposition: An insight into research  by   B. I. Avan  ( The Human Development Programme, The Aga Khan University, Karachi. )  and F. White  ( Department of Community Health Sciences, The Aga Khan University, Karachi. )

Each category is given examples. See the above paper for examples. Only the explanations of  types of  propositions are included in this blog post.

Propositions form the basis for scientific research.

Propositions form the premise for the deduction of hypothesis.

A proposition is a statement.

Propositions can be broadly categorised into non-relational and relational propositions.

A concept is a title given to an abstract idea, event or object. These are based on real world experiences and represent a generalised mental picture of characteristics of that phenomenon.

The non-relational proposition is a declarative statement, which serves the purpose of identification of concepts and defining the distinct characteristics of the concept to the required level. The concept can have various facets and a declarative statement can be about any aspect of the concept.

The Existential non-Relational Proposition recognises the presence of a concept

Or it can go one step further by recognising the level or intensity of presence of a concept.

The Definitional proposition is a statement, which describes the characteristics of the concept. A concept can have a multitude of aspects. It is not necessary in research that a concept should be considered in a holistic manner.

Defining a concept aims to state it in a precise nature and give it distinct characteristics. The focus of this effort is to limit the idea of the concept so that it becomes identifiable and calculable. Sometimes it even describes the degree of distinctness so that it can be better differentiated from other concepts.

Any concept when we grade it for measurement purposes is conventionally known as a variable in research terminology.

Definition propositions are not limited to the concepts that are evaluated in the research. They are even extended to the methodology aspect of the research. Well known general methodology concepts, unless some innovation is considered, explicit definitions are usually not given e.g. study designs. But concepts which are specific to the study; are defined explicitly and precisely e.g. study population.

Initially for the theory, definitions of concepts are delineated by a parameter of convention not of verification. It is later in the process of theory development, that steps are taken to measure and study the concepts empirically. The process takes place at two levels.

Nominal definitions are constitutive statements, which are an aspect or aspects of the concept that we are considering for research.

Operational definitions are real statements of measurement-orientated interpretation of concepts. These definitions deal with the practical aspects of research in relation to concepts. They can be further categorised into measured and experimental.

Experimental Operational Definitions’ describe how a nominal concept is manipulated, to make it measurable in the research process, in a manner devised by the researcher.

Measured operational Definitions state how a nominal proposition can be measured in a standardised conventional manner.

Sometimes it becomes more meaningful to combine various measurements, as relying on only one type of measurement could not effectively capture the required scope of the concept. Therefore an index is formed. The indices are usually a combination of the measurement,

Example: - Human Development index (HDI) of a country.

Empirical Indicators are the next logical step of operational definitions. To increase the utility of the indices, indicators are constructed upon them. A cut off value is decided conventionally among the range of values of an index. The ones that have achieved above that cut off value constitute one category and those below are also labelled as another category.

The Relational Proposition is a declarative statement that serves the purpose for identification of association between concepts and defining distinctive characteristics to a required level.

The Existential Relational Proposition is a declaration that the association between the two concepts is a repetitious association and is not a solitary, onetime phenomenon.

Nature of Relational Proposition

The Correlation Proposition states the covariation between related concepts. The direction and degree of change are specific for each association.
The Positively correlated Proposition states that if one-concept changes, the other concept would also change in the same direction.

The Negatively correlated Proposition states that if one-concept changes, the other concept also changes inversely or indirectly.

The Symmetrical Relational Proposition
(ambivalent) states that two concepts have a reversible relationship. i. c. if a change occurs in one concept, then the other concept will also change, and vice versa. (Two way causality)

The Non-Symmetrical Relational Proposition states that two concepts have a non-reversible relationship i.e., if change occur in one concept then other concept will change also but not vice versa. (One way causality)

Order of Relational Proposition states that either the concepts exist simultaneously or they are following one another. Propositions are usually assessed over a period of time.

The Concurrent Relational Proposition recognises the existence of  two concepts together but is not sure of their time order and both concepts are observable simultaneously. Usually such propositions are found in case series, cross sectional studies etc.

The Sequential Relational Proposition goes one step further in identifying. the following concept. In other words in a relation, the preceding and proceeding concepts are identified. Usually such propositions are found in longitudinal studies.

The Magnitude of effect proposition states what proportion people, exposed to a preceding concept, develop a sequential or proceeding concept or vice versa. There are specific measures for the magnitude of effect according to the study methodology applied for data collection.

The Stochastic Relational Proposition states that there is an element of probability or chance in the occurrence of a specified relationship between the concepts.

The Causality of Relational Proposition introduces the idea of a relationship between input and outcome concepts. Causality can be viewed in a number of ways in the relational propositions, i.e. necessary, sufficient, substitutive and contingency.

The Necessary Relational Proposition states that if and only if an input concept is present then the outcome concept will occur, or it is not possible for outcome concept to occur without the first occurrence of specific input concept.

The Sufficient Relational Proposition of causality states that an input concept alone is enough to cause outcome concept to occur.

The Substitutive Relational Proposition of causality states that from a certain group of specified input concepts, if any one is present the outcome concept will occur.

The Regulatory Relational Proposition of causality states that the relationship between the input and outcome concept is contingent upon or influenced by the presence of a third concept.

In causal propositions, the intervening concept could be an intermediary step of input concept producing an outcome.

In such cases, the state of contingency is being decided by what we have decided as our limit or outcome in a process. Furthermore, different contingency concepts are identified as research methods become more advanced, or instruments become more sophisticated. Another variant of regulatory proposition is when the intervening concept is not an actual part of the relationship between concepts but acts as an extraneous factor which could influence the magnitude of effect of association between the relational concepts. This extraneous factor is also known as confounding.

The proposition justifies a concept in terms of its existence, explanation and relationship with other concepts.

Many scientific papers do not spell out propositions clearly - It needs to be emphasized. 

One of the main objectives of scientific literature review is to identify the propositions presented in the reports. Unfortunately, they are not obvious mostly. Instead of formally stating, the writer of a scientific report assumes that the readers background knowledge and intellect is enough to allow him comprehend the implicit notions of propositions. Sometimes it requires several readings by the reviewer before all potential propositions are identified. A clear and simple categorical statement of non-relational and relational propositions in a scientific report not only enhances the quality of a paper by providing better comprehension, but also minimises the ambiguities and misinterpretations.
Another advantage of a better understanding of the dynamics of propositions is that. right from the beginning, a researcher becomes more focussed and develops a niche for the theoretical precision that he wants, and how to measure that. This helps in specifying the methods of measurement, but also formulating the study goals, objectives, hypotheses and research questions.

Testing the Proposition - An Essential Step of Research Method

Testing the proposition is part of research. Testing of hypothesis is a statistical technique used in testing propositions in research. Proposition is a statement of theory that posits a relationship between a dependent concept  and independent concept. A series of propositions may show relations between number of  concepts.

From the proposition, hypothesis is deduced and tested. Hypothesis is developed for a particular situation that is being used for testing a proposition.

For detailed note on propositions visit:

1.Testing the proposition of long-run monetary neutrality

2. Testing the proposition
Good faith efforts to establish goals and then to collectively and regularly monitor and adjust actions toward them produce results. (Schmoker, 1996)

3. A key proposition of the NJL model is that in evaluating a branded product, consumers do associate the brand with a certain OC and are aware of the brand’s MC. The purpose of the present paper is to suggest a methodology for the testing this proposition and present initial findings of its application.

4. PPP is a long established proposition, which dates from well beyond its first technical exposition
by Cassel (1922). The theory of PPP is essentially the law of one price applied to a basket of
equivalent goods traded internationally.
This article considers whether exchange rates satisfy Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) in the
long-run by testing whether the real exchange rate is stationary. PPP is a critical factor in the
long-run determination of exchange rates. Much of the recent evidence testing the proposition
that the real exchange rate is stationary using univariate time series would suggest that PPP
does not hold as the hypothesis that real exchange rates are stationary is commonly rejected
(see Abuaf and Jorion, 1990).

5. Proposition:  Millenials  learn differently

Most students entering our classrooms were born between 1978 and
1995. Commonly referred to as Millennials, Boomlets, or the Net Generation,
they have been characterized as born consumers, digital natives,
tech-savvy, highly social, always connected, collaborative, multitasking,
impatient, lifestyle-focused, craving of diverse media, desiring
open access to everything, and leading 24/7 lives. No matter their economic
status, they know the World Wide Web, social media, and entertainment
technologies such as film, music, and games as consistent and
constant components of their everyday experience. They share their
thoughts, feelings, and ideas with family and friends electronically, and
they are accustomed to instantaneous information retrieval and communication.
These students interact with the world in radically different
ways than did the generations before them. At Seton Hill University,
we are testing the proposition that they learn differently as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Theory Building in Qualitative Research

Theory Building in Qualitative Research: Reconsidering the Problem of Induction

Pedro F. Bendassolli


The paper dwells on the difficulties involved in the process of justifying experience-based scientific conclusions. More specifically, inductive reasoning assumes a leap from singular observational statements to general theoretical statements. It calls into question the role of empirical evidence in the theory-building process. In the philosophy of science, the validity of inductive reasoning has been severely questioned since at least the writings of David HUME. Induction has been lauded as one of the main pillars of qualitative research methods. This article proposes reviving discussion on the problem of induction in qualitative research. There is a tension between empirical observation and scientific explanation and in that context, the paper discusses the role of theory in qualitative research.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Problem of Induction

3. Relationship Between Theory and Empirical Data

4. Induction and Theory in Qualitative Research

4.1 The generic analytic cycle

4.2 Situating the problem of induction in the current debate: Some unsolved questions

5. Suggestions for Reconsidering the Problem of Induction in Qualitative Research

6. Final Considerations

6.1 General overview and limitations

6.2 Contributions to scholarship: Revisiting theory building in qualitative research

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shortcomings of 14 Doctoral Theses - 2014 Papers

Dr. Indrajit Goswami

He shared the paper on Linkedin in Management Professor Group.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Theory Building in Applied Disciplines - 2013 Book - Richard A. Swanson, Thomas J. Chermack - Book Information

Theory Building in Applied Disciplines

Richard A. Swanson, Thomas J. Chermack
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 05-Aug-2013 -  240 pages

A Comprehensive Method, Tools, and Techniques for Building Sound Theory Richard Swanson and Thomas Chermack present a complete five-step approach for developing sound theory in applied disciplines, from conceptualizing a theory to creating relevant assessment criteria, establishing a research agenda to test the theory’s validity, applying the theoretical concepts in the real world, and using that experience to further refine and improve the theory. The method is not restricted to any single discipline, nor is it limited by any research ideology. The authors provide a set of tools for each phase of the process, making this book accessible to a wide audience. And in addition to examples in each chapter, they offer two extended case examples of full theory building.

Theory Building - Robert Dubin -1969-1978 Book Information

Case Study Methodology in Business Research - Jan Dul, Tony Hak - 2008 - Book Information

Case Study Methodology in Business Research

Jan Dul, Tony Hak
Routledge, 2008 -  302 pages

The complete guide for how to design and conduct theory-testing and other case studies…

Case Study Methodology in Business Research sets out structures and guidelines that assist students and researchers from a wide range of disciplines to develop their case study research in a consistent and rigorous manner. It clarifies the differences between practice-oriented and theory-oriented research and, within the latter category, between theory-testing and theory-building. It describes in detail how to design and conduct different types of case study research, providing students and researchers with everything they need for their project. The main aims are to:

* present a broad spectrum of types of case study research (including practice-oriented case studies, theory-building case studies and theory-testing case studies) in one consistent methodological framework.

* emphasize and clearly illustrate that the case study is the preferred research strategy for testing deterministic propositions such as those expressing a necessary condition case by case and that the survey is the preferred research strategy for testing probabilistic propositions.

* stress the role of replication in all theory-testing research, irrespective of which research strategy is chosen for a specific test.

* give more weight to the importance of theory-testing relative to theory-building.

Case Study Methodology in Business Research is a clear, concise and comprehensive text for case study methodology. Templates are supplied for case study protocol and how to report a case study.

A modular textbook primarily aimed at serving research methodology courses for final year undergraduate students and graduate students in Business Administration and Management, which is also useful as a handbook for researchers.

Written by Jan Dul, Professor of Technology and Human Factors, RSM Erasmus University, Rotterdam and Tony Hak, Associate professor of Research Methodology, RSM Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in collaboration with other authors from RSM Erasmus University.

* Provides students with everything needed to design and conduct a case study project
* Templates are supplied clearly demonstrating case study protocol and how to report a case study
* A highly accessible, concise and comprehensive text for Case Study methodology

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Books on Logic and Propositions - Possible Worlds - Bradley and Swartz - Important for Research Students

Possible Worlds: An Introduction to Logic and Its Philosophy
Raymond Bradley and Norman Swartz

Copy made available for public use by authors

Table of Contents

The realm of possibilities 1
What are the limits to the possible? 2
Possibility is not the same as conceivability 3
Possible worlds: actual and non-actual 4
Logical possibility distinguished from other kinds 6
The constituents of possible worlds 7
Truth and falsity defined 9
Truth in a possible world 11
Truth in the actual world 12
The myth of degrees of truth 12
Possibly true propositions 13
Possibly false propositions 13
Contingent propositions 14
Contradictories of propositions 14
Noncontingent propositions 15
Necessarily true propositions 16
Necessarily false propositions 17
More about contradictory propositions 18
Some main kinds of noncontingent propositions 19
Summary 24
Symbolization 25
Inconsistency 28
Consistency 30
Implication 31
Equivalence 35
Symbolization 41
Truth-values of proposition-sets 42
Modal properties of proposition-sets 42
Modal relations between proposition-sets 44
Minding our "P's and "Q"s 47
Worlds-diagrams for modal properties 49
Worlds-diagrams for modal relations 50
Interpretation of worlds-diagrams 50
A note on history and nomenclature 53
Capsule descriptions of modal relations 54
Appendix to section 6 57

Thesis 1: Such things as beliefs, statements, assertions,
remarks, hypotheses, and theories are the bearers of truth
and falsity. 68
Thesis 2: Acts of believing (stating, asserting, etc.) are the
bearers of truth-values. 68
Thesis 3: That which is believed, stated, etc., is what is true
or false. 71
Thesis 4: Sentences are the bearers of truth-values. 71
Thesis 5: Sentence-tokens are the bearers of truth-values. 73
Thesis 6: Sentence-types are the bearers of truth-values. 74
Thesis 7: Context-free sentences are the bearers of truth-values. 75
Thesis 8: Context-free sentence-tokens are those things to
which truth and falsity may be attributed. 76
Thesis 9: Context-free sentence-types are those things to
which truth and falsity may be attributed. 76
Thesis 10: Propositions are those things to which truth and
falsity may be attributed. 79
Thesis 11: Propositions are to be identified with the meanings
of sentences. 80
Thesis 12: Propositions are to be identified with sets of
possible worlds. 82

Thesis 1: Such things as beliefs, statements, assertions,
remarks, hypotheses, and theories are the bearers of truth
and falsity. 68
Thesis 2: Acts of believing (stating, asserting, etc.) are the
bearers of truth-values. 68
Thesis 3: That which is believed, stated, etc., is what is true
or false. 71
Thesis 4: Sentences are the bearers of truth-values. 71
Thesis 5: Sentence-tokens are the bearers of truth-values. 73
Thesis 6: Sentence-types are the bearers of truth-values. 74
Thesis 7: Context-free sentences are the bearers of truth-values. 75
Thesis 8: Context-free sentence-tokens are those things to
which truth and falsity may be attributed. 76
Thesis 9: Context-free sentence-types are those things to
which truth and falsity may be attributed. 76
Thesis 10: Propositions are those things to which truth and
falsity may be attributed. 79
Thesis 11: Propositions are to be identified with the meanings
of sentences. 80
Thesis 12: Propositions are to be identified with sets of
possible worlds. 82


7. Is it a necessary condition of the truth of as knowing
that P, that P should be true? 131
2. Is it a necessary condition of a's knowing that P, that a
believe that P? 133
3. Is it a necessary condition of a's knowing that P, that a
be justified in believing that P? 136
4. What might the missing fourth necessary condition for
a's knowing that P be? 137
The known and the unknown 139
The knowable and the unknowable 140
Experiential knowledge 142
Ratiocinative knowledge 144
Appendix to section 4 149
Definitions of "empirical" and "a priori" 150
The non-exhaustiveness and non-exclusiveness of the
experiential/ratiocinative distinction 151
The exhaustiveness and exclusiveness of the empirical/
a priori distinction 152
Is a priori knowledge certain? 155
7. Is it a necessary condition of the truth of as knowing
that P, that P should be true? 131
2. Is it a necessary condition of a's knowing that P, that a
believe that P? 133
3. Is it a necessary condition of a's knowing that P, that a
be justified in believing that P? 136
4. What might the missing fourth necessary condition for
a's knowing that P be? 137
The known and the unknown 139
The knowable and the unknowable 140
Experiential knowledge 142
Ratiocinative knowledge 144
Appendix to section 4 149
Definitions of "empirical" and "a priori" 150
The non-exhaustiveness and non-exclusiveness of the
experiential/ratiocinative distinction 151
The exhaustiveness and exclusiveness of the empirical/
a priori distinction 152
Is a priori knowledge certain? 155
9. Are there any noncontingent propositions which are
knowable a priori but by means other than ratiocination? 171
10. Are there any noncontingent propositions which are
unknowable? 172
Appendix to section 6: a complete classificatory scheme for
the epistemic and modal distinctions 174

The objects of philosophical analysis 180
Three levels of analysis 181
The idea of a complete analysis 183
The need for a further kind of analysis 184
Possible-worlds analysis 185
Degrees of analytical knowledge 187
Moore's problem 189
A Moorean solution 190
The nature of inference 193
Valid and invalid propositional inferences 195
Determining the validity of inferences: the problem of
justification 196
Rules of inference 198
What kind of rule is a rule of inference? 200
Inference and the expansion of knowledge 201
Inference within axiomatic systems: the example of S5 205
Inference within natural deduction systems 210
The theoretical warrant of the method of direct proof 215
The indispensability of modal concepts within propositional logics 218
Problems about the reduction principles 220
Problems about the paradoxes 224
Relevance logics 228
The move to predicate logic 230
Traditional syllogistic 232
Modern predicate logic 233
Modal notions in predicate logic 236
Modalities de dicto and de re 237
Heterogeneous and homogeneous possible worlds 239
Is there really a logic of concepts? 240

The uses of "not" and "it is not the case that" 249
The uses of "and" 252
The uses of "or" 257
Interlude: compound sentences containing two or more
sentential operators 261
The uses of "if... then ..." 263
The uses of "if and only if 269
Appendix: truth-tables for wffs containing three or more
letters 272
A note on two senses of "determined" 277
Modal status 279
Modal relations 284
Deductive validity 290
Corrected truth-tables 294
Reduced truth-tables 297
Sentences and sentential forms in a logic 301
The relationship between sentences and
sentence-forms 302
The validity of sentence-forms 306
Modal relations 308
Implication 308
Equivalence 309
Inconsistency 309
Argument-forms and deductive validity 310
Summary 320


1 to 10 have to be included

The cardinality of a class and other concepts of class size 371
The concept of contingent content 372
Monadic modal functors 375
What are the prospects for a fully-developed inductive logic? 379
The concept of probabilification 381
A dyadic modal functor for the concept of probabilification 382 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Futures Research Tactic in Business and Management Research

Futures Studies and Future-oriented Technology Analysis
Principles, Methodology and Research Questions
2011 Paper
Prof. Dr. Rolf Kreibich
Britta Oertel
Michaela Wölk
IZT – Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment

Qualitative futures research for innovation
Patrick van der Duin
PhD Thesis:  Technische Universiteit Delft
Eburon Academic Publishers; P.O. Box 2867; 2601 CW Delft; The Netherlands

Researching the future: method or madness?
Eddie Blass
Cranfield University, Cranfield, Bedfordshire MK43 OAL, UK
2003 Paper$file/ResearchingThe%20Future.pdf

What is a Framework in Science or Theory?

Conceptual frameworks are high-level conceptual categories and relationships that may not explain a particular phenomenon but identify the types of concepts that are likely needed to provide an explanation.  In that way, conceptual frameworks can provide guidance in developing theory.

If you are developing a framework, the deliverables are

A diagram of the conceptual framework you are proposing using as a starting point or basis for further  theory building.

A description explaining the diagram.

The way a framework is defined, it can also be explained as input variables and output variables of the phenomenon of interest. The framework may provide additional information apart from the simple listing of variables.

Framework building - Is it exploratory research or descriptive research?

Reference given:
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2007). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Management Research Methodology - K.N. Krishnaswamy et al. 2012- Book Information

Google Book Link with Preview Facility

The book has focus on applied research for using the research to directly solve problems facing the manager.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Theory of Propositions

General Theory of Propositions by Dewey

Dewey books on logic is available on

Construction of Complex Propositions

Link for logic course

On scribd there is a good presentatin on propositions. - Types of Propositions

Bricolage Research - A Research Methodology

Bricolage research, as conceptualized by Denzin and Lincoln (1999) and further theorized by Kincheloe (2001; 2004a; 2004b; 2004c; 2004d; 2005a) and Berry (2004a; 2004b; 2006; 2011), can be considered a critical, multi-perspectival, multi-theoretical and multi-methodological approach to inquiry.

The etymological foundation of bricolage comes from a traditional French expression which denotes crafts-people who creatively use materials left over from other projects to construct new artifacts. To
fashion their bricolage projects, bricoleurs use only the tools and materials “at-hand” (Levi-Strauss, 1966). This mode of construction is in direct contrast to the work of engineers, who follow set procedures and have a list of specific tools to carry out their work.

Generally speaking, when the metaphor is used within the domaine of qualitative research it denotes methodological practices explicitly based on notions of eclecticism, emergent design, flexibility and plurality. Further, it signifies approaches that examine phenomena from multiple, and sometimes competing, theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Contextualizing Theories and Practices of Bricolage Research
Matt Rogers
University of New Brunswick, Canada
The Qualitative Report 2012 Volume 17, T&L Art. 7, 1-17

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Mixed Method Study: Apparel Customer's Fashion Design Leadership Linda Catherine Psalmonds - Thesis Information

A Mixed Method Study: Exploring U.S. Female Apparel Customer's Fashion Design Leadership Expectations

Front Cover
Linda Catherine Psalmonds
ProQuest, 2008 - 305 pages

Phd Thesis

Mixed Method Study of Cresswell - 2002

See methodology section

Grounded Theory - Julianne S. Oktay - 2012 - Book Information

Google Book Link with Preview facility

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to Grounded Theory and its Potential for Social Work
2. Getting Started
3. Early Data Analysis
4. Late Stage Analysis
5. Evaluating Quality
6. Grounded Theory in Social Work Research: Problems and Promise

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Constructivist Research Paradigm

Three paradigms of  research are: (a) the positivist and post-positivist paradigm, (b) the constructivist paradigm, and (c) the critical paradigm.

The distinction between the positivist and post-positivist paradigm (that emphasizes empirical-analytical knowledge) and the constructivist paradigm (that emphasizes meaning and experiential knowledge) has been made by several writers (e. g., Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The German critical theorist Jürgen Habermas (1971) took this debate one step further by introducing the critical paradigm (that emphasizes critical, emancipatory knowledge).

Over the past decade, several researchers, philosophers, and psychologists have elaborated on the distinctions between these three research paradigms (Bhaskar, 1975; Brydon-Miller, 2001; Lincoln & Guba, 2000; Richardson & Fowers, 1997; Smith, 1997; Teo, 1999).

Social Constructivist Paradigm

Egon G. Guba & Yvonna S. Lincoln
November 2001
NOTE: The guidelines and checklists for constructivist evaluations and reports outlined herein are based  upon Egon G. Guba and Yvonna S. Lincoln, Fourth Generation Evaluation, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1989. Useful background information may be found in Yvonna S. Lincoln and Egon G. Guba, Naturalistic Inquiry, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1985.

Lincoln & Guba, 1985, Yvonna S. Lincoln and Egon G. Guba, Naturalistic Inquiry, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1985.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Research Dilemmas - Research Paradigms

Issues In Educational Research, Vol 16, 2006

Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology

Noella Mackenzie and Sally Knipe
Charles Sturt University
There is considerable literature to support the use of mixed methods. The authors review current research literature and discuss some of the language, which can prove confusing to the early career researcher and problematic for post-graduate supervisors and teachers of research. The authors argue that discussions of research methods in research texts and university courses should include mixed methods and should address the perceived dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative research methodology.

Social scientists have come to abandon the spurious choice between qualitative and quantitative data; they are concerned rather with that combination of both which makes use of the most valuable features of each. The problem becomes one of determining at which points he [sic] should adopt the one, and at which the other, approach (Merton & Kendall, 1946, pp.556-557).



Critical Theory Paradigm

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Phenomenology: The Non-Positivist Approach - Dan Remenyi - Chapter Summary

The wheel of learning consists of question, theory, test and reflection.

Insight, untested and unsupported, is an insufficient guarantee of truth, in spite of the fact that much of the most important truth is first suggested by its means.

Phenomenology and Non-Positivism
To cope with the problems of people and organisations it is necessary to go beyond positivism and use a phenomenological approach to research.  It is increasingly accepted among business and management scholars that phenomenology is better suited to this type of research where the central issues concern people and their behavior.

Different Meaning to Different Researchers

Cohen and Manion (1987) provide the following definition of phenomenology: ’Phenomenology is a theoretical point of view that advocates the study of direct experience taken at face value; and one which sees behaviour as determined by the phenomena of experience rather than by external, objective and physically described reality.’

On the other hand Rudestein and Newton(1992) suggest that phenomenology ‘attempts to describe and elucidate the meanings of human experience’.

According to Camus (O’ Brien,1965, ‘phenomenology declines to explain the world, it wants to be merely a description of actual experience’.

Perhaps the essence of the subject was captured by Boland(1985), when he said that phenomenology is ‘a term that carries a great deal of ambiguity along with its sometimes confused and faddish use’.
Phenomenology- What? Why? And How?

The non-positivist searches for the embedded face in the picture rather than remaining content
with a description of the patterns, figures and outlines which define and describe the larger scale objects in the picture.
Medawar attributes to Popper the observation that positivism suggests that the world is all surface.  Thus the essence of phenomenology is an attempt to delve below the surface to understand the essence of what is happening.

The central premise of non-positivist research is that the researcher should be concerned to understand phenomenon in depth and that this understanding should result from attempting to find tentative answers to questions such as ‘what?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’  Phenomenology contends that such an understanding can result from using methods other than measurements, unlike the assumption of positivism which is ultimately concerned with answering the questions of ‘How many?’ or ‘How much?’

The Context of the Research

In business and management studies it is essential to understand the context within which the research is being conducted by considering social or cultural factors that impinge on the research problem.

Some Philosophical Underpinnings

Philosophically the non-positivist position derives from phenomenology, which emphasises the primacy of unique experience without attempting to label or categorise these experiences.  It is important to distinguish between phenomenology itself and the range of different research methods that have developed out of this particular world view.

The term phenomenology essentially describes the philosophical approach that what is directly perceived and felt is considered more reliable than explanations or interpretations in communication.  It is a search for understanding based on what is apparent in the individual environment rather than on interpretations made by the observer.
The approach is often confused with the qualitative approach to research.

The primacy of Context
Phenomenology assumes that knowledge can be gained by concentating on phenomena as experienced by people.

At the heart of phenomenology is the relationship between self and society, as expressed in the work of Mead(1934), the originator of phenomenological psychology.  Mead accorded primacy to the process from which the ‘organism creates its environment’ ( Clegg and Dunkerley, 1980:267) which leads to the distinction between act and content, with the stress on the act and what that means to the actor(Yontef,1993).

The variables being manipulated could not be treated as independent of the meaning ‘which individuals assigned to them’.  Today this is one of the fundamental assumptions of phenomenological researchers (Collins and Young, 1988)

Phenomenology and Qualitative Methods
Researchers adopting phenomenology deliberately group their evidence-gathering technique in the theoretical tradition of phenomenology.  This results in a very specific method which the researcher must first attempt to remove all traces of personal involvement in the phenomena being researched.

Similarly the researcher has to limit any other influences from impinging on the evidence – collection exercise before finally gathering data around specific themes.  This process is clearly very different from the interviewing process that a feminist or a hermeneutic researcher would adopt.

Non-positivist research assumes that objects of enquiry in the social sciences are social issues – a key concern is that research should acknowledge and treat people as essentially human rather than as mere objects.

Central to this argument is the fact that people have the ability to think, argue, and experience the world or events in idiosyncratic ways and that positivistic research strategies are unable to deliver an understanding of these human dimensions.

Control and the Research Process
However, these assumptions about the use of controls are seldom relevant in non-positivist research, due to the difficulty of controlling variables in social settings.

Evidence Collection in a Natural Setting
Non- positivist research essentially relies on collecting evidence in as natural and non-controlled a setting as possible, rejecting the formalism imposed on research activity by a positivist approach.

Using Non-Positivist Methods
This serves to remind us that researchers are subject to prejudices, cultural beliefs and values that they bring into the research process with them.  These help to shape what Morgan(1980) calls the researcher’s ‘frame of reference or ‘mode of engagement’ which include socialisation, the nature of the object being investigated, the outcomes sought from research and who is funding the research.

The disciplines from which the researcher comes, as well as his or her work experiences, will have a strong influence upon the research strategy that is favoured.

Funding the Research
The agency or organisation that is funding the research often determines the nature of the object to be investigated and the methods that are to be used in undertaking that task.

Developing a Research Strategy
By research strategy is meant consideration by students as to which research community they feel they belong to, and that the researchers know the epistemological, ethical and ontological assumptions of their research.


Easter by-Smith et al.  (1994:27) used the above analysis of philosophical positions to generate a useful classification of the key features of positivist and phenomenological paradigms.  This is shown in Table 6.1, which, together with the continuum, can be used to explore the orientation of the researcher in order that strategies and tactics can be consciously selected.

Key features of positivist and phenomenological paradigms

Beginning the Research
Howard and Sharp(1983) outline a process model that is useful in identifying the phases that form part of the research process.  They distinguish between the ‘planning’ and effectuation’ stages and these in turn can be broken down into the activities set out below :

Planning :
Identify a broad area of study
Select the research topic
Decide the approach
Formulate a plan of action
Collect the evidence
Analyse or interpret the evidence
Present the findings.

Ideographic methods to collect evidence is potentially more fraught with pitfalls.

As Marshall and Rossman (1995) argue, the planning stage is fundamental to the consideration of issues such as developing an argument that is convincing, showing how the particular case being investigated fits with the bigger picture, and that the design of the research is sound.  It is through this planning that the competence of the researcher is demonstrated.

Area of study and Topic
In this respect, creativity and immersion in a topic area are therefore important ingredients

However, within a non-positivist paradigm, it is acceptable for the generation of a research topic or question to come from experience rather than reflection on theory and concepts.  In other words, an inductive process to generate the research question is entirely acceptable.  Intuitive notions about phenomena often from part of the practice of researchers.   The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts.

Alternatively the student might well start from a deductive position and then seek to use the methods suggested by Howard and Sharp(1983) to generate research topics. These range from looking for ideas in text (theses, journal articles, books and reviews, the media) to communication with others (experts in the field, colleagues, potential users of the research outputs.)

By this is meant that the researcher has to be able to see how the specific instance fits into the wider whole.

Importance of the Literature
Non-positivist researchers will use real-life problems that emerge from experience as the inspiration for research (Marshall and Rossman,1995:17).  It is important that this is done in tandem with at least an emerging understanding of the literature.

Formulating the research problem is the next important step in which intuitive notions should be more fully investigated and narrowed down into a researchable, informal hypothesis or statement

Feasibility of the Research
Once the research problem has been formulated, it is important to think about the feasibility of the research and to be satisfied that there is sufficient material (published literature, secondary and primary evidence ) to work with

Plan the Research
The main challenge in planning the research is for the student to consider, and explicitly state, the overall design of the study.  A feminist researcher will specifically set out to exploit personal involvement, whereas phenomenological interviewing might stress the removal of ‘all traces of personal involvement in the phenomena being studied’, such that all preconceptions are removed and do not interface with the research process (Marshall and Rossman,1995:82).  On the other hand, a researcher wishing to undertake hermeneutical research will attempt to generate high –quality textual material for examination.

Questions and Strategies
Marshall and Rossman (1995:41) have developed a table matching research questions with strategies.  The table uses the purpose of the study and the research question as the starting point for determining specific research strategy and evidence-collection techniques.

Silverman (1994) would  support the theory-building potentiality of qualitative research and suggests that qualitative researchers need to be bolder in the horizons that they envisage for non-positivist research

Research Proposal
The final outcome of the above process will be a research proposal convering the following:
What :    outline of research problem, tracing historical roots and
                linking specific to general; conceptual framework and
                literature review; purpose of study and specific research
How :     description of research strategy and design which will
                yield specific evidence required to answer questions;
                methods justified and linked back to research question
                and research site.
Where :  where the research will be conducted                                                                                                                                                        
When :   ideally a time line to spell out major phases of
                research process

Gaining Access
Gummesson (1991:21) describes access( the ability to get close to the object of study, to really be able to find out what is happening) as the researcher’s biggest problem.
The choice of site should be clearly justified and a good research site will have the following properties:

Entry should be possible;
The site will present the possibility of collecting pertinent evidence;
Trust can be established with respondents;
Evidence quality and credibility of the research can be assured.

      The researcher can best ensure that conditions 1 and 3 are met by developing good relationships with gatekeepers and/or informants(Gummesson,1991).

Collecting Evidence
It is now well accepted that where a non- positivist approach is adopted, it is difficult to separate evidence collection from hypothesis construction and theory building.

Evidence collection can usefully be divided into three types: observation, interviews, textual analysis.

The main aim of observation in research is to gain an understanding of other cultures by sharing the space of the research site at least for some part of the duration of the research.   The argument for adopting observation as an evidence-collection strategy is that real understanding will come about through extended observation as this enables an understanding of both the context and process of behaviour.

This is a method commonly used in non-positivist research. Open-ended interviews and semi-structured interviews.

The schedule could for example be sent to academic and practitioner referees who can provide feedback on how they understood and responded to questions.

Advice that the key to getting on with evidence collection is that the researcher should really (and appear to) ‘have a sincere curiosity about the lives and experiences of others.  In our experience the best way to break the ice is to discuss informally an issue (mutual friends or interests, important recent news which relate to the company, etc.) unrelated to the research per se, which will allow both the researcher and the respondent too relax.

A second potential problem can arise from covering everything on the interview schedule or guide.  If there is an interview schedule to cover the researcher should be able to use questions as prompts to steer conversation in the desired direction or, indeed, to use  these to probe particular issues.

Researchers may supply informants with a copy of the interview transcripts.  This is done to ensure that the transcription is an accurate portrayal of the proceeding, which is an essential check on the validity of the evidence, but also to sustain the relationship with respondents.

Analysis of Texts
This is the most demanding aspect of non-positivist research.  In practice this means that the evidence has to be read, re-read, and such themes or concepts have to be catalogued.  It is vital that this process is based on the evidence itself and that these themes emerge from the bottom up, rather than being the result of selecting a theory by convenience and then dipping into fragments that support such a theory.

Evidence Analysis Software
Most qualitative researchers do not make use of computers in analysis, except for producing and keeping a record of interview transcripts.  Today, however, the situation is different and for those researchers who feel comfortable with using a computer-based approach to analysis there is a wide choice of software available -  from simple text retrievers through to conceptual network builders.

For instance, Silverman(1994) advocates the use of such analysis software to assist with analysis of field notes such that the researcher can more easily file and index text into several different categories. Alternatively, NUD.IST might be used to facilitate searching by indexes and to generate new categories and relationships.

In non positivist research validity concerns whether the researcher has gained full access to knowledge and meanings of respondents.  Hence the importance of good-quality access to enable such contact to be made within the research site.  There is also the need to feed research field notes or interview transcripts back to respondents for verification to ensure that it reflects their understanding of the phenomenon (Collins and Young,1988).  Access therefore becomes one of the criteria against which the research will be evaluated.

Collins and Young(1988) further contribute ideas regarding validity in hermeneutical research.   The authors argue that a positive response to the questions, together with an internally consistent argument, would place a particular research account in line to have validity conferred by readers and users of that research.

The distinguishing characteristic here is that similar observations should be made by researchers on different occasions (Easterby - smith et al.,1994) and the concern is therefore with how replicable the study is.   Marshall and Rossman (1995) advocate that, rather than pretend that research conditions can be replicable, it is much better to accept the particularist nature of the research and to follow good practice guidelines such as establishing an audit trail.

This can be achieved by keeping the evidence collected in an easily retrievable form to enable others to investigate it should doubts regarding the research ever be raised.  Second, the researcher should keep a log or journal cataloguing research design decisions and justifications for these.  In this way the methods used become transparent and the parameters regarding the research questions, setting, assumptions and theoretical frameworks are open to scrutiny.

Here the researcher is essentially concerned with the applicability of theories that were generated in one setting to other settings.   Gummesson(1991:79) argues that qualitative research is less concerned with making statements about the commonality of particular findings than with the fact that good qualitative research should enable one to attain an understanding of organisational processes.  He argues that generalisation can be understood in two ways:

Quantitative studies based on a large number of observations are required in order to determine how much, how often and how many.  The other… involves the use of in-depth studies based on exhaustive investigations and analyses to identify certain phenomena, for example the effects of change in corporate strategy, and lay bare mechanisms that one suspects will also exist in other companies.

There is no one best way to demonstrate or evaluate the quality of research.  The list was constructed by drawing on the work of LincoIn and Guba(1995),quoted in Marshall and Rossman(1995) and Gummesson (1991).

The issue of credibility refers to being able to demonstrate that the research was designed in a manner that accurately identified and described the phenomenon to be investigated.  Here the credibility (rather than internal validity) will derive from an in-depth description of the complexities of the research setting, drawing on empirical evidence.  Such a representation of the phenomenon will therefore be valid for that particular study.  This does mean that the research should explicitly state the parameters of the study in terms of the population, setting and theoretical framework used.

This refers to external validity and is dependent upon the researcher stating the theoretical parameters of the research explicitly.  Here it would be important to specify how the specific phenomenon or research setting being investigated ties into a broader case, making clear the specific organisational processes about which generalisations will be made.

The positivist construct of reliability assumes unchanging conditions that enable replication of the study.  This assumption does not hold for non-positivist research and it is more appropriate for the researcher to account for changes in the conditions of the phenomenon being investigated, as well as research design changes which are made because of a better understanding of the research setting.

With phenomenological research the concept of confirmability is used instead of objectivity.  The question to pose is: does the research confirm general findings or not?  The test is whether the findings of the research can be confirmed by another similar study.

Additional Resources

An Introduction to Phenomenological Research
(A good reference to read - This article may be focusing on using phenomenology in educational research)

Nomothetic Approach to Science - Idiographic Approach to Science by KVSSNRao

Five Qualitative Approaches to Enquiry (Cresswell Book?)
Narrative Research, Phenomenological Research, Grounded Theory Research, Ethnographic Research, Case Study Research  (Interesting descriptions of each approach is given in this chapter)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Theory Building - Robert Dubin -1969-1978 Book Information

1969 is the first edition and 1978 is the second edition of the book published by Free Press, New York and Collier-Macmillan Limited, London.

Dubin,s was summarized in a chapter in a Sage publication by Susan A. Lynham in a book of 2002. The chapter is available as a free download from Sage's website on 11 September 2014.

The theory development side of the Theory-Research Cycle

1. Units
2. Laws of interaction
3. Boundaries
4. System States
5. Propositions

The above  five steps result in an informed, conceptual framework of the theory. Propositions are the output of the first part.

Part Two:
The research operation side of the Theory-Research Cycle
5. Propositions
6. Empirical indicators of key terms
7. Hypotheses
8. Testing

The above four steps result in an empirically verified, and trustworthy theory. Propositions are the starting point of empirical testing of the theory. Rejecting or not rejecting the theory and accepting it as a useful one to use in practice is the outcome of the second part.

Theory Building in Applied Disciplines - 2013 Book - Richard A. Swanson, Thomas J. Chermack - Book Information

Note: The first edition is in Nitie library   Acq.No. 9424, 001.42/DUB

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nomothetic Approach to Science - Idiographic Approach to Science

The nomothetic (Greek term meaning  lawgiving ) approach to science seeks scientific truth (lawfulness) by testing hypotheses. It applies general formulations developed through research to particular cases and uses deductive reasoning to predict what will happen in the case based on the general rule or proposition formulated.

 The idiographic (Greek term for one or more specifically oneself , one's own ) approach seeks scientific truth (lawfulness) by inspecting individual cases and finding the general patter behind their occurrence and it uses inductive reasoning. General rules are inferred from individual cases.

The Idiographic / Nomothetic Dichotomy: Tracing Historical Origins of Contemporary Confusions
Oliver C. Robinson, University of Greenwich
History & Philosophy of Psychology (2011) Vol. 13(2), 32–39.

There has been a false tendency to see these two terms as antagonistic rather than complementary. The
confusions over the term ‘nomothetic’ stem from a long-held misconception that nomothetic research requires large samples and group-based statistics such as means and variances (i.e. the ‘Galtonian’ paradigm). But  nomothetic research has another paradigm at its disposal that can be termed the ‘Wundtian’ paradigm, which relies on smaller samples, and a case-by-case form of analysis (Lamiell, 2003).
The confusion over the term ‘idiographic’ stem from an enduring but incorrect sense that it is opposed to nomothetic inquiry.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Critique and Theory Building: Producing Knowledge “From the Kitchen” - Roy Jacques - Article Information

ACADEMY  MANAGEMENT REVIEW July 1, 1992 vol. 17 no. 3 582-606

Discussion of what constitutes “good” scholarly critique in organisational studies usually emphasises procedural issues. The values guiding critique are seldom discussed.  The purpose of this artilce is to draw attention to the Important role the values that structure critique play in the development of organisation theory.

Articles citing this article

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Critical performativity: The unfinished business of critical management studies
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The Structuration of Racialized Sport Organizing
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We See Dead People?: The State of Organization Science
Journal of Management Inquiry December 1, 2007 16:4 300-317

Questioning Consensus, Cultivating Conflict
Journal of Management Inquiry March 1, 2006 15:1 18-30

Triangulation in Organizational Research: A Re-Presentation
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Organization February 1, 2002 9:1 151-171

Practice-Based Theorizing on Learning and Knowing in Organizations
Organization May 1, 2000 7:2 211-223

Keeping the Tension: Pressures to Keep the Controversy in the Management Discipline
ACAD MANAGE REV April 1, 2000 25:2 350-371

Past Postmodernism? Reflections and Tentative Directions
ACAD MANAGE REV October 1, 1999 24:4 649-672

Organizational Symbolism as a Social Construction: A Perspective from the Sociology of Knowledge
Human Relations November 1, 1998 51:11 1379-1402

Covered by Equality: The Gender Subtext of Organizations
Organization Studies September 1, 1998 19:5 787-805

The Empire Strikes Out: Lyotard's Postmodern Condition and the Need for a `Necrology of Knowledge'
Organization February 1, 1997 4:1 130-142

ACAD MANAGE REV January 1, 1997 22:1 257-282

The Bloodless Coup: The Infiltration of Organization Science by Uncertainty and Values
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science December 1, 1996 32:4 407-427

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ACAD MANAGE REV July 1, 1996 21:3 691-717

The Problem of Reflexivity in Organizational Research: Towards a Postmodern Science of Organization
Organization February 1, 1996 3:1 31-59

We Just Don't Understand: Gendered Interaction and the Process of "Doing" Organizational Scholarship
Journal of Management Inquiry December 1, 1995 4:4 370-379

Responding to Work-Force Diversity: Conceptualization and Search for Paradigms
Journal of Business and Technical Communication July 1, 1994 8:3 353-372

A Feminist Critique of Organizational Humanism
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science March 1, 1994 30:1 83-97

Gendering Organizational Analysis
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The Uniqueness Value and its Consequences for Organization Studies
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Monday, July 28, 2014

My DBA Experience and Transformation - Cranfield School of Management Scholars Presentation

Presentations by Dr Michael McGrath, DBA Alumnus (1999 cohort) & Co-Founder, Lainstone and Dr Nneka Abulokwe (1998 cohort), Exec Director, Operations & Governance at Steria Group.

Michael completed his DBA in 2004 and  was one of the very early persons  to undertake the programme at Cranfield, back in 1999, with a thesis entitled `Decision Making in Unfamiliar Problem Domains: Evidence from the Investment Banking Industry.`,  His supervisor was  Dr David Partington.

Nneka completed her DBA in 2013 with a thesis entitled `From imposed to the co-developed governance processes in IT captive offshoring engagements`, under the  supervision of  Dr Jonathan Lupson.

Michael and Nneka explain their research and DBA experience in the presentations.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Research Methodology Course at NITIE - 2014 - Course Plan and Page

Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor,  Harvard Business Review, September 2003 

 "Why Hard Nosed Executives Should Care about Management Theory."

Converting Light (energy) into mass (matter) - Experiment
May 2014

Text Book - Doing Research in Business and Management - Dan Remenyi et al.



About the Authors

1. Business and Management Research in Perspective

2. Philosophical Background to Research

3. Research Strategies and Tactics

4. The Research Programme and Process

5. The Positivist Approach to Empirical Research

6. Phenomenology: The Non-Positivist Approach

7. The Research Process

8. Collecting Empirical Data

9. The Questionnaire or Measuring Instrument

10. The Case Study

11. The Sample

12. Statistical Analysis

13. Ethical Considerations

14. Writing up the Research

15. Evaluation of Masters and Doctoral Degrees


A. Note on Academic Degrees

B. Measuring Instruments

C. Further Information on Statistical Analysis

D. Useful Web Site Addresses

E. Software for Qualitative Evidence Analysis

F. A Glossary of Terms

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Philosophical Background to Research - Dan Remenyi - Chapter Summary

The starting point in all research undertakings is to focus clearly on the fact that the ultimate purpose is to add something of value to the body of accumulated knowledge and in this case accumulated business and management knowledge.   This means that an unanswered questioned or unsolved  problem will be identified the questioned or a solution to the problem. Of course the focus here is on difficult problems to which the solution is not obvious and which when solved will add material value to the subject area being studied.

Philosophical Questions
There are at least three philosophical questions about research itself that should be addressed at the outset of the research. These are:

Why research?
What to research?
And How to research?
 It could also be argued that Where to research? And when to research ? Although of lesser philosophical importance, also deserve attention.

Why Research?

The Need for research is related to the fact that there are many issues and subjects about which we have incomplete knowledge.

The second aspect of the need for research is related to ‘Homo sapiens’ compulsive need for growth.  There appears to be an endless requirement for increased performance in all aspect of life. Therefore there is the need continually to break the frontiers of knowledge through the research process.

What (and where) to Research ?

The questions what to research? And Where to research? Are closely related.

What to research may at first seem obvious. In business and management the main focus of research should be on issues related to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the business and management  process.

Every would-be researcher will previously have studied a particular subject or discipline in some considerable depth.  This may have been achieved through an undergraduate degree in economics, sociology, psychology or accounting, to mention only few possible options.  It may also have been achieved without a degree, through many years of working experience, especially where the individual has made a definite effort to keep up with the latest thinking in the field by reading the appropriate literature.

These studies and/or experiences will have provided a strong base on which to build a research programme.  However, as well as having in-depth knowledge of the subject, the aspirant researcher  should also be widely read in order to put the research into context as well as to identify and draw on interdisciplinary linkage and connections.

Although some people do change disciplines, such a change will demand a substantial amount of work before the candidate becomes fully up to date with the subject matter and acquires sufficient familiarity  with the relevant body of academic thinking.

In addition to the researchers’ own competence there is the issue of the expertise of the chosen institute and potential supervisors.

Whether or not such a personality oriented approach is adopted, it is most important for the student to find a research field in which the faculty has expertise and interest.

Business research is commonly aimed at helping to develop management understanding of how business organizations work.   It is frequently suggested that the best business research should lead to the development of guidelines by which individuals in positions of responsibility can manage their business responsibilities more efficiently and effectively.

How to Research?

At the outset it is important to appreciate that the nature of the research process is often relatively unstructured and frequently unpredictable.
It is something described as a voyage of discovery during which the researcher learns much and  may even learn something of him or herself.

A major concern to the researcher is the ability to deliver a convincing, or at least a credible, answer or solution that will be accepted by his or her peers.  It is important for the researcher to be able to convince the peer group that the approach to the research has been sound.  This requires an understanding of the nature of the required to create knowledge.

To claim that a valuable or significant addition has been made to the collection of knowledge, the researcher should comply with a scientific method, or approach, which is an informal but strict set of rules that have evolved to ensure the integrity, reliability and reproducibility of the research work.  This is not easy because there are almost as many definitions of science as there are scientists.

A  researcher has to be able to convince an audience  of the value and relevance of his or her research efforts. This audience, which may be composed of examiners, funders and colleagues, is likely to be critical.
In addition, the academic researcher needs to explain why his or her research should be considered important and needs to be able to point out precisely what was found and what use the findings are to the community.  The researcher needs to be able to argue convincingly that something new and of value has been added to the body of knowledge.

Sound answers to these questions rely on the philosophical underpinning of the research process.

Commercial research or intelligence is about accessing already established knowledge and presenting it in a more accessible manner for the purposes of routine decision making. This type of research, although conducted by many business schools in order to earn money, may have virtually no scholarly or academic merit.

Research Methodologies in Perspective

Research methodology refers to the procedural framework within which the research is conducted. It describes an approach to a problem that can be put into practice in research programme or process, which Leedy (1989) formally defines as “an operational framework within which the facts are placed so that their meaning may be seen more clearly.

In the modern physical sciences, the solid tradition of experimental research and careful observation was combined with a rigorous formulation based In mathematics.  Indeed,Needham(1988) has argued that “Modern [as opposed to mediaeval or ancient]  science is the mathematisation of hypotheses about nature …  combined with rigorous experimentation.’

This is so much the case that now the rules of scientific experiments are seldom explicitly taught to aspirant natural scientists.

Research in the Social world

Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and many others through the ages have made important contributions to social science. Research into business and management is even more recent with the Hawthorne experiments in the late 1920s and early 1930s probably being among the earliest structures business research studies.

Because research into business and management has developed relatively recently, much attention is given to the methods employed to justify the claim that something material and valuable has been added to the body of accumulated knowledge. As a result, research methodology is explicitly taught to those undertaking business and management studies.

Furthermore any material research in business or management, such as that undertaken for a masters or a doctoral degree, requires that the methodology used be clearly spelt out, perhaps in a chapter of its own (Remenyi,1990b),so that the results of the research are convincing or at least credible.

A degree of generality is intrinsically built into the laws developed by the social scientist even when generalisation is not a key issue.  This occurs because once a phenomenon has been identified, even only once, the probability of it being unique is so low as to make it almost impossible.  In fact there is a growing confidence among social scientists that their work is fully scientific and that in some cases traditional physical and natural scientists are actually being left behind because of their reluctance to consider new ways of thinking about scientific methods.

Perhaps in the end the view of Marx(1844) will prevail, ’Natural science will in time incorporate into itself  the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science : there will be one science.’

Empirical versus Theoretical Research

One of the most commonly used differentiates research into empirical or theoretical studies.  Empirical is defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as : ‘based on, or guided by, the results of observation or experiment only’, While theoretical  is defined as, ‘contemplative, of the mind or intellectual faculties’.

The rationale behind this bias for empiricism is a philosophical assumption that evidence, as opposed to thought or discourse, is required to be able to make a satisfactory claim to have added to the body of knowledge.  Of course it is not always easy to collect usable evidence which can lead to convincing and believable results. Furthermore, every empirical investigation presupposes an understanding of the material under investigation and therefore some kind of theoretical position.

The empiricist goes out into the world and observes through experiment or even by relatively passive observation of what is happening.  By studying these observation and collecting related evidence, the empiricist will draw conclusions and make the claim that something of value has been added to the body of knowledge

The research theorist, on the other hand, studies the subject through the writings of others and through discourse with learned or informed individuals who can comment on the subject area, usually without any direct involvement in observation of behaviour and the collection of actual evidence.  The theorist reflects on these ideas and using his or her intellectual capabilities constructs a new or different view of the situation ,which sometimes may be regarded as a new theory.  At the end of the theorist’s work  conclusions are also drawn and a claim is made that the researcher has added to the body of knowledge.

A paradigm or theory is no more than the conventional wisdom of the subject .

On the other hand theoretical research, although not directly based on evidence collected from observation, also relies on ideas which have at some previous time been based on specific observations or original  evidence collected by means of empirical work.  Theoretical research does not occur in a vacuum, it is rather the result of thinking about the findings of previous  empirical research and of debating the different theoretical interpretations that others have made.

Empirical research is the dominant paradigm in business and management research.

Empirical research is frequently associated with a positivist view which has sometimes been described as a tough-minded approach to facts and figures, derived from the physical and  natural sciences.

Characteristics of a positivist

Being a positivist, or perhaps more correctly a logical positivist, implies that the researcher is working with an observable social reality and that the end product of such research can be the derivation of laws or law-like generalisations similar to those produced by the physical and natural scientists.  Positivism came into its own with the work  of Auguste Comte (1798-1857)who outlined an approach to positivism in his ‘course of Positive Philosophy’, published in six volumes between 1830 and 1842.

This philosophical stance or paradigm sees the researcher as an objective analyst and interpreter of a tangible social reality.  Underlying positivism is the assumption that the researcher is independent of and neither affects nor is affected by the subject of the research.  It is assumed that there are independent causes that lead to the observed effects, that evidence is critical, that parsimony is important and that it should be possible to generalise or to model, especially in the mathematical sense, the observed phenomena.  Positivism emphasises quantifiable observations that lend themselves to statistical analysis.

Falsification and Revolution
One of the central tenets of positivism is the idea of falsification, which was introduced by karl Popper.  According to Popper an idea could not be regarded as scientific unless it was falsifiable.

This may be seen as the way that falsification actually works its way through to theory or paradigm rejection.


According to Cohen and Manion (1987), ’Phenomenology is a theoretical point of view that advocates the study of direct experience taken at face value, and one which sees behaviour as determined by the phenomena of experience rather than by external, objective and physically described reality.’

The phenomenological school of thought started with the work of Franz Brentano(1838-1917) and was developed by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) who set out the basic methods of phenomenology in his work Logical Investigations. Unlike the positivist , the phenomenologist does not  consider the world to consist of an objective reality but instead focuses on the primacy of subjective consciousness.

Each situation is seen as unique and its meaning is  a function of the circumstances and the individuals involved.  To the phenomenologist the researcher is not independent of what is being researched but is an intrinsic part of it.

The phenomenologist believes that the world can be modelled, but not necessarily in a mathematical sense.  A verbal, diagrammatic, or descriptive model could be acceptable.

The researcher constructs a meaning in terms of the situation being studied.

Comparison between Positivism and phenomenology

One of the key tenets of positivism is that it takes a reductionist approach to exploring the relationships among the variables being studied.

This reductionist approach should by its very nature lead to simplifications of the real world environment in which the variables naturally or usually exist.

As the researcher taking another still photograph of the situation and this process is repeated until enough evidence has been collected to make some sort of generalisation.

On the other hand, a phenomenological approach to research is not reductionist but holistic.

At the end of the research study the phenomenological researcher has also produced a still photograph of the variables being studied.  Although this photograph is more sophisticated than the one obtained by the positivist it achieves approximately the same.

By definition, it is more difficult to replicate such holistic studies and generalisations are much more problematical.

A map of the world is no less a model than is E=mc2, which is Einstein’s model for the relationship between energy and mass.

‘Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement. ‘

Choosing a Research Strategy

The philosophical orientation that is adopted plays an important role in business and management research and the researcher needs to establish his or her approach early on it the research process.   Usually the choice between the different approaches is not difficult for researchers to make.

Most research at the masters and doctoral level will require both theoretical and empirical work.  Few business and management students would attempt purely theoretical research as this would be difficult and it would be neither academically acceptable nor really possible to undertake a purely theoretical research project at this level.

Whether  a positivistic or a phenomenological approach is taken will largely depend on the background of the researcher.  If the first discipline of the researcher has been in the numerical sciences then he or she will probably be most comfortable with a positivistic research paradigm, but if the researcher has come from a sociological field then the phenomenological approach may be the right choice.  Whether research paradigm is chosen the ability to develop a convincing argument in support of the research findings is paramount.

Theory Building - Course Page

Grounded Theory - A Methodology for Generating Theory

Glaser and Strauss - Grounded Theory - Chapter 2 - Generating Theory - Quotations and Summary

Theory Building Course Page

Suggested Reading:

Andersen, P.H.; Kragh, H. (2010) Sense and Sensibility: Two approaches for using existing theory in theory-building qualitative research, Industrial Marketing Management, 39, 49-55.

Anderson, Paul F. (1983) Marketing, Scientific Progress, and Scientific Method, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 18-31

Argyris, Chris (1991) Teaching Smart People How to Learn, Harvard Business Review, 99-109, May-June.

Astley, W.G. and Van de Ven, A.H. (1983) Central Perspectives and Debates in Organization Theory. Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 28, June, pp. 245-273.

Bacharach, S. (1989) Organizational theories: Some criteria for evaluation, AMR 14: 496-515.

Booth, W.C., Colomb, G.C., Williams, J.M. (1995) 2nd edition, The Craft of Research. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press

Colquitt, Jason A. & Zapata-Phelan, Cindy P. (2007) Trends in Theory Building and Theory Testing: A Five-Decade Study of the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Journal, 50: 1281-1303

Corley Kevin G. & Dennis A. G. (2011) Building Theory About Theory Building: What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution? Academy of Management Review, 36: 12-32

Davis, M. (1971) That’s interesting! Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1: 309-344.

Eisenhardt, K. (1989) Building theories from case study research, Academy of Management Review, 14(4): 532-550.

Ghoshal, S. (2005) Bad management theories are destroying good management practices, AMLE, 4(1): 75-91.

Grunert, K.G., Shepherd, R., Traill, W.B. & Wold, B. (forthcoming) Food choice, energy balance and its determinants: Views of human behaviour in economics and Psychology, Trends in Food Science & Technology

Huber, G.P. (2010) “Organizations: Theory, Design, Future.” APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Hunt, Shelby D. & Morgan, R.M. (1996) The Resource-Advantage Theory of Competition: Dynamics, Path Dependencies, and Evolutionary Dimensions, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 60, No. 4, pp. 107-114.

Langley, A. (1999) Strategies for theorizing from process data, Academy of Management Review, 24(4): 691-710.

Lewis, M & Grimes, A. (1999) Metatriangulation: Building theory from multiple paradigms, Academy of Management Review, 24: 672-690.

Locke, K.; Golden-Biddle, K. (1997) Constructing opportunities for contribution: structuring intertextual coherence and 'problematizing' in organizational studies, AMJ, 40(5), 1023-1062.

March (1991) “Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning”, Organization Science, Vol. 1, No. 1; pp. 71-87.

McGrath, J.E.; Brinberg D. (1983) External Validity and the Research Process: A Comment on the Calder/Lynch Dialogue, The Journal of Consumer Research, 10(1), 115-124.

Oswick, C., Fleming, P. & Hanlon, G. (2011) From borrowing to blending: Rethinking the processes of organizational theory building, Academy of Management Review, 36: 318-337.

Oxley, J. E., Rivkin, J. W., and Ryall, M. D. (2010). The strategy research initiative: Recognizing and encouraging high-quality research in strategy, Strategic Organization, 8(4): 377-386.

Rindova, V. (2008). Publishing theory when you are new to the game, Academy of Management Review, 33: 300-303.

Smith, K. & Hitt, M. (2005) Epilogue: Learning to develop theory from the masters, Great Minds in Management: The Process of Theory Development, Oxford University Press, pp. 572-589.

Suddaby, R. (2006) What Grounded Theory Is Not, Academy of Management Journal, 49, 4, 633-642.

Sutton, Robert I. & Staw, B.M. (1995) What theory is not, Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 371-385.

Weick, K.E. (1989) Theory construction as disciplined imagination, AMR, 14(4), 516–531.

Whetten, David A. (1989) What constitutes a theoretical contribution? Academy of Management Review, 14: 490-495.

Whetten, D., Felin, T. & King, B. (2009) The practice of theory borrowing in organizational studies: Current issues and future directions, Journal of Management, 35: 537-563.

Theory Development and Testing in Organization-Related Empirical Research

Spring 2007, Prof Mason A. Carpenter